LETTER : It may be ugly, but it's part of our heritage

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The Independent Online
From Mr David Morton

Sir: Peter Popham ("Brutalist, original, but a slum", 2 October) raises the contentious issue of listing buildings less than 30 years after they were constructed.

There is as yet no unanimity of view about modern architecture and townscape. The Royal Town Planning Institute carried out internal consultation on the 40 modern buildings that the Secretary of State for National Heritage has proposed for listing. There was general agreement that some should or should not be listed, but on the majority there were widely differing views. There is clearly a need for a debate, involving the public as well as the various specialists, about which elements of modern architecture and planning should be preserved, and it will obviously take time for a consensus to develop.

It may seem difficult to believe now that in, say, 30 years, there will be general support for modern architecture, or for some of its schemes, as examples of the development of town planning; but the same could have been said about Victorian townscape 25 years ago. It took 60 to 90 years before Victorian buildings became obsolete. Because of the increasing speed of economic change, modern buildings reach that stage within 30 years, and are then often demolished or substantially refurbished.

We must face up to the difficult decisions of listing a good and representative sample of post-war buildings now. No doubt, our successors will think that some of the choices made were mistakes, but that is preferable to there being a visual gap in the architectural and planning townscape development of the country in 30 or 40 years.

Yours faithfully,

David Morton

Convenor, Conservation Panel

Royal Town Planning Institute

London W1

3 October