Why is British Architecture so Boring

The 1985-86 programme was well launched on February 13th by our guest speaker Paul Burley, an architect with a private practice in Edgbaston. Unexpectedly he took for his title "Why is British Architecture so lousy?". Unsurprisingly this was by no means an indictment of the quality of leading members of his profession but rather was it a light-harted and frequently humorous examination of those non-architectural influenced which constrain and modify the design of buildings. Local Authorities, their elected members and the professional 'planners', all received his detailed attention but the laws and regulations through which they labour were his central target. He suggested that the only achievement of this burden of legislation was the preservation of the 'green belt'.

Conservation was described as the refuge of the faint-hearted, representing public opposition to any form of change - good bad or indifferent. The web of regulations appeared to ensure that only the mediocre building proposal would get through a system which guaranteed regression to the norm and the production of bland inoffensive structures.

All of this and more, presented in a relaxed and moderate style, was not calculated to tranquillise the audience, rather was it intended to stir imagination, stimulate thought and provoke reaction. It did all of these! Representatives of each of the target areas responded with style and vigour, producing informed and exciting exchanges. Mr Burley's modest fifteen minute address resulted in a short three-quarters of an hour incomplete debate, terminated only by the intervention of the Chairman who, in thanking the speaker, expressed the views of all present. A very good evening.

Ivor Mitchell
February 1985