From tuition fees to Localism, architects and key figures comment on the headlines that shaped 2011
‘Stop £150,000 student debt’ say protesting Bartlett dons (aj 09.11.11)
Tony Fretton, professor at TU Delft in the Netherlands
The government’s intention to raise tuition fees seems to be entirely misguided. Young people of modest means will be deterred from university education and their prospects diminished. Those who are better off will seriously consider European universities where courses are already taught in English, fees are lower, education better and less invaded by government ideology, with the strong possibility of their not returning to the UK. Where, in the long-term, will the agile and educated people that the UK needs in an uncertain and competitive world be?
Jeremy Hunt rejects Broadgate listing (aj 15.06.11)
Neil Deely, director, Metropolitan Workshop
The decision to demolish Peter Foggo’s 5 Broadgate was one of the most significant stories of 2011, as it demonstrated how temporal the City’s fabric really is. It marked the beginning-of-the-end of Broadgate’s short life as one the very few thoughtfully planned, skilfully composed city centre environments delivered in the late 20th century.
The decision not to list was perhaps the only option, given the architectural merits of the buildings individually. But DCMS’ descision ignored the fundamental contribution the buildings make to the overall character: the sense of place and identity of the Broadgate estate. It would be an even greater pity if the story marked the beginning of an ‘anything goes’ era of architecture in the City.
Ken Shuttleworth, founder Make Architects
The decision by Jeremy Hunt to overturn the English Heritage recommendation to list the whole of Broadgate was the headline and hgighlight of the year thus giving the green light to our 5 Broadgate project for British Land /UBS. I got on an plane in Hong Kong that evening and we had heard nothing. When I landed in London the phone messages were indicating that a decision was imminent. So I received the news while completely jet-lagged and wasn’t really sure if I was actually still dreaming. It was a hard fought-over project from both sides and ultimately the right decision for London and fantastic news for everyone at Make.
Holl’s Glasgow School of Art wins go-ahead (AJ 22.03.11)
William J R Curtis, historian When will Britain wake up to the importance of its 20th century architectural heritage? With half-baked plans for the ‘restoration’ of the National Theatre underway and with Stephen Holl’s hugely out of scale addition to Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art receiving planning permission from a council with its head in the sand, this has not been a great year for the preservation of modern buildings of high quality.
Foster reveals self-funded proposal for thames estuary airport (AJ 03.11.11)
Hanif Kara, AKT II
Whatever the politics and motivations of Foster + Partners’ Thames Estuary airport ideas, I had a deep feeling of relief that some people are still having this sort of vision at a time when the next generation is being told how hard life will be. The idea is very do-able and throws up challenges at all levels, from how we educate designers to forcing politicians to appreciate the value of high-level design thinking.
Paul Morrell: BIM to be rolled out to all projects by 2016 (AJ 23.06.11)
Richard Waterhouse, chief executive of RIBA Enterprises
A simple phrase that could spark a revolution and a defining moment for construction, as government recognises the benefits of the industry working together. Can it work? Given that it promises higher profitability, we all hope so. Once we have waded through the marketing hype, we have to remember that BIM is simply a process that allows the team to work together more effectively; a world where the skills and experience of all team members are used in a timely and efficient way. All we have to do now is fund the necessary investment and solve the social, legal and insurance issues. Onwards together.
Localism Bill becomes Localism Act (AJ16.11.11)
Jonathan Hendry, Jonathan Hendry Architects
The abolition of regional strategies and housing targets with a pledge for new homes will pave the way for developments previously seen as going against policy. This has generated a tsunami of applications rushing towards the finish line with a view to testing how belt and braces the Act really is. However, the belief that we no longer only have to satisfy a planning authority and committee but must also get approval from the local community under the new act is going to be circuitous. The flaw with the revamp is that it doesn’t go that extra mile and address the archaic system of determining an application via a politically motivated committee. >>
Danish practice wins ‘Next generation of pylon’ contest (AJ 14.10.11)
Andrew Pryke, Capita Symonds
October’s result of the hotly-contested competition to redesign Reginald Blomfield’s ubiquitous, 1920s pylon resulted in a lost opportunity. With more than 250 entrants, the winner, Danish engineer Bystrup, has a lot to live up to. The current ‘grumpy old men’ (or as the poet Stephen Spender penned, ‘nude giant girls’) that stride through our countryside and towns will see a new breed of mass-produced utilitarian sculpture, the T-Pylon. I am of the opinion that we British are not ready for ‘T’, quite yet. Why remake a classic? Then again, I do actually prefer the more recent King Kong movie to the original.
