After the collapse of capitalism..

Monday 01 Dec 2008

Report forecasts return of Soviet Style communities

The once derided Soviet era apartment blocks encircling many former Eastern Bloc cities had started to gain an increasing band of nostalgic followers. Concerns had been growing that the buildings from this era, representing a snapshot of post-war communist architecture would disappear altogether.

They need not have worried. An article in the UK’s Sunday Times this week forecasts a return to Soviet style communities as governments start to employ more citizens than the private sector . The government in question however is not communist Russia but the former capitalist Great Britain. The article cites a number of case studies highlighted in a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research. “The growth of public spending under the Labour government has created a generation of Soviet boroughs where half the population is now dependent on the state for work.”

The report says the UK’s North East dominates the chart and by way of illustration, “ Topping the league is Castle Morpeth, Northumberland, where the state provides 57% of jobs. Even this understates the public sector dominance – the town is a dormitory for HM Customs and revenue offices just 10 miles away which employs 6,000 people.”

Only today the UK Government launched the new £17.3 billion Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) tasked with restarting the residential sector. With the complete collapse of commercial sales, the agency will be asking councils what is stopping them from building new homes where there is a clear need and they own land. This strategy could mark a seismic shift of policy, returning to the pre-Thatcher days of mass local authority housing provision.

As the bastions of capitalism continue to crumble around us each day and Government intervention increases in response, so the challenge for architecture will change shape too. The next decade should be interesting.

Michael Hammond

Key Facts:

United Kingdom
Civic Buildings Urban design

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