A man with a vision to sell

"PEOPLE make cities - but cities make citizens," says Lord Rogers of Riverside, chairman of the Urban Task Force. It is a sentiment he holds dear to his heart, and Towards a Better Environment, his task force's report, will be a major step on the path to realising his vision: cities are for living in.

The architect of the Millennium Dome wants to reverse the drift to the suburbs which has characterised much of Britain's social development this century. Lord Rogers has spoken of "a new spirit of urbanity", which will enable us to make best use of our urban centres and turn them into places "we cannot only inhabit, but enjoy".

We have already seen one example of his vision in his controversial "landmark" residential block, Montevetro, a 20-storey riverside showpiece on the Thames in Wandsworth (prices start at pounds 250,000). It is a classic urban regeneration project, on the site of the gaunt hulk of the Hovis flour mills, which, in turn, were preceded by Battersea's manor house in the early years of this century.

The glass and steel edifice dwarfs the adjacent historic parish church of St Mary's, where William Blake, the Romantic poet, much admired by Lord Rogers, was married. Blake, driven by his poverty and visions, often walked along the Thames, to "mark in every human face, marks of weakness, marks of woe", words now inscribed on a concrete slab on the South Bank.

Lord Rogers's report is likely to cite Barcelona as a role model for the British cities of the next century. Europe offers a template, he says, because the quality of life in many English cities compares unfavourably with that of major cities in mainland Europe. The Dutch, he argues, are 20 years ahead of us. On a fact-finding tour to the Netherlands, he was impressed by the mix of low- income families living in two-storey homes and larger apartment blocks around a square which doubled as school playground.

But Lord Rogers has made no secret of his belief that some of the answers lie closer to home and has often cited Glasgow as a fine example of a city now flourishing through the appropriate mix of public and private finance, dynamic architects and politicians prepared to take the long- term view.

His dream of a nation of peaceful city dwellers is not based purely on aesthetic architectural grounds: he passionately believes that pleasant cities are fundamental to the economic health of the country. To that end, he argues that a long-term commitment is required by local and central government to strengthen the economy across the country.

"Our regions need regional capitals, or groups of regional cities, that are economic and cultural powerhouses, with a strong European identity," he wrote recently in the Times.

Whether or not he is remembered as the man who revived our cities while saving the countryside from the bulldozers depends on whether these spruced-up cities will encourage middle-class families to plump for urban living.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'