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RSHP and SimpsonHaugh back Remain – but RIBA stays silent

  • 3 Comments

Leading architectural practices Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) and SimpsonHaugh have announced they are backing the Remain campaign in the EU referendum

Yesterday (20 June) RSHP posted a statement on the company’s website saying a vote to leave the European Union on Thursday (23 June) would ‘represent a catastrophic error of judgement in its impact on our economy, not least within the construction sector’.

The practice, whose workforce consists of more than 40 per cent non-British EU citizens, said that a move towards Brexit would ‘leave us culturally, socially and environmentally impoverished’.

AJ100 big hitter SimpsonHaugh and Partners released a similar statement from its staff saying ‘leaving the EU would rob us of the cultural diversity and exchange that contributes to producing great architecture’.

The firm claimed that a number of its major schemes could not have been built if the UK had been outside the EU.

The statement reads: ‘Our clients, projects and people benefit from the cultural and creative diversity that is possible due to Britain’s openness within the EU. We believe that without confidence in the strength, stability and security the British economy has inside the EU, many of our key projects wouldn’t have happened, and we wouldn’t be the thriving architectural practice we are today.’

Other architects to have recently backed the Remain campaign include AJ100 practice LTS and Unit Architects.

But the RIBA has told the AJ that it is unable to make any comment about the EU referendum and the impact of a possible Brexit on its members because of the rules governing charities.

An institute spokesperson said: ‘We encourage debate among our members and the wider construction industry about the impact on the architecture profession and construction industry of an exit from the EU. The RIBA has a broad membership and there will be differing views. Whatever the referendum decides, we will continue to work to ensure the best outcomes for our members and the institute.

The RIBA has decided that it has no option but to refrain from making any comments

’As a registered charity the RIBA must comply with strict guidance from the Charity Commission on our public statements regarding the EU referendum. Given this, the RIBA has decided that it has no option but to refrain from making any comments on this issue.’

Statement from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners firmly believe that remaining within the European Union is in the best interests of the United Kingdom.

Britain has always been at its best when we have engaged with our neighbours, embracing the exchange of people, ideas and influences. The quality of life in Britain, particularly its architecture and its cities, has greatly benefited from the personal, professional and cultural relationships we have with the rest of Europe. This interaction has made us more civilized.

More than 40 per cent of the staff at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners are non-British EU citizens. These individuals stimulate and enrich our practice through the diversity of perspectives they bring to our work, their extraordinary talent and dynamism. A significant proportion of the practice’s work is currently situated within the EU and many of our greatest projects have been built in Europe.

As a practice we think that leaving the European Union would represent a catastrophic error of judgement in its impact on our economy, not least within the construction sector. Importantly, it would also leave us culturally, socially and environmentally impoverished. We are convinced that we are better and stronger together than apart.

Statement from SimpsonHaugh and Partners

Our clients, projects and people benefit from the cultural and creative diversity that is possible due to Britain’s openness within the EU. We believe that without confidence in the strength, stability and security the British economy has inside the EU, many of our key projects wouldn’t have happened, and we wouldn’t be the thriving architectural practice we are today.

Here’s why:

Sharing creativity and talent

SHP’s success relies on employing the most talented and creative individuals. Freedom within the EU to travel, study and work has added to the UK knowledge base and given the practice access to an enriched pool of creative design talent. With Britons and Europeans free to travel, study and work across the EU, the collective knowledge base, understanding and passion has strengthened, providing us with an enriched talent pool to choose from. The varying cultural experiences converge in a melting pot of ideas and inspiration, upon which the successful future of our built communities and place-making depends.

Non-British EU citizens currently make up 20 per cent of SHP staff. Leaving the EU would rob us of the cultural diversity and exchange that contributes to producing great architecture.

Expanding across the EU

Having access to EU markets and influence has allowed SHP to work on projects outside of the UK. This brings new opportunities to expand our portfolio and presents new challenges from which to learn, helping us build a brighter future for our employees. We are currently completing a landmark cultural project in Antwerp, a 2,000-seat concert hall and new home for the DeFilharmonie orchestra. Common rules and trade regulations have made this possible.

