Yasmin Shariff's Comments
Comment on: Obituary: Paolo Soleri (1919 - 2013)
Soleri's ideas about cities are the solution to today's problems of too much trash, too little energy, too much alienation and isolation. The arcology concept (architecture+ecology) looked as social, economic and environmental issues holistically and in an integrated way. Arcosanti and Cosanti are rooted in the environmental movement of the 60s. The idea of the arcologies were that they were to be energy neutral. The city was fed with greenhouses on the lower slopes so that food and energy could rise and nourish the upper areas. Like enormous termite mounds the city keeps to an ideal temperature for all the workers that inhabit it. Recycling and efficient resource use was also at the heart of the arcology- especially the toilets where if it was yellow you let it mellow and if it was brown you flush it down- an immediate 10 fold saving!!! But it wasn't all about materials there was an equally strong social and spiritual/humanitarian concerns that informed the design. Imagine a city that is so connected that the need for institutional buildings become unnecessary. The power of IT makes it all the more possible and I have no doubt that arcologies are the answer to the urgent need in rapidly urbanising countries. Can Governments/local authorities make this imaginative leap? Paolo was truly inspirational. Building Arcosanti with the income generated from bells is remarkable. It hosts festivals and workshops and has a great real food cafe. He may not have achieved his ambition to build an arcology but he certainly changed the hearts and minds of thousands.
Ethnics or Ethics? The ARB needs to get its own house in order, starting with the Architects Act where the wording assumes that architects are male (eg see Section 4 (a) he holds such qualifications and has gained such practical experience as may be prescribed; or (b) he has a standard of competence which, in the opinion of the Board, is equivalent to that demonstrated by satisfying paragraph (a). ) If the ARB is genuinely concerned about 'the ethnics' then I would like to see the wording of the Act made gender neutral and action taken on promoting fair access so that women and other discriminated groups are properly represented and remain on the register. Procurement and pay are two major issues. It is in the public interest to ensure that architects are fairly treated, especially in relation to public procurement. It would be great to see the ARB work with the RIBA to meaningfully tackle this issue instead of paying lip stick service to it. Yasmin Shariff RIBA/AA Council Member
Comment on: Sadie Morgan to become next AA president
Sadie is a wonderful dynamic person - she will make a great president.
Lets get serious. 21% architects in the 21st Century getting paid 26% less is a scandal and against the law. If the lawyers, medics and footsie 100 companies can achieve over 40% representation and more equal pay then there is no reason why architects can't especially when 40% of the construction budget is public sector.
Comment on: Better homes, warmer homes
Aspirations for where and how we live seem to be reduced to the whims of developer greed and well blanketed building regulations. Most housing developments are mono-cultured- designed for isolation. Little more than boxes for the living dead with little thought for socialising inside the home or with neighbours. Mixed use designs where people share common assets, use local shops and have a sense of belonging stand little chance of getting through our archaic planning laws designed to clean up the industrial revolution with its sterilising and now largely irrelevant use classes. Jackson's Lane, Highgate and the Ryde in Hatfield, examples from the infamous 60s, hold many answers of how to design so that people get to know their neighbours and can look out for each other. Allowing the vulnerable to unnecessarily die at a time when we can design homes that require little or no heating and the fact that many families have to choose between eating and heating is a sad reality as we enter 2013. The UK has some of the best architects in the world who could easily transform existing areas and provide stimulating and creative centres that people can thrive rather than die in. There is no other profession that can look at the built environment in a multi faceted way and exploit the opportunities of the physical and ethereal environment. Until every housing association and government department has an architect on its board and leading the design team we will continue to waste money and allow thousands to suffer and die needlessly.
Comment on: The Olympic Stadium, London, by Populous
After two exhausting weeks with many 5am starts and lots of standing and smiling welcoming punters to the stadium as a Gamesmaker I can truly say that it has been a fantastic experience. The design works effortlessly- somehow miraculously meeting all the complex technical and people requirements. Last night at the closing ceremony the stadium pulsated to the music of Queen, the Beatles and the Spice Girls. Every seat was used, right up to the last tier to create pixilated images that flashed around the space. I cannot describe in words what 80,000 people singing and dancing feels like with a light show flashing all around. It was a brilliant spectacle. The grand fireworks finale used the stadium structure to great effect. Well done Populous! Thank you for giving us such a great stadium.
Go to any Olympic venue and it is buzzing with excitement and joy. Architects have inspired the nation and the world with their skilful designs. It is not only the ingenuity of their elegant structures. Venues are designed to manage vast numbers of people- keeping them safe, fed, secure and making places that are good to be in and inspirational. Perhaps the closing ceremony could celebrate the fundamental part that architects have played.
It is crazy that such diverse projects have to be judged in competition with each other when the scale of the challenge is so different. From the Olympic Stadium to the Hackney Marshes Centre architects have demonstrated their unrivalled skill and ingenuity at delivering projects economically and beautifully. All of these short-listed projects deserve to win there should be more than one prize. What was missing from the entries was social housing and there were few schools- is this a wake up call to government policy makers - can we afford to let them slumber?
Comment on: A history of mosques in Britain
Shaheed's survey is very well done and informative. She is right to point out that there is more to Islamic architecture than the caricature of domes and minarets. There is also more to Muslims and Islam than mosques. Islam does not separate the spiritual from the worldly and the concept of treating the earth and all its creatures responsibly is fundamental in the teachings of the Quran. If Muslims really want to be true to their faith then their homes, offices, mosques and community buildings should be designed with the highest environmental standards. Look at any typical Islamic building from Zanzibar to Granada and beyond and you will see many of the features we are struggling to incorporate into our Code 6 houses or Passivhaus buildings. There are a whole spectrum of environmental techniques including rainwater collection tanks; courtyards which form an integral part of the passive heating and cooling systems; hydroscopic finishes which temper humidity and temperature; sun-shading screens , waterless toilets, gardens with fruit and shade trees etc etc. There is also a very clever use of water and water features and a strong geometry and inspiration from nature resulting in a timeless beauty. The sound of gently running water, birds and bees is just as important as the call to prayer. Much to reflect on!
Most architects (male and female) do not want to admit there is a problem and you can't fix something if you pretend it doesn't exist. Architects see themselves as egalitarian but clearly the facts do not support this supposition. There is lots that can be done- other professions are doing a lot better.