Why is it that many of the items you would like to buy are designed by the English, but made somewhere else?
Italian, German, and Japanese manufacturers have all recognised that this country contains a body of talent that can make them rich, leaving the UK populated by accountants. Money has become our raison d'Ûtre , and wealth the measure of status and happiness. The pen I am writing with is made in Germany, and is a product much favoured by architects and bank managers.
The world of design is passed by in the UK, just as we thought we had a government that recognised its value. It is more interested in forcing prices down by making more stringent rules on competition, than in the quality of life, which is about creating joy, contentment and good manners. Conditions of forced competition ultimately result in employees working longer hours for no additional money, and company boards deciding not to invest in design because it adds to costs. DESIGN MATTERS, and it also manages to add wealth without pain.
Boeing has just embarked on an advertising campaign to promote its new, almost supersonic, passenger plane. The pictures show an object of curiosity and some beauty. The fuselage is aerodynamic and elegantly curved. I am sure it will sell well because it looks good, whereas Airbus Industries considers its planes to be successful, based on price and capacity. Not only does the airbus look like the back of a bus, but it fails to recognise the fact that people's flying needs are changing.
Large capacity with no additional speed is only for holiday runs. These large tin cans of death-by-deep-vein-thrombosis are not what passengers require. If you are going to die, at least do so in something elegant. WAKE UP, AIRBUS! Your planes look boring and tedious - and we want to be excited.
There are other important aspects connected to design and competition. People in Europe get paid more for working fewer hours, with longer holidays. It is true that they pay more tax but, in return, they have clean hospitals with short waiting lists, and schools at which pupils learn to be happy. Our private schools are thought of as institutions for the slightly less bright, and those in need of removal from society. Trains in mainland Europe run to the minute and are cheap to use, in stark comparison with our own.There are many other examples of the benefits of high taxation. We were sold the idea of low taxation by a government that warned of the dangers of the nanny state, and yet I see no danger signs in the countries I visit frequently.
Why has England become a nation of bean counters? Why are we so obsessed with how much things cost, and how much the other person gets paid, and how much their house is worth? Our lives are highly regulated and very expensive, as we pay tax in a million disguised ways. Meanwhile, our continental cousins enjoy a higher quality of life.
Why is it cheaper to erect buildings in Germany than in England, while workers on site earn more than their UK equivalents and take more pride in their jobs? There is a European architecture which is beginning to explore questions of urbanity, the effect of media, temporality and quality of life - an extension of Modernism.
If English architects are not taken seriously at home they have no means of testing their ideals with real commissions - which are good for the economy and the only way the UK might get back into manufacturing.
From my desk at my Institute in the Technical University in Vienna