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'A sad day': European architects voice opinions on Brexit

Collage of eu on brexit
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Architects from around Europe have given their reactions to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union

Monica Von Schmalensee, the chief executive of Scandinavian giant White Arkitekter which opened a London office in 2015, said the outcome of last week’s referendum ’was a sad day’.

Speaking to the AJ, Von Schmalensee said: ’London is important for us as a window for the rest of the world, but sadly this could change.’

White currently employs around 800 staff across Europe and has worked throughout the UK including in Southend and for developer Citu in Leeds.

Thomas Bernatzky, a director at the Berlin outpost of Hoskins Architects, said one of his biggest concerns was about the free movement of staff.

He told the AJ: ’We hope for a clear signal from the UK government that they intend to respect acquired rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK: both in terms of work permits, as well as social security and pension rights.

‘From the EU we expect a similar commitment towards UK citizens currently living and working in the EU.’

Bernatzky added: ’Life for UK companies in Europe will become much more bureaucratic outside the EU, which is the irony of the referendum result.’

Meanwhile Francine Houben of Mecanoo, which has its headquarters in Delft, the Netherlands but also runs studios in London and Manchester, said the vote would not damage the practice’s relationship with the UK.

She told the AJ: ’We believe in the robust connection between the Netherlands and the UK, and we will continue to work from our offices in Delft, Manchester, and London. As always, we’re prepared for unpredictable changes in society.’

Comment

netherlands flag

Reinier de Graaf, OMA, Netherlands

In a world where the most pressing issues inevitably exceed the size of nations, interdependence between nations is a fact. When problems escalate, so must inevitably the arena in which they are addressed. An institution like the EU is born out of the knowledge that in the face of the bigger issues we are all minorities. Countries in Europe have a choice: they can either realise or ignore the fact they are small. Yet small they are. All. Including Britain.

Francine Houben, Mecanoo, Netherlands

The discussion on the outcome of the British EU referendum strengthens my confidence in the younger generation: they want to live in a world with free movement of people, unbounded relationships, sharing of knowledge and ideas and unrestricted trade. This attitude cannot be stopped. It will only grow stronger. Mecanoo believes in the robust connection between the Netherlands and the UK, and we will continue to work from our offices in Delft, Manchester and London. As always, we’re prepared for unpredictable changes in society.

Flag of Sweden

Monica Von Schmalensee, White Arkitekter, Sweden

It’s a sad [moment] for Sweden, the EU and the UK as this is a loss for free movement. Exchange of knowledge and collaborations are drivers for innovative design and sustainable architecture. When we set up our London studio we knew about the referendum and were determined in bringing the Scandinavian process and design into a UK context and establish new collaborations with UK firms.

This is still valid and we are committed to the UK market and will of course follow the upcoming negotiations carefully. London is important for us as a window for the rest of the world, but sadly this could change as well as the will of investments.

spain flag spanish

Olga Felip, Camps Felip Arquitecturia, Spain

Today the strong sense of a nation makes no more sense. Our world has become a city of cities and a landscape of landscapes. And that is how I understand Europe. As a network of cities: Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Helsinki, Barcelona… and London.

Today communications and information have no borders and the younger generations are nomads. Tomorrow the sense of propriety will change and the sense of identity will have nothing to do with nationalism. New generations will build up new networks for a better future of this world that is emerging.

Italy flag italian

Elisa Burnazzi, Burnazzi Feltrin Architects, Italy

I believe that, despite this vote, Britain will continue to recognise the Italian worth and creativity. This is why so many of my young compatriots leave Italy: in Britain they find fertile ground to flourish their talents, enriching the country in which they are living, not the one of their birth.

germany flag

Thomas Bernatzky, Hoskins Architects, Berlin

At the moment it is too early to know the exact impact on our day-to-day business; however, within the next couple of years a lot of uncertainties about the future of business relationships and private lives will have to be tackled. Most of the assumptions we made before the referendum remain assumptions, as we do not know the details of the new relationship between the UK and the EU.

In the interest of our office, we are hoping for the UK to decide to rejoin the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), to allow us ongoing open access to the European Single Market. Freedom of movement will be a hot topic over the next months. We hope for a clear signal from the UK government that they intend to respect acquired rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK: both in terms of work permits, as well as social security and pension rights. From the EU we expect a similar commitment towards UK citizens currently living and working in the EU.

Life for UK companies in Europe will become much more bureaucratic outside the EU, which is the irony of the referendum result. Thankfully we work with good and open-minded clients all over Europe who have an international perspective. It is early days, but we will find a way through this together, and we will strive to further develop our international profile from our team based in Berlin and Glasgow.

Yvonne Farrell, Grafton, Ireland.

Last Friday was a sad day. It’s at a time like this, that I’m reminded of David Chipperfield’s theme of the 2012 Venice Biennale Common Ground. His wonderfully humane theme was an act of resistance against the media’s construct of individualised projects . His focus was on architecture connected with individuals sharing common concerns and intentions. He invited contributions, which put collaboration and dialogue at the heart of the Biennale.We should learn from his theme Common Ground’ It easy to find differences and dig a trench of separation. It takes a deeper human longing to find and hold on to what we share.

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Roche

    Political Leadership has failed, and the turbulence which we now face is a direct consequence of lack of foresight. The referendum was conceived as a vehicle for political change. Unfortunately it became a Juggernaut without either steering wheel, or brakes. The devastating costs to society, and to the profession is incalculable. Austerity has not delivered homes, jobs, opportunities or hope.

    Chris Roche Founder 11.04

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