Architects ought to spend more time ‘thinking in terms of software, not hardware’ and represent communities which they are designing for, according to Patricia Brown, director of consultancy Central
Speaking at the second virtual AJ100 Club breakfast event, the former chief executive of Central London Partnership gave a wide-ranging account of London’s development since the late 1990s, speaking of phases ‘London 1.0’ and London 2.0’.
Brown went on to argue that architects need to listen to and engage with communities to ensure the best possible ‘London 3.0’, in the context of cuts to public organisations and a powerful private sector which she said was creating unintended consequences in the city or ’negatives of positives’ such as the rapid rise of vehicle traffic because of services such as Uber.
During the 2000s there were people thinking about civic life and regeneration ‘at the micro level’ but they have since been ‘stripped away’, leaving gap between top-down policy goals and communities’ desires, Brown argued.
‘In the absence of that […] architects have got a fundamental role in asking the question “What does good look like?” and thinking about this in terms of software, not hardware,’ Brown said.
‘When working on schemes, [architects] should be asking the questions “Who should be involved? Who should be consulted?” – and challenging clients who do not want to go deep in the communities they are serving,’ she added.
‘Architects should feel some form of responsibility to have the conversations and seek the relationships with the people they are serving.’
Brown told viewers: ‘If we are only building places where you pay £5.50 for a loaf of posh sourdough – and we think that’s what success looks like – then we are not taking a lot of people with us.
‘Urban renaissance has disenfranchised an awful lot of people, because it’s a renaissance for a few, not lots.’
Brown also defended the private ownership of new public space which is being created in London, instead emphasising the benefits of new space being brought forward by developers.
‘As a consequence of the last twenty years and the prioritisation of creating public realm, the development community – who have done a huge amount of that – has given us a rod to beat them with, which is complaining that they are then owning or managing that space,’ she said.
‘We have to be, not grateful for [privately-owned] public space, but see it as something which is there and good.’
The AJ100 Club event was hosted by AJ managing editor Will Hurst.