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More top architects throw their weight behind AJ RetroFirst campaign

Retrofirst demands all
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Four Stirling Prize winners and an RIBA Royal Gold Medal winner have added their names to AJ’s new campaign to promote the circular economy in construction

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, David Chipperfield Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Zaha Hadid Architects and O’Donnell + Tuomey have all thrown their weight behind the RetroFirst campaign, which calls on the government to promote and incentivise the reuse of existing buildings in the face of the climate emergency.

RetroFirst, which was launched at the AJ’s annual Retrofit Awards in September, calls for government action to underpin greater use of retrofit and refurbishment in three key areas: tax, procurement and policy.

The list of prominent supporters continues to grow and last month Foster + Partners, Grimshaw and Heatherwick Studios all announced their backing.

RSHP partner John McElgunn confirmed his practice’s ‘strong support’ for the campaign.

‘We must consider the adaptive reuse, refurbishment and retrofit of buildings as part of a longer-term life cycle of our built environment in order to mitigate the environmental impact of our growing cities, he said. ‘Long-term flexibility must become a standard doctrine for all design briefs.’

Zaha Hadid Architects chief executive Mouzhan Majidi said it was critical that disused architecture should become a ‘recycled asset’ rather than ‘consumptive waste’.

He added: ‘The AJ’s RetroFirst campaign seeks to extend the life of existing structures and has our full support. ZHA is proud of our track record in retrofit architecture that includes Port House in Antwerp, Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London and the MAXXI Museum in Rome – all inventive designs which incorporate the reuse of existing buildings.’

Sheila O’Donnell of Dublin-based O’Donnell + Tuomey, who with her partner John Tuomey won the RIBA Gold Medal in 2015, reflected on the value of working with historic buildings during an AJ/Roca lecture held at the Roca London gallery last month.

Speaking this week, she said adapting existing structures could ‘lead to the most innovative and dynamic buildings’.

She added: ‘We support the aims of this campaign to put a priority on the re-use of existing structures.

‘Buildings embody history as well as energy; they carry memories and material and cultural values. Things that can’t be easily measured but are worth so much to their future users and to society.

‘We shouldn’t demolish without considering the potential for re-use, even when it’s not immediately obvious.’

Confirming Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ support, managing partner Ian Taylor said the industry already had the skills to extend a building’s life and ‘benefit from the embodied carbon in foundations and built fabric’.

He added: ‘Retaining, retrofitting and intensifying the use of existing buildings is a key means to tackle the climate emergency.

‘With wider understanding, and financial and environmental incentives to reuse our existing building stock, benefits will become more apparent to the whole property and construction industry, reframing the approach to development for the better.’

Meanwhile Paul Appleton, a partner at Allies and Morrison – which announced its backing for RetroFirst last month – called the way in which we demolish and rebuild a form of ‘madness’.

He said: ‘The throw-away society starts by discarding its richest assets; the ground on which we walk and the buildings we inhabit. The act of constructing a building is so difficult, the environmental cost so large and the cultural effect of occupying it so charged, that we should value those which exist as much as we value the land on which they are built.’ 

How you can get involved

Follow the progress of RetroFirst using #retrofirst on social media
Contact us at retrofirst@emap.com to back the campaign

 Campaign supporters


  • Architects’ Climate Action Network
  • RIBA
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA)
  • Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)
  • UK Green Building Council


  • ADP Architecture
  • Alison Brooks Architects
  • Amos Goldreich Architecture
  • Andris Berzins + Associates
  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)
  • Allies and Morrison
  • Architecture Initiative
  • Architype
  • Belsize Architects
  • Ben Adams Architects
  • Bennetts Associates
  • Boano Prišmontas
  • Bryden Wood
  • BuckleyGrayYeoman
  • Caruso St John Architects
  • Child Graddon Lewis
  • Chris Dyson Architects
  • Connolly Wellingham Architects
  • Curl La Tourelle Head Architecture
  • David Chipperfield Architects
  • DLG Architects
  • DNA Architecture
  • ECD Architects
  • e-gg
  • Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
  • Feix&Merlin
  • Foster + Partners
  • Gardner Stewart Architects
  • Gensler
  • Gort Scott
  • Grimshaw
  • Heatherwick Studio
  • Henley Halebrown
  • Haworth Tompkins
  • Hutchinson & Partners
  • Ian Ritchie Architects
  • Jestico + Whiles
  • JTP
  • Kendall Kingscott
  • Knott Architects
  • LTS Architects
  • LYN Atelier
  • MawsonKerr Architects
  • McMullan Studio
  • Morrow + Lorraine Architects
  • MTBA Associates, Ottawa, Canada
  • Neu Architects
  • O’Donnell + Tuomey
  • Page\Park Architects
  • Paul Testa Architecture
  • Penoyre & Prasad
  • Robert Dye Architects
  • Robert Rhodes Architecture + Interiors
  • Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
  • Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
  • Scott Brownrigg
  • Stephen Taylor Architects
  • Steve Ritchie Partnership
  • Simone de Gale Architects
  • Studio Basheva
  • Studio Seilern Architects
  • Syndicate West Architects
  • Tim Greatrex Architects 
  • Type3 Studio
  • Ullmayer Sylvester Architects
  • Una Kaya Architects
  • Whittaker Parsons
  • Witherford Watson Mann
  • Woodfield Brady Architects
  • Wren Architecture & Design
  • Zaha Hadid Architects


  • Clara Bagenal George, Elementa Consulting
  • Duncan Baker-Brown, BBM Sustainable Design
  • Hero Bennett, Max Fordham
  • Chris Cummings, technical director, Chapmanbdsp
  • Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington
  • Kelly Harrison, Heyne Tillett Steele
  • Joe Holyoak, architect and urban designer
  • J. Jeffrey Keays, senior lecturer, school of architecture design & built environment, Nottingham Trent University
  • Walter Menteth, architect and procurement reform campaigner
  • Alice Moncaster, senior lecturer at School of Engineering and Innovation at The Open University
  • David Ness, adjunct professor at the School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia
  • Paul O’Neil, Bryden Wood
  • Clare Richards, ft’work
  • Simon Sturgis, Targeting Zero
  • James Traynor, ECD Architects 
  • Professor Peter Walker, director of architecture and digital design, University of Salford

RetroFirst Logos 2019 3

RetroFirst Logos 2019 3


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