Sadiq Khan’s Housing Design Adviser Brands Traditional Architecture ‘Offensive’

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Sadiq Khan’s “Housing Design Advocate” has denounced traditional architecture as “offensive” and said it “harks back to oppression”.

Dinah Bornat made the remarks on social media in response to a post featuring a new house in the Georgian style shared by the Create Streets social enterprise, which often promotes traditional designs and street layouts.

“The fortress style/display of wealth resonates through time. I wonder is it starting to resonate just a little too much for a lot of us? Imperialism starting to look, well, offensive? Just a thought,” she declared in a now-deleted Twitter tirade preserved by the Guido Fawkes political blog, before clarifying that she was “talking about offence caused by colonialism. Which arguably goes beyond offence.”

She went on to complain that the alleged “replica approach” taken by the building’s designers “stifles cultural debate” and that defining it as beautiful was “politically troubling”.

“If beauty harks back to oppression we are on very dangerous ground,” she suggested.

Bornat’s remarks on the Graeco-Roman-style classical building left some social media users perplexed, with one asking her if she was referring to the oppression of the Roman Empire.

“I was actually talking about the Georgians and [British] colonialism,” she shot back. “But their style harks back to the Romans of course.”

“We all knew it wouldn’t stop at statues,” groaned Save Our Statues campaigner Robert Poll.

Georgian architecture found a defender against Mayor Khan’s adviser in the form of former Country Life editor and history of architecture graduate Clive Aslet, who denounced her remarks as “part of the statue-toppling agenda that tars the country houses of the National Trust as products of an economy which condoned slavery.”

“Modern architects never give up. Even though Georgian architecture, with its magnificent squares, handsome streets and well-proportioned, flexibly designed houses, is hugely popular with the public, the avant-garde of the profession hates it with a passion,” Aslet Lamented.

“This style of Greek religious buildings spread around the Mediterranean, was adopted by the Romans, exported through their Empire, preserved by Byzantium, revived in the Renaissance and adopted by British aristocrats, whose education consisted principally in the reading of Greek and Latin texts,” he explained.

“Why are they so attractive? Because of their orderliness, their approachable scale, and the satisfying rhythm of the repeating elements of doorcase and sash window,” he insisted, rejecting Mr Bornat’s characterisation of the style as “the architecture of oppression”.

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