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SOCIAL EXCLUSION

 

In July 2002 a new government policy document on social exclusion, entitled People and Places, was launched by culture secretary Tessa Jowell.

She said that contemporary buildings were a vital part of everyone's cultural heritage, but that many people, such as those with disabilities, the unemployed, and those living in communities which suffer from deprivation, were prevented from fully connecting with their surroundings.

Jowell called on architects to help overcome people's alienation from public buildings through the better design of schools, art galleries and local government offices.

Architects are in a "fantastic position" to help "through design quality, engagement with the community, education and improving access….We want to make people believe that public buildings belong to them, ensuring that they are not alienated, and feel comfortable visiting them."

The same issue of The Architects' Journal (4 July 2002) printed a letter from Leslie Barker, founder of arXitecture, that took a more fundamental look at the rights and aspirations of socially excluded communities, under a title chosen by the editor:

A biblical response can save the inner city

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of the city (Martin Pawley 20 June) is nothing new, and can be traced throughout history. Even the Bible can be viewed as 'A Tale of Two Cities' from when Cain, the murderer, is accredited with building the first city, through the Old Testament conflict between Jerusalem and Babylon, and ending with heaven described as the New Jerusalem built by God.

"Fundamental changes in human behaviour" are indeed necessary for the positive aspects of cities to overcome the negative, and this theme of changed behaviour is what the Bible is all about.

A biblically based concern for the poor, as the prophets had, and is outlined in Proverbs, is necessary if British inner urban areas, and outer estates, are not to be deserted or taken over by fascism - and if Third World cities are not to be breeding grounds for terrorists.

The poor and marginalised, whether in British or Third World cities, have a right to their share of British and global wealth. Politicians, economists, planners and architects, indeed all responsible citizens, should seek to enable and empower them to meet their own aspirations. Pockets of affordable housing alone are not enough.
 

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