There is nothing new about the concept of ''vertical villages'' (''Woden to reach for the heights'', March 12, p1). In Singapore, in the early 1970s, modern high-rise blocks of units were erected to re-house kampong dwellers. Initial experience was adverse. People used to a communal lifestyle could not adapt readily to the isolation which can be associated with crowded dwelling. The suicide rate rose. The Singaporean response was rapid.
When new high-rise blocks were erected, the lower levels were devoted to communal living space with shady areas for relaxation, food stalls, meeting venues and other aspects not normally found in the impersonal confines of unit blocks. In the Australian context, the term ''village'' is seldom used, being an English concept. The Australian term would be ''township''. If vertical townships are to be constructed, then the Singapore experience indicates that township amenities would need to be provided. Consider a typical Australian township - a sports oval, a community hall, provision for a postie, a policeman and a district nurse, children's playground, primary school and more. Sounds like a pleasant lifestyle.
In the ACT, where local shopping centres are being phased out, where individual schools are being amalgamated into super-schools, where small post offices are closing and where all the amenities of small-township life are being assiduously subsumed by creeping bureaucracy, the concept of vertical townships is not credible.
F. Lamb, Lyons
Jail syringe debate
Canberra Times readers must be weary of whether to substitute sterile syringes for the infectious ones circulating in the ACT prison, but can be no wearier than those who have long taken part in the debate. Last week's letter from the deputy national president of the CPSU (March 15) was different. It claimed that ''CPSU members working in the prison have a right to make their own unique and valuable contribution to this debate''. They most certainly do.
The letter landed on my consciousness just as I was reading Amartya Sen's luminous words that ''unrestricted public reasoning is quite central to democratic politics in general and to the pursuit of social justice in particular''. Has the CPSU come to realise that corrections officers have more to gain by moving beyond bullying threats - ''My stated position is, needles in, guards out,'' CPSU ACT president, Vince McDevitt has declared (June 14, 2011, p5) - and instead fostering their professional credentials as probation and community corrections officers do through their association?
As a corrections officer, you'd have to be suspicious if your most vocal ally, Jeremy Hanson, is the shadow minister of a party with a long history of prison privatisation (''Jail is no place for needles'', March 16, p17).
Bill Bush, Turner
What marvellous pictures (March 10, p1). These shots recalled something I'd read years ago about Roland Barthes' theory of photography, expounded in his controversial Camera Lucida.
Bathes defined two qualities of a successful photograph in terms of its studium and its punctum. The former expresses the purpose of the shot, the latter captures an accidental quality in the picture. Quoting Barthes, the punctum ''pricks'' the viewer - thereby transcending the studium, the original purpose; the viewer now perceives something altogether different - an unintended focus. So, the punctum brings something personal and unique into the viewing experience. I experienced the punctum when a tiny patch of white under the horse's eyelid caught my eye, in the picture with the girl jockeys. Focusing further, I found that although the horse's head was turned to the side, it alone appeared to be looking directly into the camera, with the one eye towards the viewer. The horse now became the subject - not the girl jockeys, with a horse providing context, as previously. The shot of the girls, with the horse prominent and again looking into the camera, reinforced this view.
Nice work from the photographers for the marvellous pictures.
Ralph Sedgley, O'Connor