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Architects sign letter to May outlining Brexit’s threat to profession

Theresa may

Big name architects including Bob Allies, Peter Clegg, David Chipperfield and Cindy Walters have signed a letter warning the prime minister of the risks to the profession from Brexit.

Organised by Invisible Studio founder Piers Taylor, the open missive to Theresa May has 35 signatures to date.

It warns that the architecture culture in Britain will be ‘immeasurably diminished’ if the UK leaves the EU.

Tensions are running high as Brexit negotiations crank up. In September, the RIBA branded a key migration policy report – which mooted a minimum salary requirement for those seeking to work in the UK – ‘extremely worrying’ for the architecture sector.

The AJ last month reported that the Architects Registration Board had recorded a 42 per cent fall in the number of EU registrations since the 2016 exit vote. Architects raised concerns that a loss of diversity would lead to ‘boring conversations and dull design’.

Now Taylor is seeking to drum up further opposition to tighter migration controls through his letter, which insists there is ‘no good Brexit’.

The letter reads: ‘We are concerned that unless we are members of the EU with the free movement of ideas and people that this brings, the culture within which we practice architecture in Britain will be immeasurably diminished.

‘At present, under proposed immigration rules, your definition of a skilled worker excludes almost all of those who come here to work in our industry. For us, instead of being an opportunity, this is devastating.’

In July, leading figures in UK architecture including RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance and Make founding partner Ken Shuttleworth wrote a separate letter to Theresa May setting out their Brexit demands.

Full text of Taylor’s open letter 

Dear Prime Minister

Architecture is an international industry where cooperation across borders is critical to the success of our practices. Much of our work is pan-European, and many of our staff are from the EU. Figures suggest that one in five architects in the UK are from the EU, and one in three in London. We thrive on this sense of being part of an international community, and have – as a culture – benefited immeasurably from the freedom of movement that has enabled many European architects to contribute to the enormous success that is British Architecture.

We believe that without being members of the EU, this success would not have been possible. We are concerned that unless we are members of the EU with the free movement of ideas and people that this brings, the culture within which we practice architecture in Britain will be immeasurably diminished. At present, under proposed immigration rules, your definition of a skilled worker excludes almost all of those who come here to work in our industry. For us, instead of being an opportunity, this is devastating.

We believe that there is no good Brexit. We also believe that the 48 per cent of the votes cast in the last referendum have been ignored. When you talk of the will of the people, you are not taking into account that almost half of all votes cast were to remain, and polls show that in the period since the referendum many of those who voted leave have changed their mind. With this, we do not see within any of your negotiation with the EU any consideration whatsoever of the circumstances that we need for our industry and associated institutions to continue to thrive.


David Chipperfield, David CHipperfield Architects
Steve Tompkins, Haworth Tompkins
Níall McLaughlin, Níall McLaughlin Architects
Harriet Harriss, RCA
Cindy Walters, Walters & Cohen
Gianni Botsford, Gianni Botsford Architects
Koen Steemers, University of Cambridge
Stephen Bates, Sergison Bates
Paul Monaghan, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Sophy Twohig, Hopkins Architects
Robin Nicholson, Cullinan Studio
Bob Allies, Allies and Morrison
Gerard Maccreanor, Maccreanor Lavington
David Lloyd Jones, Herbert & Partners
Joe Kerr, Syracuse University
Jeremy Till, Central St Martins - University of the Arts London
Jo Wright, Arup
Simon Usher, MUMA
Dean Hawkes, University of Cambridge
Nicola Du Pisanie, Stonewood Design
Peter Oborn, Peter Oborn Associates
Robert Mull, professor of architecture, University of Brighton
Martin Gledhill, University of Bath
Glenn Howells, Glenn Howells Architects
Hannah Durham, Cullinan Studio
Stephen Taylor, Stephen Taylor Architects
Fionn Stephenson, University of Sheffield
Roddy Langmuir, Cullinan Associates
Russell Curtis, RCKa Architects
Simon Henley, Henley Hale Brown
Piers Taylor, Invisible Studio
Alan Stanton, Stanton Williams
Andrew Grant, Grant Associates
Meredith Bowles, Mole Architects
Joe Morris, Morris + Company
Peter Clegg, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Chris Boyce, Assorted Skills + Talents*

