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Reactions to Boris as PM: ‘Expect grandiose, undoubtedly doomed vanity projects’

Shutterstock boris johnson leave brexit

The profession reacts to news that Boris Johnson is set to become the nation’s next Prime Minister

Ben Derbyshire, outgoing RIBA president and HTA chair
If Boris delivers his threatened no-deal Brexit it would be a disaster for the development industry and homebuilding especially, with massive disruption to finance, the supply chain and movement of labour.

There is very little that either Michael Gove or Zac Goldsmith, both tipped for environment secretary, could do about that. But one might hope that either of them could make something of the proposed New Homes Standard, which needs to be a new zero-carbon standard for all homes, not just new ones.

Teresa Borsuk, Pollard Thomas Edwards
Oh dear. It’ll be just more layers of confused spatter-dash and jumble on the existing piles of uncertainty, flipflopping and incompetence. The challenges are already crippling. How are we meant to see an orderly way through this mire? Let’s hope his reign is short-lived.

Jack Pringle, Perkins & Will London, and former RIBA president
With BoJo in charge, the UK is now in a high-stakes craps game. He could well get a deal out of Brussels, who probably think he is mad enough to go for a No Deal exit, as this completely throws Ireland under the bus which nobody wants.

He’ll then go for a quick election to restore a working majority, In which case the UK economy will bloom. But there are many ways the dice can land ‘snake eyes’ up. EU says no, defecting Tories leading to us stumbling past the deadline and into an ‘Auto-no- deal’. In which case we are all stuffed.

Piers Taylor, Invisible Studio
We live in an era when fact, truth and detail count for nothing, and our national politics have descended into vacuous sloganeering delivered by the self-serving and the clueless, drunk on their 15 minutes in the sun and unable to see beyond the limits of their own narcissistic ambition.

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, we now have Boris Johnson for prime minister. What will a Johnson premiership hold for architecture? If we judge him by his actions, we can expect grandiose and yet undoubtedly doomed vanity projects where vast amounts of scarce public resources are diverted from where they are most needed to provide little more than self-promotional rhetoric.

We have a PM wanting little more than to out-Trump Trump

More than anything, we need ordinary things: good, straightforward housing, robust infrastructure, and schools and hospitals that offer dignity and delight to the people that use them and work within them.

However, now with a prime minister wanting little more than to out-Trump Trump with brazen and false promises of ostentatious, expensive and irrelevant baubles, providing what we actually need is too much of a distraction divergence from self-serving sloganeering. There is no short-term political capital in investing in long-term solutions, and politics now consists of supposed instant fixes, brash headlines and bluster.’

Maggie Mullan, Maggie Mullan Architects
It is vital Johnson recognises the profound nature of the housing crisis. If he is to uphold the cultural identity of ‘ambition to buy,’ he needs to be aiding the younger audience in moving away from private renting.

While Jeremy Hunt announced his unequivocal support for HS2, Johnson has been more of a chameleon. Faced with spiralling costs, the project’s future is in serious doubt. Where does this leave the development in the North and Midlands? All the contracts up for grabs on the development of stations in the regions are sure to create fantastic opportunities for contractors, but if the next PM pulls the plug, where does this leave us?

Mark Middleton, Grimshaw
The new PM needs to back the existing infrastructure commitments that have been made, primarily HS2 and the Heathrow expansion. These are important for our long term prosperity as well as job creation. He should also look at removing obstacles for local governments that are preventing them forging ahead with social housing schemes.

The new PM needs to back HS2 and the Heathrow expansion

I would hope that he produces a national statement which looks at infrastructure investment as well as renewable energy, transport and other areas of national social wellbeing should be prioritised over the next 20 years to help bring the nation together; improving our collective prosperity and happiness.

Alan Vallance, chief executive of RIBA
Boris Johnson has a mammoth task on his hands as soon as he enters No.10. Brexit, climate change and ensuring the UK has a safer, high-quality built environment must be priorities.

The global climate emergency is the greatest challenge the world has ever faced. With 40 per cent of carbon emissions generated from the built environment, the PM must recognise how vital our profession is to ensure the UK meets the net zero target.

The unacceptable delay to reforming building and fire safety regulations since the Grenfell Tower tragedy must be urgently addressed. The PM must strengthen and expand requirements to ensure all our buildings are safe.

Whether the UK should leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement has dominated this leadership contest. No deal would have disastrous consequences for UK architecture, risking access to talent and our ability to trade.

Roger Zogolovitch, Solidspace
With Boris in Downing Street, let’s all relocate to Paris. The French have an affection for architecture, a passion for culture and even a passing generosity for good development, all future meetings to be convened at Café de Flore, Blvd St Germain, Paris.

David Green, Belsize Architects and former head of the European division of the Bank of England
Boris needs to get practical and down into the detail, something which will require some change on his part. Vanity projects of the kind he espoused at City Hall are not the priority. He needs to focus on the measures needed to create a really effective planning system, get funding to where it is needed to build houses and undo the damage inflicted by Right to Buy.

