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LEAKED: Extraordinary Schumacher email reveals ZHA fracture

Patrik schumacher at waf

An open letter from Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) distancing itself from incendiary comments made by partner Patrik Schumacher on social housing was immediately challenged by Schumacher, who told staff the letter was unauthorised

Schumacher’s 560-word email, apparently typed on an iPhone in Hong Kong just before midnight on 29 November – the same day ZHA released its open letter – claimed the letter was sent out by ZHA’s head of press, Roger Howie, without the authorisation of any of the company’s directors.

The email [see below] was sent to all ZHA staff and was anonymously leaked to the AJ.

It attempted to reassure staff about the direction of the company in the wake of Schumacher’s hugely controversial speech to the World Architecture Festival in Berlin earlier in November, in which he proposed that social housing be scrapped, Hyde Park built on and all public space privatised.

In the email, Schumacher hit out at the media for creating news on the episode ‘out of thin air’ before claiming that ZHA directors had not backed the open letter to the press which distanced the practice from his comments.

He wrote: ‘Don’t worry, I am in charge and won’t let you down. Roger [Howie] unfortunately temporarily drowned in the quicksands of the media spin and issued a statement on behalf of ZHA which had nobody’s endorsement except his very own.’

Schumacher also went on to apologise for his ‘faux pas’, acknowledging that ’politics and professional service don’t mix’ but also insisted there was no ‘rift’ within ZHA.

In his highly provocative address to the World Architecture Festival on 17 November, Schumacher attacked the system of subsidised and affordable housing in cities, saying market forces should dictate land use rather than council officials. His description of social housing tenants as ‘free-riders’ and ‘privileged’ prompted fierce criticism and provoked London mayor Sadiq Khan to say that Schumacher was ‘plain wrong’.

Khan said: ’[Whether] these out-of-touch comments were designed to shock or not, anyone who thinks abolishing affordable housing altogether, supporting buy-to-leave empty properties and building on Hyde Park is the answer to London’s housing crisis doesn’t understand the first thing about our great city.’


ZHA’s offices were later picketed by about 20 protesters from Class War and the London Anarchist Federation, who were also angered by Schumacher’s comments.

ZHA was contacted for comment.

From: Patrik Private

Sent: 29 November 2016 23:56

To: # All Staff

Subject: all cool !!! the ominous ZHA statement was Roger’s heroic solo effort

Welcome to hyper-reality … where “news” can be created out of thin air, hyped up to snowball quickly into volleys that might hurt, but don’t if you have a healthy thick skin and a good conscience. I for my part won’t loose [sic] my humour over this, as my confidence in who we are can’t be touched by (fake or real but fallacious) indignation. Don’t worry, I am in charge and won’t let you down. Roger unfortunately temporarily drowned in the quicksands of the media spin and issued a statement on behalf of ZHA which had nobody’s endorsement except his very own. I guess he got carried away by his own virtuoso rhetorical flourish - fighting one front without noticing that he was opening thereby another: he failed to reflect that his punchy phrases could never have been endorsed by me and thus would falsely but inevitably signal a rift inside ZHA, a rift which does not exist at all. He had circulated this piece to all directors, and got duly rebuked by all telling him that this was inappropriate and would be read as implying fracture.

But feeling the real pressure of the hyper-volleys flying all over and around him in the eerie media vortex where he is residing since WAF, he failed to wait for their response and released his piece into this spinning hungry media vortex. I found out about this only when some stunning new twitter headlines popped onto my iphone (tonight here in HongKong) about an “open feud” at the heart of ZHA and about my imminent unemployment (about to “stress test my libertarian ideology”. Hahahaha!!! Hey, there is at least still some humour out there among all the real and faked outrage). So now we have yet another myth to dispel. Sorry Roger, you have been doing a fantastic and fantastically difficult job in that phantasmagoric controversy that i regretfully enflamed with embarrassing innocence and perhaps with a dose of rather selfish recklessness (sorry to you all!) but I had to expose your slippage to dispel the confusion about who is (and who might want to be??) in charge of ZHA. (The media were also already speculating who might have authored this statement.)

I’ll be back Friday morning to strategise about the best way to communicate our sound levelheaded sanity amidst all this sensationalising mad media frenzy (and pompous posturing as well as real honest anger, confusion and puzzlement). I am sorry i can’t be there when this scary self-appointed “class war” pushes against our gates. I hope the protest is peaceful! In any case please be careful and avoid confrontation - as broken teeth or similar calamities are to be avoided by all means. I am in good spirits trusting that my faux pas will be forgiven (by you for sure, but also by the world, our colleagues, clients etc.) Hey, shit happens … and lessons are learned! Politics and professional service don’t mix. I have written about this at length. How these aspects of a meaningful and ambitious life might co-exist peacefully, without compromising and subverting each other remains to be carefully defined and (most cautiously!!!) probed in due time (not now !!!).


Sent from my iPhone

Patrik Private




Readers' comments (6)

  • The provision of social housing mostly subsidised and made affordable by not paying for the land and forcing developers to provide a percentage of the new build as "affordable" once the local council's trigger of usually 10 dwellings is reached is no different were you to be forced to pay an arbitrary additional sum when you reach the check-out at Tesco for those that cannot afford what you can.

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  • In other news, privileged homeless people across London have been flocking to the offices of ZHA having caught wind of some "key parties".

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  • David Sacof
    Except that (a) the developer's ability to build is a permission granted by society through the planning system with a number of restrictions and costs, and (b) when you check out at Tesco (for non-food items anyway) you do pay and 'arbitrary additional sum' - it's known as Value Added Tax. That's the society we live in.

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  • What did happen on Friday morning or afterwards?
    Who is in charge now?

    The main question to me is how we can ensure more social housing is designed by qualified architects (currently standing at around only 4% of planning applications submitted), and Patrik's original comments may have served to reinforce some of the worst prejudices against architects unfortunately.

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  • Excellent response by Patrik, in world where media hungry world need to fill the airways and paper columns to vilify any speech or comments that which tests the legitimacy of the status quo or slightly pushes against the liberal left......more robust dialogue should be encouraged to ensure we create the most effective solutions and structures for the evolving 21st century.

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  • Mr Schumacher clearly takes himself seriously, as befits Zaha Hadid's chief (and presumably trusted) assistant - but he shouldn't be surprised when others take his public comments seriously.
    And perhaps he should listen to them - or retire to open a branch office in the Gambia.

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