'Bling' buildings destroy history, says designer

Kevin McCloud attacks the 'look at me' architecture that is blighting British towns
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The Independent Online

Britain's towns and cities are losing their sense of identity and heritage because of the "wanton and transparent destruction" of unique buildings, a leading design expert says.

Kevin McCloud, presenter of Channel 4's Grand Designs, launched a blistering attack on local authorities, architects and developers for demolishing old buildings and replacing them with shiny new structures that, he said, are nothing more than "building bling".

He accused councils of being eager to tear down buildings that define the character of an area, replacing them with housing and commercial developments that "could belong anywhere". He added: "We are in the middle of one of the biggest construction booms since the war. For 50 years, we have been complaining about how the post-war construction boom unnecessarily erased so many good buildings. But we are making similar mistakes now, in the pursuit of bling.".

McCloud has been campaigning to save the Foundry House, a Victorian glove factory in Yeovil that was to make way for an "urban village". Objections and petitions were submitted to council leaders in a bid to save the historic structure and turn it into a community centre.

And the design guru has cited other buildings in danger, including the Churchill House and The Forum in Bath. "They are both part of Bath's history. There is a lot of vanity at work here, the vanity of politicians, architects, developers. They all want to create things that stand out and say, 'Look at me'. I am making a plea for forgotten buildings. They all have a historic value. If you remove them you are slowly unpicking history. There is a ghastly kind of utopian ideology about it."

Under the Pathfinder scheme in northern England, thousands of houses deemed unfit for human habitation by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in cities including Liverpool and Newcastle will be demolished.

ALREADY GONE: Architectural heritage too late to save

Dunlop Semtex Rubber Factory, Brynmawr, South Wales

Built 1951

Demolished 2001

What we lost: Stunning vaults and technically innovative concrete roofs

Greenside Villa, Wentworth, Surrey

Built 1937

Demolished 2005

What we lost: A house that to some was a brilliant example of modern architecture, but golfers said it ruined their views

Tricorn Centre, Portsmouth

Built 1966

Demolished 2004

What we lost "A design of the times," said Owen Luder, the architect who designed the controversial concrete shopping centre

AT RISK: Classic sites on design death row

Churchill House, Bath

Built 1932

Status Due for demolition next year. One of the city's 20th-century gems, it was built for the local electricity company, and makes way for a bus station and shops

Foundry House, Yeovil

Built 1872

Status Spared from the bulldozer's ball for now by Department for Culture's intervention. Local people hope to convert the former glove factory into a community centre

Kensington terraced houses, Liverpool

Built 1850

Status While old terraced housing in Manchester is transformed into trendy living space, typical Liverpool homes are being razed