London is under threat from an agency locked in a time warp
London is not served well by its regional development agency (RDA). It would appear to be completely uninterested in the advice and vision of architects, artists and urbanists.
It has not made any connection between our work and a sense of well-being, and all the rewards and investment that it can bring. It suffers from a huge lack of imagination that is a negative factor in creating a London that we would all like to share in. It has a budget that could make a difference, but chooses not to use it.
Instead, it is obsessed with areas of empty dereliction to the east of the capital, which possibly could be well left alone. The desperation to make it work is due to the historical purchase of the area some years ago, which is resulting in a current policy based on Heseltine's view of the Thames Corridor from what now seems like the year dot.
The London Development Agency (LDA) is only one of many threats to the successful and useful debate about the future, but its involvement with a visioning and masterplan exercise for Vauxhall and Battersea is pitiful.
To bid for the important job, it expects architects to submit not only a method statement but also outline concepts for an area from Vauxhall Bridge to Chelsea Bridge (seven Covent Gardens). This in order to win a two-stage project to prepare a vision for this area, which is dire, in the middle of London, deprived, ugly and under-funded (Barking Reach, eat your heart out). And for a first-stage fee of £30,000, with the possibility of having to retender for a stage two, which is reckoned to be a further £70,000, to put significant flesh on the vision.Why would you do this?
How much, annually, does the LDA spend on lawyers, accountants and insurance policies? Why, when other RDAs are prepared to invest realistic sums into the work that we do, would the LDA wish to appear so povertystricken? It is rich, so the reality is that it would rather not spend any money at all on the likes of us, as it does not believe in what we do. It is locked in a time warp of 'market forces-led'decision-making, which sadly produces a poor-quality environment consisting of sheds, Noddy homes and endless mini-roundabouts.
I have also been concerned for some time at the 'style police' that exist within the South East. Compared with the North, we southerners shoot ourselves in the foot with unnecessary architectural analism, much of which was originally born out of that quaint institution of the 1980s, the 9H Gallery. There would appear to be a school of thought that celebrates the prosaic in the name of sedate quietness, good taste and a general belief in a sobriety which belongs to the more elegant part of the 1920s (elegant means affluent).
Italian Fascism begins to be rediscovered on the pages of the Sunday newspapers, or at least those parts that supposedly deal with architecture. Order is good for you. The familiar, reinterpreted in a tasteful manner, is not what is required. A group of critics that are tired, by their own admission, that allows David Chipperfield clones at Walsall to build an edifice that looks backwards to a golden old age of class distinction, social exclusion and the citadel, in my opinion, is not our future. The LSE loves all things Dutch (cheap)and a variety of government agencies are in love with endless feasibility studies as a means of avoiding the future.
Heaven save us from the do-gooder adviser, hanger-on, friend of a friend, Lord, academic and arsehole who distorts the truth for their own ends - simply get on with the job. London is threatened by all of the above.