Cost of an architectural education hits estimated 88K (AJ 25.05.11) / Third of architecture students bankrolled by parents (AJ 22.06.11)
Nic Sampson, ESA, now part of Capita Symonds
Both these stories highlight the growing divergence between those that have the ‘family means’ to fund an education in architecture and those, that through the lottery of class and background are becoming increasingly excluded from the process and the profession to the detriment of all.
This only serves to reinforce the generally held belief that architecture (and architects) are elitist. This does not benefit our culture, our industry, nor the UK’s traditionally diverse and creative learning process.
As a profession, we should think about alternative funding routes; bursaries offered by our bigger firms; sponsorship; and other educational formats that overcome the stigma of part-time study.
Angela Brady, RIBA president
It does not take many years of neglect to devastate our profession or our environment. We need to invest in our students by supporting their education and giving them paid opportunities. They need mentoring and financial support as never before. I’ve fought for diversity and access to architecture for many years: this campaign must continue. We all need to stand up for the values that we bring to architecture, place and society. Our skills and vision can give Britain a meaningful future – but we need to believe in our abilities and work together.
Luke Tozer, director of Pitman Tozer
‘The scandal of a lost generation of architecture students, with education now predicted to cost £88,726 per student and a third of post Part 1 students earning less than the minimum wage. Is this the return to architecture as a career exclusively for the wealthy?’
Austin-Smith:Lord files for company voluntary arrangement (AJ 15.11.11)
John Robertson, John Robertson Architects
I have real sympathy for what the partners and directors of ASL must be going through with their difficulties in recovering fees owed on their ADACH project in Abu Dhabi. We experienced a similar situation in 2009 when we were working for one of the state-backed developers in Abu Dhabi. We did not receive payment for about four months and ultimately we decided the only solution was, after issuing appropriate notifications, to cease operations. We eventually settled for about 70 per cent of what we were owed, apparently a good result by Middle East standards. We’ve since withdrawn from the UAE market, where there is no real legal recourse for recovering fees owed. The government could do far more to support architects with overseas projects, in the form of export credit guarantees.
Graham Hickson-Smith, Director of Marketing and Business Development at 3DReid
RMJM, BDP and Austin-Smith: Lord have all made the headlines, but in truth there will be scarcely any practices in the AJ100 who haven’t had to cut jobs in the fight for survival. Architecture practices only have one tangible commodity - their people. So redundancies quite literally see the lifeblood of a business seeping away. I just hope that the industry doesn’t suffer excessively in times to come from a dearth of talent because those made redundant have become project managers or altered their career path totally. With architecture students now having to fork out over £80,000 for their education and little prospect of a job upon graduation, we are in stark danger of seeing the profession implode.
Yet the world’s population tops 7,000,000,000. Housing supply and good quality education space in the UK continues to be embarrassingly low. UK design talent continues to be in strong demand from emerging economies and there is no profession quite so adept at re-inventing itself like architecture.
Property wobble in China spooks architects (AJ 01.12.11)
Matt Yeoman, director of Buckley Gray Yeoman Architecture
2011 was the year that saw UK architects run for home. It was the year the world shrunk, as work abroad dried up and there was nowhere left to go. Less than two years after being hailed as havens to ride out the UK recession, work in Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Libya, China and finally the entire Eurozone slowed. Even if you had work abroad there were growing signs that you weren’t going to get paid for it. The answer? This came from our old friend, Lord Foster, who with his usual foresight headed into space with Richard Branson.
