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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)

  • That’s great Timothy - It doesn’t claim to represent you as you haven’t signed it. Do please organise your own.

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  • Paul - last time I checked you didn’t run a practice. I suspect you have no experience in terms of running a practice nor can offer a more authoritative view than those who have the real experience of those who are signatories. You’ve also missed the point: we benefit culturally. If mourning the loss of the culture within which UK architecture has operated for 40 years is protesting like a headless chicken and not ‘getting a grip’, pray tell us what we should ‘get a grip’ off?

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  • That link is corrupt BTW - it’s Brexit@invisiblestudio.org

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  • Blaming single currency and the EU for the economical crisis in places like Spain is a very skewed view for such a complex matter. Ridiculous.

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  • Hi Paul, sure if you consider HMRC soothsayers:


    What is the grand vision of Brexit that architects are supposed to be getting behind? So far I'm yet to hear of a single benefit to our industry - but please persuade me otherwise?

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  • Piers et al,

    Why is it that intelligent and honourable people, in this case the leaders of the profession, at the mention of “Remain” lose their normal calm and reasoned approach to incidents and accidents? Forget who voted or campaigned for or against Brexit, and do some research, as you would around any normal problem.

    A good place to start is by reading “Britain’s Europe” by Brendan Simms, a Cambridge Academic and Historian. A fascinating history of this country from a European point of view. His conclusion is that Brexit will benefit the EU as much as Britain. Without us they will be able to complete the Federal European project, create a central bank to issue bonds to support the currency, and develope a military capability to defend Europe from foreign incursion. This would result in a more prosperous and confident Europe, with much lower unemployment. The lingua Franca would be English, as it’s the generally agreed second language. Being more prosperous more of their young architects and builders will stay at home, forcing us to look to the rest of the world for help with computers and carrots?!

    We and our friends in NATO and the Commonwealth would of course be their allies in peace and war, and their enhanced military capability would free up our stretched assets for use in the world’s other trouble spots. We will be able to increase our trade with the world in general, at the same time developing our own health, safety, employment and environmental standards which will probably mirror the existing European ones. And that’s just the start. We will also need new fishing and agricultural policies, and the resurection of the BSI etc. We will be able to avoid the working time directives and red tape, just like the French do at the moment! And retire when you want to, early or late. More of our building materials and products will be derived from Africa and Asia, with whom we will hopefully be able to trade freely, for the benefit of particularly Africa.

    Think of Brexit as you would a contentious planning application for a long vacant site. The Nimbies will be holding the drawings up side down and shouting NO! The Sensibles will be working with the developer and local community to iron out any shortcomings for a good end result.

    The next few years will be turbulent, but the risks of Brexit will be outweighed by the rewards if we keep calm and use our native creativity and intelligence; as we have done throughout our history, to produce one of the most prosperous countries in this world. Happy and at ease with ourselves, but always looking to improve the lot of all.

    (This is beginning to sound like Gladstone or Disraeli. If not Henry V?!)

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  • But why would we want to lower standards and be rid of the working time directive? And why would we want to lower standards elsewhere to create ‘growth’ based on a context of deregulation? And if focus on the creation of financial growth at the exclusion of all else (culture, education, research, environment) why would that benefit anyone?

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  • Hi Keir

    On your materials worries I can perhaps help, I import building materials from Europe, USA and China so have quite a broad range of experiences and have studied the no deal scenario extensively to see the issues it will have on my business.

    In the event of a no deal the likely scenario is it will add around 7 - 10 days for goods to get through the ports, this will be all goods not just those from EU ports. With building products obviously not being perishable goods this is far from a problem with a simple solution. It will require building sites and importers/ manufactures of goods to be more organised in the event of no deal, we as a company will be bringing over everything required for delivery in the last 2 weeks of March and April at the start of end of February, we usually aim to keep our goods in our yard less than 7 days to stop accidental damage occurring but we have the space to store what is required. Having spoken to a few other importers of goods we are all in the same boat with regards to planning well ahead.

    On the currency it really does depend who you speak to, we use a number of currency traders and they all say different things depending on which currency and which day of the week it is. We have budgeted at a 5% drop in currency rates but much off this will be offset by purchasing currency well ahead to minimize impact on customers. The tariffs for building products are covered by WTO rules and most sit in the bracket of 1.5% to 2% as a range of a tariff.

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  • Thank you Piers. Paul Finch, rather than telling people exercising a right to protest to 'get a grip', could you define reasons why Brexit would be of benefit to our profession? It has been 2 years since the vote, and nothing about the negotiations nor their outcome is being reported as positive. As argued above, architecture firms will lose a diversity of staff from different cultures, building material costs are rising rapidly and uncertainty is slowing construction. Where is the upside? Your comments about other country's unemployment being due a single currency is highly debatable, but in any case Britain is not part of the single currency. Though admittedly the value of the pound does equal that of the euro after the Brexit vote.

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  • Piers

    I don’t think I suggested lowering standards or focusing on financial growth to the exclusion of all else. What I am saying is that you have assumed the worst of all possible outcomes, and you and your signatories have the intelligence and creativity to thrive in the Post Brexit world. You sound like you’ve already given up?!

    Architecture and design have flourished in this country despite the dead hand of local and central government, and removing the European bureaucracy will lighten the burden further. It will be up to us to enact sensible legislation that protects the environment and workforce. We will need workers from everywhere, as well as the graduates from our own architectural colleges. Ironically, more people will arrive, and leave after Brexit, and that will help make this a better country.

    As ever, the times are a changing. Get out if you can’t lend a hand! The future is bright, the future is Brexit. And for God’s sake be positive?

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