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 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
That Patrik Schumacher email 😮. "Broken teeth or similar calamities are to be avoided..." - sounds like a line from a gangster movie.— Tom Page (@thomas_page) January 5, 2017
Patrik Schumacher just comes across as a bit of a tit, really https://t.co/ooMKSUCpqU— Neil Murphy (@neilmurphy1978) January 5, 2017
When architecture is more like reality tv... Leaking and printing private emails. https://t.co/WZ7Czi9dyM— Angela Dapper (@angeladapper) January 5, 2017