LIKE LAMBS TO SLAUGHTER, WE HAVE FOLLOWED THE EGANESQUE ZEALOTS
This week David Chipperfield identified the key difference between working in Europe and the UK as being that 'here you are not really expected to debate ideas'. So have we managed to completely obliterate architectural practice as a critical endeavour?
We have been bullied into believing that the survival of the profession is dependent on our ability to get to grips with critical-path analysis, value engineering, supply-chain management et al. In other words, the only way to protect ourselves from predatory project managers is to emulate their example as best we can. Like lambs to the slaughter, we have followed the Eganesque zealots in their quest to create a culture which emphasises delivery and implementation over the intellectual and creative aspects of design.
There are those who make a triumph out of adversity. Rab Bennetts ingeniously PFI-proofs his buildings by designing them in such a way that it is impossible to cost out individual elements without abandoning the entire design.
You could, for example, have replaced the beautiful concrete table structure at the heart of Brighton Library with something rather cheaper, but you would have lost the building's environmental control system in the process.
Others have fought against the odds by implementing a strategy of 'design by stealth'.
Avanti, along with every other reputable practice struggling to deliver decent buildings in the social housing and healthcare sectors, has developed an approach to detailing which allows for the inevitable rough and tumble of design and build.
But the architects who flourish under the pressure of this siege mentality are few and far between. Others, like Richard MacCormac, are forced to watch or walk away as their work is systematically undermined. We have let ourselves forget that real value is not delivered through endless compromise, but by knowing when it's worth putting up a fight.