A couple of articles passed across my desk the other day which set me thinking. Both were to do with regeneration
The first was a story about something called the Rubble Club, a sort of self-solace group for architects whose buildings they feel have been demolished unnecessarily in their lifetime.
The other article was about steps being taken in the US to demolish sections of cities and return the land to the wild. The article featured Flint in Michigan, 60 miles north of Detroit and the original home of General Motors. There are even plans for Detroit itself to be split into a collection of relatively small urban centres separated by countryside.
To achieve this they have to overcome the taboo that all development is good and that shrinking is bad. But with too few people to pay for services, maintaining the infrastructure in some cities is just not sustainable, so realism is taking hold.
I suspect that if architects formed a Rubble Club in Flint, they would be laughed out of the town. In this country, we inhibit our ability to move on effectively by the irrational notion that everything we build must be permanent.
This is not helped by our listing system and the heritage bodies. We have a long tail of fairly mediocre buildings on the various lists whose upkeep exacerbates the skills shortage. We need fewer and we need to look after them much better.
It is just as well our forefathers were not inclined to keep everything that had been built or we would be in a right mess now.
I am just amazed when I watch something like Time Team at how much of what we see as rolling countryside had been lived on.
I don’t know where we seem to have got the recently acquired desire to preserve everything, no matter how bad or how expensive it becomes to keep.
With all challenges we have on adapting to climate change, there is a lot of effort going into turning what are bad buildings into good buildings. Might it not be better to demolish the bad and build what we need for the future, where it needs to be? For example, moving away from coastlines where flooding and erosion is a threat.
Throughout history communities have adapted to their changing circumstances. We have to do the same because nature always wins.
Chris Blythe is chief executive of the CIOB.