On Monday 15 April 2019 fire broke out at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. It is hard to think of a more iconic ecclesiastical building in such a key location in such a tourist-historic city. Media images show smoke billowing high into the sky, the high roof burning, and the thin central spire collapsing – all watched by numerous disbelieving locals and tourists.
The cause and rapid spread of the fire have yet to be investigated, although part of the cathedral – where the fire appeared to start – was under repair and scaffolded, and a number of historic properties have been damaged by fire under such circumstances (for example at the National Trust’s Uppark House in 1989, which started from lead workers ignoring carefully drafted “hot work” rules against precisely this risk). The spread of smoke, heat and fire within the large timber roof voids of major churches is problematic to control and contain. Continue reading The Notre Dame fire: considerations for reconstruction→
If you are training or working in Planning and Cultural Heritage, applications are open for the ‘DiscoverEU Ambassador’ – with the opportunity to travel and learn. Read on…
The recent UK parliamentary votes on the European Union Withdrawal Bill brings into stark reality the imminence of Brexit. Despite this, the day-to-day operating conditions of the UK as a whole continue as a full member of the European Union. This means that all new law and policy adopted at EU level applies equally to the UK as all other member states, until exit day, creating a moving feast for those civil servants working on the ‘Great Repeal Bill’.
Putting aside the troubles of Mrs May and the public servants in London and the devolved administrations grappling with the detangling of half a century of law, infrastructure and common operating mechanisms, students at BCU, like other Universities across the UK, have emerged from under their mountains of text books, revision notes and draft assessments, to find a long summer stretched out in front of them. What to do? How about combining European travel with cultural experiences sponsored by the European Commission? Enjoy the benefits of EU membership while we have it and explore other EU countries… Continue reading Enhance your planning skills as a Discover-EU-Ambassador→
An hour-long documentary, directed by the film-maker Julien Temple, is shining light on Keith Richards’ formative years growing up in post-war Britain. According to recent media accounts, the Rolling Stones stalwart, a native of Dartford, Kent, will star in the film Keith Richards – The Origin of the Species, directed by Julien Temple, which will be at the centre of the BBC’s My Generation season exploring the importance of popular music in the mid-to-late-twentieth century. The film draws on Richards’ recollections of how he evaded being killed by a bomb in the Second World War, when it is reported that his cot was showered with bricks and mortar. The documentary also explores Richards’ attitude to the various physical and societal changes of the 1950s and 1960s: “There was a feeling in the late Fifties and Sixties that there was a change coming […] I certainly felt […] it’s time to push the limits”. Continue reading I sit and watch as tears goes by …→
The recent earthquake disaster in Nepal has had a massive impact in terms of death and destruction. Between 5000 and 10000 deaths are feared, and entire settlements may have been wiped out. This toll is high because of the severity of the quake, and its location in an area of largely remote traditional and isolated settlements, many of which are largely of traditional construction.
Not only is this a human disaster, but it is a cultural one, of much wider impact. Traditional settlements and buildings were physical evidence of traditional ways of life – already under pressure from other aspects of modern life including the pressure from international tourism. Continue reading Disasters and Rebuildings→
It seems as if the FT’s property correspondent has discovered planning history. On no less than two recent occasions, Kate Allen (2014, 2015) has discussed the contemporary significance of Professor Sir Patrick Abercrombie’s plans for the London region, produced at the invitation of the Ministry for Town Planning in 1943-44 (Forshaw and Abercrombie, 1943; Abercrombie, 1945). Both were full-page features on the front page of the weekend ‘House and Home’ supplement; and the first carried a large full-colour reproduction of the widely-recognised “egg diagram” of social and functional areas in London.
It is very interesting to see such historic documents still being discussed in relation to today’s planning issues, and Kate Allen provides a fascinating argument for why the ‘scale’ and ‘ambition’ of Ambercrombie’s ideas are ripe for re-assessment. On one level, this suggests that planning history can have enduring relevance (or, perhaps, “impact” in today’s academic jargon!). But there are also persistent practical problems with attempting to translate the ideas of Abercrombie and the plans, no matter how well-known, into ‘workable’ solutions. With 70 years of hindsight the plans are flawed, probably inevitably; but quoting Boris Johnson’s “differences with Abercrombie” (Allen, 2014) is not really sufficient. Continue reading The Financial Times discovers planning history→
Planning has the potential to become a rallying-cry around which people come together to bring diverse and exciting ideas about what their future could be like, and then helps people realise these collective dreams. But I worry that we have lost the knack of constructively and positively engaging the public in the complex issues of planning. Perhaps we can look to the past to re-learn a lost art of inspiring enthusiasm and hope through planning.
Routledge is publishing a new series of books, reprinting classic texts in town planning with newly-commissioned critical introductions. My contribution – published on 17 July – focuses on two books about Birmingham: principally the Bournville Village Trust’s When we build again (1941), with Paul Cadbury’s Birmingham – fifty years on (1952). But why do we revisit these aged texts? What can we learn from planning history?
It’s commonplace to suggest that we should learn lessons from the past. On the other hand, perhaps we just make the same mistakes over and over again! Look at the current furore over the new syllabus for history in secondary schools. In terms of planning history specifically, the eminent planning historian Tony Sutcliffe said long ago that “does it not reflect [society’s] rejection of a once-proud elite of technocrats, who take refuge in the past from an uncertain present and a gloomy future?” (Sutcliffe, 1981, p. 65). Sutcliffe’s place for planning history and historians was as “unsettling persons”, evaluating and questioning the past, soberly assessing its “contribution to the long-term development of planning methodology” (Sutcliffe, 1981, p. 67). Planning history should replace myth in situating ideas within a broad and long-term historical perspective. Continue reading Can planning’s past tell us about planning’s future?→