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Looking ahead: your predictions for 2017

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AJ readers look into their crystal balls and predict the prospective delights and dangers in store over the next 12 months 

Alan Dempsey, director of Nex

I predict 2017 will the Year of the Border, in which we will have to grapple with new boundaries across the domains of politics, economics, and technology. 

Though I was saddened to see Brexit win the referendum vote, it will in some ways benefit the resilience of the UK economy. We’ll welcome increased domestic investment in infrastructure and innovation, and sustained foreign direct investment. UK architects should see increased activity particularly in the major secondary cities.

I also predict concerns about a ‘hard Brexit’ will recede as the government and EU fudge a longer-term transitional agreement that benefits both sides. I hope the government prioritises continued inward migration of highly skilled people into the UK.

The internet in 2017 may well become less open and more Balkanised into divergent constituencies and regions. Architects must champion the renewed importance of creating spaces that connect people to places. More than ever, we need public spaces that bring people together to share differing perspectives.

The boundaries between the real and virtual will again be redefined. Virtual reality apps will go mainstream, which will allow us to work in a more collaborative and expressive way – we’ll be sketching in 3D as a team here at Nex – and the computing interface will become ever more intuitive.

I hope we see more progress in new ways of making of architecture and our built environment. While I welcome the government’s Catapult Programme (a network of centres designed to boost innovation in specific areas), innovation in the way we make buildings seems to have again fallen into the gap between the software-focused Future Cities area and high-tech manufacturing. The bulk of our future cities will still be made of physical stuff, and we should focus on better ways to make them.

Richard Simmons, former chief executive of CABE and visiting lecturer at the Bartlett

I hope that government and industry will forge a way rapidly to build affordable, well-designed homes in beautiful places to solve the housing crisis. I predict that they won’t.

Sally Lewis, founder of Stitch

I hope that London Mayor Sadiq Khan delivers on his promises for housing, and doesn’t let quality fall by the wayside.

Hellman Sadiq London mayor

Mark Middleton, managing partner at Grimshaw

Next year will see more success for UK architects abroad, as Brexit forces us to focus on markets further afield. I predict there will be more threats to Brutalist architecture such as Durham’s Dunelm House, which we need to work to protect. These buildings are part of our history and are worthy of greater recognition.

Manisha Patel, partner at PRP

I predict that housing will continue to be a key political and architectural issue. Sadiq Kahn’s team at the GLA will begin to make some inroads into addressing the affordable housing shortage in London. We will see the first larger-scale, off-site-manufactured housing products coming on line and the debate on tall buildings and living at higher densities will continue to be a hot topic.

I hope that more attention is brought to bear on the country’s demographic time-bomb and that architects respond with innovative housing typologies for older people that significantly widen the current narrow offer.
I also want to see a further streamlining of the planning process so that important projects cannot be held up by understaffed and under-experienced local authority planning teams.

Luke Tozer, co-founder, Pitman Tozer

Given the surprising events of 2016, is there any point in making predictions? That said, I predict that the government, making a Nigel Faragian ‘proper mess’ of Brexit negotiations, will dominate the headlines, and that the lack of affordable housing in the South East will remain at crisis levels. On a more optimistic note, I hope that more women in architecture become more visible, better supported and better paid.

I hope more women in architecture become more visible, better supported and better paid

Personally, I’d like there to be a period of beautiful, sunny weather in the second week of March, when I’m cycling with Club Peloton to Cannes for MIPIM.

Jane Duncan, RIBA president

I predict Brexit will continuing to dominate the news in 2017. The RIBA has provided government with clarity on the potential for opportunities – and the risks for the architecture sector – during a number of recent meetings. I hope its plans for the UK’s future relationship with the EU become clearer as the year wears on.

Housing will also be a priority for 2017. It is so important that quality, affordability and community be at the centre of the government’s housing plans. Housing minister Gavin Barwell spoke at the Stirling Prize event about the need to drive up quality in housebuilding. I hope to see some action to support this intention once the government publishes its Housing White Paper.

Gavin barwell

Gavin Barwell

Gavin Barwell, housing and architecture minister

Ben Derbyshire, RIBA president elect

I want to see the government confirm that non-EU national architects working in the UK can stay, commit to maintain mutual recognition of qualifications between the UK and the EU, and look to expand this to countries outside the EU. I also want the government to continue to invest in housing and infrastructure throughout the UK to support the beginnings of an international economic boom based on design excellence centred on the UK.

Hazel Rounding, director at shedkm

Uncertainty will no doubt linger through 2017 but our hope is that confidence will grow. At shedkm we are in the midst of a wave of regeneration in the North West, coupled with the start of a major pipeline of production of hoUSe, our volumetric prefabricated home, with Urban Splash.

In the South, we have just realised a major new-build commercial scheme in Croydon. It would be hugely disappointing if the apprehension associated with the EU referendum result halted the economic momentum established since the 2008 recession.

Rab Bennetts, founding director, Bennetts Associates

After the most unpredictable year ever, my prediction for 2017 will be wrong – but I still think the trashing of Britain’s reputation by the vote for Brexit will start to translate into a downturn.

Peter Murray, chairman, New London Architecture

A lot of my focus next year will be on the evolving new London Plan by mayor Sadiq Khan, with the first draft due to be produced in the Autumn of 2017. I’m hoping that the mayor will understand the benefits of a polycentric city, the importance of design in delivering a more dense environment, the need to create a clearer idea about the form of the city with firm placeshaping policies and that he will embrace the idea of having a 3D computer model as a planning aid into which proposed developments can be inserted.

I’m hoping the London mayor will understand the benefits of a polycentric city

I hope that the deputy mayor for transport will get on with spending the generous budget she has for improving cycling infrastucture, because it takes time to deliver and will be made harder by the – hopefully temporary – period of ‘bikelash’ following the development of the Cycle Super Highway on the Victoria Embankment. I look forward to the City of London removing all vehicles, except buses, from the deadly Bank Junction to create a place that prioritises people and properly respects one of the capital’s great spaces, surrounded by the work Dance the Elder, Soane, Lutyens and Jim Stirling.

David Birkbeck, chief executive, Design for Homes

Prescott’s Design for Manufacture competition in 2007 was meant to kickstart modern housebuilding but the credit crunch washed away every pioneer. Ten years later hoUSes by Urban Splash really are being manufactured in factories, giants like Legal & General, Barratt and our big housing associations are back in the ring and the incoming RIBA president is a long-standing evangelist. This is the year it will finally get a foothold, provided we don’t get any more horrible economic shocks.

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