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Rogers on the suppression of architects' social roles

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Perhaps in response to the Transgressive Architecture (TA) 'installation and intervention' outside the RIBA on the evening of his lecture (AJ 1.3.01), Lord Rogers laid more emphasis on the importance of social justice in the regeneration of the city, and the need for architects to get involved with the politics of urban regeneration, than he had in his lecture at the London School of Economics a few weeks ago. Not that the TA action was particularly eventful, consisting of 'bedsheets' laid out on the pavement, and printed with images of 'transgressive activities' (rough sleeping, street vending, cruising and squatting). Indeed, by comparison with the so-called Bad Sheets' understated 'critique of the process of cleansing and the zero tolerance approach that has been going on during the past few years in London', the familiar placards of the anti-China demonstration outside the RIBA have more street presence.

According to TA , 'the architecture and planning practices play an active role in the process of the current urban cleansing', which is promoted and endorsed by the 'Bible' of English urban planning, the government's publication Towards an Urban Renaissance - quotations from which are included in the 'art works'. But Lord Rogers suggests that central and local government has not fostered the involvement of architects in the delivery of social justice through planning policies and procedures, and, indeed, has actively repressed their role. In Britain now, only 10 per cent of architects work for local authorities, for example, compared with 30 per cent in Germany, and architects in private practice simply are not in a position to deal with the complexities of urban regeneration. It was for this reason that he recommended the creation of urban regeneration centres attached to universities - an initiative which is only very slowly beginning to see the light of day. Similarly, says Lord Rogers, he 'never met another architect' when he was 'walking in the corridors of power.' But perhaps this is also evidence of a failure on the part of architects to shoulder social responsibility. Architects 'have to work at all levels - not just aesthetics', stresses Lord Rogers. By comparison with the typical professional architect of today, his counterpart of the Italian Renaissance was a multi-skilled all-rounder, and architecture itself was seen as a far more holistic practice.

'We need to think what government is about, ' says Lord Rogers, 'that's also architecture.'He is outspoken on 'the failure of government and businesses to distribute global wealth', and proposes that 'corporations must be separated from government if government is accountable to the individual'. He also insists that we 'should be moving towards a non-polluting society'. In the end, the state of our cities reflects that of our public life, but both depend on the vision and determination of key individuals. Lord Rogers points to the achievements of the mayors of Curitiba and Strasbourg: what then might the future hold for London?

Lord Rogers was speaking at the RIBA on 'The City and the Architect's Role' vital statistics Fee earnings per architect increased faster in bigger practices last year, from a median of £24,600 for a micro-practice to £62,832 for firms with 31+ staff, says the DCMS' Creative Industries Mapping Document.

The same report says there are 20,900 full-time architects, up by 2 per cent on 1995. There are 6,000 private practices, 88 per cent of staff are full time, 10 per cent part time and 2 per cent unemployed (1 per cent was unaccounted for).

Annual earnings of top tax QCs go from £300,000 to £2 million, says legal publisher Chambers and Partners.

Criminal QCs earn £150,000 to £500,000, while 26 specialists in commercial law earn more than £1 million.

Spending on river and coastal defences should be doubled to £270 million a year, say ministers. Members of the Association of British Insurers paid out £692 million after last autumn's floods.

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