Pre-designed schools template to replace BSF (AJ 03.02.11)
Alan Dunlop, Alan Dunlop Architects
The two most significant news items of the year concerned the government’s statements on school design. The idea that schools can follow a pre-designed template is nonsense. The message given by our political leaders is that, as far as the delivery of schools and other places of learning is concerned, architects are a non-essential, even detrimental element in the mix. I found these statements profoundly challenging and depressing in equal measure. For the education minister to be so obviously anti-architecture is a dread thought and a situation that does not auger well either for the profession or for our children
Cressida Toon, director, Sonnemann Toon Architects
It’s been a difficult year for those engaged in public sector work. As we reflect upon headlines past, they all boil together in a malodorous soup: a flat-packed carton of standardised designs served by expensively trained yet undervalued architects. Society knows that architecture does matter, but in some eras government forgets and a fallow period occurs – it seems that time has arrived once again.
RIBA new president Angela Brady: ‘I will stand up and fight’ (AJ 01.09.11)
Stephen Hodder, Hodder + Partners
For the first time, the strategic purpose of the RIBA featured members expressly at its heart. The conclusion of the restructuring this year will not only result in a more efficient institute, but one whose agenda can be informed by the grassroots membership. The recent country-wide consultation to identify the priorities that members wish to see over the next five years was an illustration of that connectivity. There is much more work to be done but we now have the mechanism to address the perennial question, ‘What does the RIBA do for me?’
Suzette Vela Burkett, studio director at Aukett Fitzroy Robinson
‘Angela Brady had grand plans as the new president of RIBA, calling her approach to turning the institution around ‘revolutionary’. In the months since this opening statement, however, we have seen little evidence in the market place of her ‘fight for the architect’? It seems practices such ours, in doubling our number of Part 1s and taking on Part 2s for paid experience (for us our highest student and graduate recruitment for a decade), have done much more for fighting for our industry professionals, so we continue to wait for Brady’s revolution.’
Ruth Reed warns of storm over student low pay (AJ 14.04.11)
John McRae, ORMS
As a profession, we need to protect the future of architecture by supporting our students. It is not acceptable to employ students on less than the minimum wage and no doubt expect them to work long hours. We need find a way of ensuring the profession flourishes beyond the current economic situation. Step one is to stop submitting ridiculously low fee bids and stand up for what we are worth.
Partnerships for Schools abolished (AJ 07.06.11)
Jonathan Ellis-Miller, EllisMiller
For us and many other practices, the cuts to capital education spending were the biggest – and saddest – story of the year. EllisMiller had been working on a BSF to transform schools in Rotherham until it was cancelled by Michael Gove. The irony of the award of the Stirling Prize going to a massively expensive project with little relevance to the national condition certainly wasn’t lost on us, compounded by Zaha Hadid’s failure to even turn up.
Gove: Richard Rogers won’t design your school (AJ 02.02.11)
Peter Buchan, Ryder Architecture
I will remember this as the year when our government told us that design in architecture doesn’t matter and our profession whinged and rolled over. Just when we all thought things couldn’t get any worse.
ZAHA HADID: Stirling prize school ‘should go mainstream’ (AJ 06.10.11)
Gareth Hoskins, Gareth Hoskins Architects
2011 saw the contrasting extremes of the James Review and Michael Gove setting out an agenda for stripping away the past few years focus on the design quality of new schools, and Zaha Hadid winning the Stirling Prize with Evelyn Grace Academy, by comparison a veritable monument to design.
Roger Hawkins, director Hawkins\Brown
The after party to celebrate the RIBA Stirling Prize in October took place at our project, Park Hill, Sheffield. My prevailing memory is lining up to buy cans of Red Stripe - apologies to those in the queue - and being rewarded with the sounds of early 1980s Sheffield music. ‘They Must Be Russians’ had a particular resonance with the surrounding exposed concrete structure. But as I write this, there is a different sound from the radio and the prospect of Military Wives with Gareth Malone being the Christmas No.1 is a stark reminder that the public purse spends more on military brass bands than the rest of the arts budget put together.
Release of Prince Charles’ Planning letters blocked (AJ 24.08.11) / Prince Charles’ right to veto on draft bills revealed (AJ 31.10.11)
Greg Lomas, Foster Lomas
These were both pretty surprising tales, putting a new spin on the Chelsea Barracks/Richard Rogers situation.
Reaction: The stories that shook your world in 2011