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Profession in shock as UK votes to leave EU


The architectural profession has reacted with disappointment and shock to the news that the UK has voted to leave the European Union


According to recent polls run by the AJ, around 80 per cent of architects wanted the nation to remain in the union.

However, besides London, Scotland and Northern Ireland, most regions have voted to quit the EU with a 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent split in favour of Brexit.

The news was met with ’disgust’ by Ian Ritchie of Ian Ritchie Architects who said it was a ’tragedy in the making’ while Martin Wright, managing director of AHR said ’the growth and stability of the UK economy [would] be severely impacted by this decision’.

The pound has already fallen to its lowest level against the dollar for 30 years.

Luke Tozer of Pitman Tozer Architects told the AJ: ’This is undoubtedly a seismic shift with much wider implications beyond the UK.’

Britain, a member of the EU for 43 years, will become the first country to leave the union since it was set up - but the nation’s departure could take up to two years.

Prime minister David Cameron announced he was resigning following the surprise result. His successor will now have to decide when to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which will give the UK a further 24 months to negotiate its withdrawal from the Union.

The profession reacts

I fear the impact will lead to not only a dis-United Kingdom, but also profoundly shake Europe as a whole

Ian Ritchie of Ian Ritchie Architects

’I have a feeling of utter disgust with the parochial, narrow-minded and bigoted little Britons who - for lack of cultural and historical awareness - believe that there exists a nostalgic past that can flourish in today’s global environment. It is palpable nonsense and the repercussions on the freedom and evolving culture of our youth and that of Europe will be felt very deeply. I have developed my values and ethics - and design skills - from the understanding that interdependence is far more productive than independence.

’Europeans are as central to my professional and social life as are the Scots, Welsh, English and Irish. I fear the impact of this foolish and misguided decision will lead to not only a dis-United Kingdom, but also profoundly shake Europe as a whole. In years to come our young people may feel the bitterness of having been betrayed. It is a tragedy in the making.’

All we can do is move forward with business as usual

Martin Wright, managing director of AHR Architects

‘We feel a lot of uncertainty now this decision has been made and are wary of how it will affect our business. The growth and stability of the UK economy will be severely impacted by this decision, however at this early stage all we can do is move forward with business as usual as it will likely be months if not years until the full extent of the decision is realised.’

What’s the impact on architecture? Hold on as it could be a long and rough ride

John McRae of Orms

’So it would appear the grass really is greener since we have chosen to leave our European community and go it alone. It’s like moving to the country from a dense urban city; we’ll either revel in it or regret it but there is no going back.

’The challenge is not if we can negotiate trade deals, create jobs and control migration but what the results of the new found freedom will be once we have sorted out our own government. And how long will this all take? As we move onto the smart motorway and cruise at 50mph what will the short term impact on construction and architecture be? Hold on as it could be a long and rough ride.’

I have an overwhelming sense of sadness and regret at the damage we have done 

Ben Derbyshire of HTA Design

’Now the uncertainty, which most of us in the profession feared, begins. Who will govern, and will there be any continuity of policy, who will invest during the interregnum, how will we manage while government replaces EU regulation through years of tortuous negotiation?

’Beyond that, I have an overwhelming sense of sadness and regret at the damage we have done to European politcal, economic and cultural unity. We must hope for the best, but if my sense of profound uncertainty, bordering dread, is in any way reflected by the worlds influential decision-makers, I fear we are in for a very difficult time. The Eurosceptics have the job of re-assuring us now. But this Brexit-sceptic is going to find it very hard to believe that much good will come of what feels like a terrible self-inflicted wound.

’As a rider, I feel dismayed that the RIBA, 85 per cent of whose members would have been only too glad to explain why leaving is a bad idea, could and should have played more of a part in the debate. The RIBA really must find a way of allowing its members to speak for the profession. On this most momentous of occasions it failed to do so. And now its too late.’

Architects have always embraced change positively and we will have to adapt to the new landscape in the same way

Luke Tozer of Pitman Tozer Architects

’What an extraordinary result. It’s one in the eye for the political establishment and opens up a period of change and uncertainty. Immigration trumps the economy, stupid.

’We are blessed with great talent from across the EU and I can only hope that this result doesn’t precipitate quite the exodus that Brexiteers call for. This is undoubtedly a seismic shift with much wider implications beyond the UK. It will take time for the ramifications to be fully felt and understood. As architects we have always embraced change positively and we will have to adapt to the new landscape in the same way.

’Democracy huh?… I guess if you don’t like listening to the answer, you shouldn’t ask the question?’

We will continue to work in Europe and to express our commonality of ideals

Amanda Levete of AL_A

’Of course I’m extremely disappointed, but I have to respect the majority decision. The debate has engaged the nation, especially younger people, and it can only be a positive to see people talking passionately about the future.

’However, our politicians need to get better at articulating what we have in common rather than what divides us. We will continue to work both in Europe and around the world – and continue to express our commonality of ideals – democracy, openness, tolerance, and creativity.’

Why did we even expose ourselves to this process?

Roger Hawkins of Hawkins\Brown

‘What a nightmare. The lack of proper debate in the referendum has been alarming. It has generated the worst in some people and the best in very few. We elect members of parliament to represent our interests and expect them to act with foresight and intelligence.

