The controversy surrounding the demolition of the Brynmawr Rubber Factory highlights a number of ethical issues in, or facing, architecture.

First of all concerning the building itself; it was designed by the Architects' Co-Partnership in 1946, is listed grade II*, and acclaimed as the finest 20th century building in Wales. Furthermore it is not just an aesthetically fine building with its domed interior, but a modernist icon of historic interest worth preserving for the social values it embodied.

Demolition of listed buildings, even if justified is an ethical matter.

Secondly it seems that in this instance the local authority did not consult properly with local people, but spent 15 years blocking schemes which might have returned the building to its community as a practical and symbolic resource.

After nearly twenty years of claims and counter claims concerning a viable re-use, it is being demolished without even a guaranteed new use for the site - and which if it did go ahead could lose more jobs than it created.

This is ironic in view of the original reason for its construction. It embodied the hopes for a modern architecture arising from the fusion of social needs with technical solutions, achieved in accordance with humanist values; for it was built in an area of high unemployment by a philanthropic industrialist, and funded by a socialist government.

The saga serves to demonstrate that there are issues of social justice in architecture, here raised by the way central and local government bodies acted, and which inevitably make an impact on architecture, highlighting its ethical, social and political dimensions.


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