Letter: Architecture for tomorrow

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The Independent Online
Sir: Richard MacCormac ('Look at our monuments and weep', 9 December) argues that competitive bidding is further depriving us of public works of architectural excellence. In my opinion the cause is more fundamental than this. It is due to market failure leading to short-sighted decisions.

Architecture suffers more than most from the general tendency to under-invest in projects where the cost to society is less than the benefits. In large part this is because much of the benefit is obtained by future generations, whereas the cost is borne by the current generation.

The problem is to find ways of taking future generations into account, both in terms of providing more of what they want and in making them pay for it. This would result in better buildings funded in greater measure by issuing public debt. In this way the total cost of public projects would be met by taxes levied on both the current and future generations.

One way of encouraging better- quality privately funded building would be to grant tax concessions for private projects deemed to be of special architectural merit, on the grounds that there is a charitable element to the additional social benefits.

Similar arguments support greater protection for Britain's artistic, architectural and environmental heritage and, possibly, for institutions such as the BBC.

Yours faithfully,

MICHAEL WICKENS

Centre for Economic Forecasting

London Business School

London, NW1

9 December

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