Boris needs to get practical - something which will require some change on his part

Above all he needs to stop the damage to the construction industry from a bungled Brexit. The virtues of bungling through are not what we need from a PM.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders
Boris the builder must build columns instead of writing them if he is to fix the housing crisis and restore the hope of home ownership to a generation. We will only reach the number of good quality homes we need, and at the rate we need them, if local house builders are freed up to build as many homes as the large house builders. We want to see Boris bring down the barriers facing construction SMEs, including those who repair and maintain our homes.

Bojo must restore the housing market’s mojo

If Boris is looking to cut taxes, then we suggest slashing VAT on home improvement works, as nine in ten builders believe this is the single best tool in Boris the builder’s toolkit to prevent an economic downturn post-Brexit. Bojo must restore the housing market’s mojo to ensure that Brexit Britain is built on strong foundations.

Alfonso Padro, HKS (London)
While a Boris Johnson-led Government may impact on particular policies, we need to think more widely about the profession in a post-Brexit world. I’m not saying that the immediate future may not be extremely challenging but I want us to be more optimistic about the medium and longer term.

Working for a global practice, I travel frequently. What recent trips to Hong Kong, mainland China and Oman for example have shown me is that we are still seen as leading the world in designing and delivering buildings and in particular the way in which we’re increasingly using technology to do this. Building on this expertise is something we should be doing regardless of the political environment, but perhaps exiting the EU will bring these opportunities into sharper focus and give the industry some added impetus and urgency. It’s clear that there are huge opportunities for British companies right across the world.

If teachers’ pay increases are honoured will this reduce the capital spending pot

Closer to home, there are of course concerns. While Theresa May made some legacy announcements around public sector spending it’s far from clear how this could impact on our sector. If teachers’ pay increases are honoured by the incoming Prime Minister, for example, will this reduce the capital spending pot meaning even less money for new schools? Until we have greater clarity from a new government it’s almost impossible to predict what will happen.

Gordon Ingram, VU.CITY
In an interview just last week Boris Johnson argued for the preservation of the green belt and increased density to address our need for homes and workplaces.

Assuming campaign talk translates into policy then he will need to look carefully at how to address the huge urban challenges of the coming years. Taking London as an example, the London Plan suggests that by 2041 the population will have increased from 8.1 million to 10.4 million and a need for 65 million additional square feet of office space on top of the current need for 65,000 extra homes each year.

This has real implications for communities and neighbourhoods affecting servicing, traffic flows, potential loss of amenity and daylight and the same situation will arise across the UK’s other major cities in line with the global trend for increased urbanisation.

The government under Johnson’s leadership needs to start tackling these issues as a matter of urgency to promote transparent communication with the existing population and promote well designed growth. If this happens it could herald a rather more positive future for the architectural sector than perhaps is expected by many.


Readers' comments (9)

  • We finally get the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse

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  • Piers summed it up best. Jack Pringle has not.

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    I think he might surprise people. I think that is more likely than him making a complete hash of it.
    As someone mentioned above, truth is not reported anywhere these days. I think he is a lucky bungler, but not a fool but maybe people should have an open mind.
    The point is will he be torpedoed by his own people. That is most likely of all.
    -at least the previous tenant of No.10 is going. A dangerous and incompetent PM, Home Secy, everything. Nothing achieved in 3 or 8 years apart from a universal shambles.

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  • I really really hope that I, and many others, are wrong about him. I hope that he proves to be effective, surrounds himself with well informed intelligent people and works collegiately for the good of the nation as a whole.

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  • Going by his performance over the garden bridge affair, creeping cronyism and 'rule bending' will infect government.

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  • He is formidably intelligent and no fool. Maybe he is what we need after three years of total hand wringing, resignations and incompetence.

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  • It would be interesting to read the citation seeking to justify the conferring of Honorary RIBA membership on Boris Johnson, a man notably without any sense of honour, integrity or consistency; known to be a mendacious narcissist and serial philanderer, who’s vanity projects when Mayor of London are estimated to have wasted £1bil in public money, pursued in the face of expert advice as to their folly and who’s record as Foreign Secretary was a litany of lazy blunders; he can only bring shame and disrepute on the Institute and the Nation.

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  • Iacta alea est. May he stay on the other side of Rubicon... Expelled...
    Kafka comes to mind. Slimy psycho cockroach, already building his nest of like-minded cockroaches. He proved himself to be a pathological liar, only interested in himself, and so cannot be trusted.
    As Kate wrote, he made a mess of his time as a Mayor of London and the list is too long to go into here.

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  • What a bunch of doomsters...Boris has bravely stepped up to the plate, at a time of severe national crisis, and injected a Churchillian spirit into proceedings. He is a brave and intelligent man who has the capacity to lead us into the sunlit uplands of happiness and prosperity, if we can only all get behind him. Victory is within our grasp, and the United Kingston and the Prince of Whales expects every man and woman to do their duty...

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