’A vote in the House of Commons would have been significantly in favour of remain so why did we even expose ourselves to this process? We have been hijacked by a negative, short-sighted Little Englander mentality. No doubt this result will have an impact on immigration figures because a lot of people will want to leave the country.’

Lucy Tilley of Adjaye Associates

’We are truly disappointed with the outcome of the referendum. As an increasingly international business, which benefits from a global pool of talent (and in particular from within the EU), we were hoping to remain.

We trust that Britain’s relationship with its neighbouring EU countries will continue to be strong

’That said, we trust that Britain’s relationship with its neighbouring EU countries will continue to be strong and that we can pave the way for a mutually beneficial association that enables us to pursue work across Europe and employ a diverse and multi-national team of architects.’

Robert Adam of ADAM Architecture

’It’s not the way I voted but I see it as part of a larger political trend to fragmentation and highlighted the fact that the homogenising agenda of the EU is out of date. We have abandoned our fellow north-European reformists and the balance in the EU will shift to the south with Germany uncomfortably leading a political and economic climate they will find it hard to control without authoritarianism.

The homogenising agenda of the EU is out of date

’The blame, if there be blame, lies with the Cameron’s failed negotiations; the EU leaders didn’t recognise the problem and the underlying issue. They will now pay the price in political turbulence in the EU. In the meantime the UK must remain firmly international and a semi-detached, as a contrary to attached, part of Europe.

‘I don’t think this will affect our business except in as much as architecture is an economic bellwether. By the same token, architecture will inevitably reflect broader social, political and economic trends and fragmentation is a reality in the world of architecture; we are seeing a less and less monolithic theoretical landscape.’

Paul White, director of BuckleyGrayYeoman

’This is not the decision we were hoping the country would make. This decision is likely to signal a period of political and economic instability for the UK, with almost certainly a change in prime minister, panicked financial markets and a lack of confidence in the economy as a whole. This decision is likely to have a negative effect on the construction industry and our workload.

’Serious consideration is being made in our office about starting a petition for London entitled ”Take us with you Europe”… A Twitter campaign is soon to follow!’

Less isolationist thinking would make the world a better place

Earle Arney, chief executive of Arney Fender Katsalidis

‘This is a disappointing result for stability and unity at a time when less isolationist thinking would make the world a better place.’

For our profession - especially small practices like ours - this result is a disaster

Thomas Bryans of IF_DO Architecture & Design 

’Today is a very dark day for Britain. Our country’s history is one of internationalism and engagement with the wider world, and our society today is far richer for the waves of immigration that have happened from the Romans onwards. That we have now chosen to turn our backs on that, to look inwards and become more isolated, is a tragedy.

’That the vote was won largely by older generations voting to leave, when the younger generations who will be most affected wanted to stay, should outrage us all. For our profession—and especially for small, young practices like ours—this result is a disaster.’

Jack Pringle, managing director of Perkins+Will

’Much as I feared, the will of little England has been exercised as is its democratic right. Cameron fought an appalling campaign and Boris and Gove have seized the main chance. We better hold on tight as it’s going to be a roller coaster. Pound and stock market falling and Scotland revving up for UKexit. I’m going to look abroad for work.’

Eyal Weizman, director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths

’Leaving the EU feels like – and this architects will understand – leaving a construction site in mid process. Of course it isn’t an architectural project as we used to think of one, not a single solid thing conceived off plan by a hierarchical design team. it is an evolving assemblage of loose parts in which every move and detail had to be negotiated, one that favours infrastructure to structure, one that is undertaken in an unprecedented geopolitical scale, and one that has an elastic, expendable, margins. As such it is a model of how to think architecture today. The arsonists that try to bring it down still seemingly long for a hut.’

What people are saying on Twitter










Readers' comments (4)

  • Well done Little England subjects, congratulations.
    Signed N. Farage, N.Sturgeon, G.Adams, N.Griffin, V.Putin, D.Trump,
    M.Le Penn, R.Assad, N.Chamberlain, A.Speer, Henry VIII and many others.

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  • I couldn't agree more with Ian Ritchie's statement.

    Briton should be bigger than the underlying xenophobia that seems to have pushed it over the edge. This is sad day in which the 75% of our younger generation voted to remain part of a European community, and have been removed against their will.

    They, like all forward thinking people, know that in today's society common ideals and cooperation are so important to our development not just as a country but as human beings.

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  • keith williams

    I sat up most of the night with mounting incredulity as the results unfolded. I am utterly stunned as I had truly not expected this result which I see largely as a protest vote gone out of control. Shame on our leaders who put this to the country at all as it was so unnecessary. It has the potential to greatly damage this country's economy and its standing in the world and has already cost the PM his job. We have now to be careful to nullify as best we can the sense that we are isolationist. Great architecture is pan-national. It has endured wars, and been witness to great political upheaval, so it will surely survive this. At least Boris Johnson has referred to Britain as still European in his speech a few minutes ago. Now and in the future, my firm will work positively, proactively and openly with our European clients, consultants and friends. Keith Williams : Director Design : Keith Williams Architects

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  • Profession in shock? Are we? Don't lump me in with your journalistic scaremongering. I'm not in shock. It's what we need. But if the rest of the profession wallows in so much pessimism that will be what pulls us down as a country. Get out there and carry on. The world has changed and so must you.

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