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December 21, 2005 || 6:05 pm
Local distinctiveness and change

I thought this was an especially welcome piece of blogging about the sensitive and difficult handling of local distinctiveness in the context of change, which is inexorable and, as Dan Hill says, "must be embraced so as to create an ally rather than an enemy". This is precisely the kind of approach that we constantly advocate and develop at our work here at General Public Agency - a creative approach to characterisation and identity, but founded in a genuine and layered understanding of place, culture (in the broadest sense) and the delicate, unique fingerprint of every area.

Dan Hill is on the money, however, when he writes that "if the meaning of Savile Row is not inculcated into the next generations... then how much longer will Savile Row mean anything genuinely useful, even as a prime piece of real estate? It ceases to have 'added value' even to property developers in the long term." This is precisely the conundrum that developers are starting to realise, but are woefully underskilled to put into practice, which is where GPA sees its role. As the most intelligent and hard-headed businessmen realise, you don't get really astronomical rates of return on your investment unless you offer a genuinely unique and right product. But we can re-find that 'added value' precisely by adding back into the mix all the things that have had developers running scared for the last decades: genuinely engaging local communities, carefully mapping and responding to all aspects of the context, allowing for uncertainty, spontaneity and pleasure rather than designing out any chinks, being provocative and above all, fully inclusive of not only the pretty bits but also the difficult and ugly parts that make up a place's DNA. It's not easy and it requires the absolute highest levels of quality, which I think and hope we reach.

But anyway, I always like reading his blog because I do think he is one of the few bloggers on architecture who actually gets these rich and broad issues without falling into either New Urbanist nostalgia or architectural heroism. I'm sure this is because he's not actually an architect or urban designer by trade...

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