Anyone who wishes to be added to the letter can contact Piers Taylor by email using brexit@invisiblestudio.org 


Readers' comments (22)

  • Will there be a separate letter from those architects who believe that Brexit is a good idea or does AL just represent the "Big name" architects?

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  • Not sure what AL is but do feel free to organise your own letter, Raymond.

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  • Gabriela Igelsias

    I think that to connect brexit with the “ livehood” of thd profession is absurd! Architectural firms requiring professionals from Europe to survive can apply for work permit as before the eec just need to justify why they are needed. I think that the real reason is that young arch from Europe are much cheaper and less demanding regarding working conditions. Lets be honest it is nothing to do with “talents or diversity”

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    Garbriela, that's one of the most absurd comments i've read for some time. Cheap labour? Less demanding...? Come and meet our staff, talk to them in private, in confidence and perhaps we can have a discussion.

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  • Saying that things can de-evolve to a period of 40+ years ago is absurd. The world has changed. And there speaks a true Brexiter : because they see the world in terms of what things 'cost' they are unable to see cultural value as an asset, or indeed understand that anyone should appreciate the easy cultural diversity that we've grown up with that is the lifeblood of practice and education...

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  • The reason many architects from continental Europe have come to the UK is because there is no work for them at home. That is because their economies have been undermined by the straight-jacket of a single currency, resulting in mass unemployment in several countries, particularly amongst the young. This also explains the rise and rise of extremist political parties. The people who believe in the EU as an article of faith don't want to acknowledge this, preferring to run around
    protesting like headless chickens. Why don't they get a grip?

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  • Hi all,

    What do we anticipate will be the effect of Brexit on the cost of building?

    We have to specify and source a huge amount of materials and products from the EU on our projects (because manufacturing in the UK has been whittled away over decades). Curtain walling, glass, precast panels, composite window, linoleum - the list is endless.

    After Brexit, our currency will likely plunge further against the Euro and this will add costs; without a customs union the supply and transportation of goods from the EU will be subject to customs checks (lorries will be stopped and contents audited and valued) creating friction, slowing delivery and adding to overhead costs; under a Hard Brexit/No Deal we will potentially be buying goods outside the free trade area, adding taxes and tariffs and you guessed it, adding costs. The government has offered no certainty on any of the above.

    When building costs go up viability assessments will fail, market confidence will drop, people will speculate less, people will build less, architects will have less work. This at a time of a national housing crisis, when we need to build more than we've ever built before. Of course this is about our livelihoods, why risk any of this? What objective benefits are there to UK architecture for us being outside of the EU?

    Regarding workers rights, these are currently safeguarded under EU arrangements and are a much softer target after Brexit for UK politicians who seek deregulation and the removal of 'red tape', so the likely effect would be a worsening of workers rights and health and safety regulations in general, not the improvement.

    We employ architects from the EU because they are extremely talented, they are here on merit and treated equally - there is no other motive at play. If we make it harder for EU architects to work in the UK, the quality and standards of the built environment will ultimately suffer because we will have less talented teams working across the industry. UK architecture schools are not currently able to supply the level of talent required on their own.

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  • Another story from Psychic News . . .

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  • The email address that appears on clicking the link to be added to the list is misspelled. Thank you for this Piers.

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  • The tone of this letter is patronising and rather self-entitled. Having told the majority 52% they were wrong the letter then complains why a democratic decision to leave isn't being set aside for the benefit of the great and the good. In my opinion it doesn't accurately represent the profession as a whole, particularly smaller 'less worthy' practitioners.

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