The Cotswolds debate

Many architects in the Uk get irritated when a certain group of people describe the ideal architecture/ urban planning to be sought within the style, proportion and approach that one can find in the Cotswolds.

They immediately jump in and question the obvious flaws of the idea but ever too often forget to carefully consider what triggers this desire to look back to a smaller urban nucleus, and what lessons could be drawn from it.

In my modest opinion, I do feel that we need to reconsider the kind of places that we are creating and how those are affecting the people who will occupy them.

Admittedly, it is not a contemporary way of life and most definitely cannot be directly implemented in all locations, however, you cannot blame supporters for trying.

It is after all, a sustainable by nature rather than by engineering or design approach. And THAT is reflective of contemporary thinking.

The Cotswolds are a lovely part of the country where you travel back to the time when the slower pace of life allowed you to LIVE. This is a place where people still offer what they consider spare to those passing by, at their door step, for a small charge completely on trust.

A place where the communities are provided with all that is necessary within short distances, and where tourism thrives, similarly to the way Japanese do, on promoting local uniqueness, not fabricated crowd gathering museums of nothing.

Chippin Campden is a gorgeous example. A mini town where the old stone market bulding stays proud as a hub of what essentially was what I call an en-route town. One generated along a road where commercial exchange would have taken place.

The market, a symbol of this heritage, is now surrounded by lovely quaint tea rooms and what would have been the road through the town, has now been modified to address and minimise the impact of modern living (mainly cars). People in the village do have cars, but cars are not the priority. People are.

Ever too often ideas become policies and as such box ticking exercises, but really, as professionals we should take responsibility and consider both the potential and legacy ( a frequently misused term) of our work and their effect on the community.

We cannot only focus on the community within the red-line of the ownership boundary but also the surrounding one. We should stop trying to compete and complement instead. The way I see it, life is more about balancing than it is about domination .

In simple terms, I would love to think that there is a way to turn cities into mini villages which sit side by side but do work independently. It is happening in some areas of London, where people are becoming settlers, not only passers by, and are building communities. This, to me , would be a good start to the building of cities and it would provide real sustainability to our lives.

Photography by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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