Supporting equal pay and non-discrimination

Equal pay for men and women is enshrined in EU law, as are bans on discrimination by age, race or sexual orientation. Membership of the EU has allowed important challenges to traditional inequalities in the UK construction industry. As partners with the AR Women in Architecture campaign, we are aware that while the profession achieves equal numbers of female and male intake to university courses, it hasn’t resolved how to stop female architects from dropping out of the industry post qualification. The solution to this is best coordinated and established with our European counterparts – together we are stronger.

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • Ben Derbyshire

    Such a shame that the RIBA feels constrained to remain silent on this. I can't help feeling that it might have found a way to contribute to the debate if it had got onto it earlier, undertaken a poll of its members and published the results. The Institute needs to learn to allow its members to be the voice of the profession, I feel.

    Meanwhile, one of the many things have disappointed me about Boris Johnson in recent weeks is his assertion that there is no loyalty amongst we British for the European idea.

    This may be true in some places like East Anglia despite the fact their agrarian economy relies entirely on the free movement of seasonal labour (just as HTA Design benefits form the 25% of our staff who are EU Nationals). But it is certainly not true of the circles in which I move, or amongst architects in particular, that we are careless of the European idea.

    Indeed, I believe there is an intense loyalty to European culture and in particular to that great gift we have made over the millennia to the developed world – the European City. This is a model that has immense potential for sustainable development the world over.

    I asked Prof Janice Morphet about this at the NLA Breakfast Briefing on the subject and she rightly decried the political, cultural and institutional myopia that blinkers us British from the important work going on.

    She drew our attention to the EU Urban Agenda and the incredibly significant fact that while we hide our heads in the neo-liberal sand here in Britain - Europe, at least, is investing to improve urban policy-making in the developed world.

    No-one at the NLA event, including me, had even heard of the ‘Amsterdam Pact’ where European ministers have signed up to an accord to move forward on these policy matters.

    One of the aspects of the RIBA’s inward looking malaise I should like to address if I am elected President is the fact that there is no resource allocated to filtering and promoting the European policy agenda in so far as it impacts the development industry.

    If we remain in the EU after Thursday, we must get onto the pro-active task of getting more out of our relationship with Europe.

    Ben Derbyshire, Chair, HTA Design LLP.

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  • I run a practice in a small market town. To date, I have employed a Spanish and Finnish student and am currently employing a wonderful Portuguese architect. I am a first generation immigrant( 48 years ago) and have benefited hugely from the European project. Thus, even if the RIBA cant be arsed to find some wriggle room to issue a comment, I can happily say that PAAD Architects are firmly in the Remain camp. Yes the European Union is flawed, but better to work at it from the inside, and cast aside any petty racism that is now allowed to be part of the popular discourse. T
    Terry Pinto- Director o PAAD Architects Limited, Frome Somerset.

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  • With only a day to go, it’s worrying that architects remain unsure about what Brexit would mean for the profession. The RIBA seems fearful of the Electoral and Charity Commissions, so stays silent. Yet it’s entirely possible to provide unvarnished facts without seeking to influence, and it’s a shame that it didn’t.

    It is beyond dispute that leaving the EU would require Parliament to revisit all UK legislation derived from EU law. Simply deciding which should be retained, modified or abandoned would be a huge and time-consuming exercise. New cross-border arrangements for people, goods and services will need to be negotiated with the rest of the EU. The list of areas directly affecting architects where such decisions would be necessary is long; procurement, product standards, qualifications, just for starters.

    Even with a vote to leave, the new freedom from the requirement to implement EU law does not give the UK an entirely free hand, as it is also bound by existing international agreements in many areas.

    The RIBA could have served its members well – without conflicting with Charity or Electoral Commission requirements – by summarizing the scope of decisions that will need to be taken by Government and Parliament in the event of a Leave vote. The RIBA did not need to have said how the UK Government or EU might act, and did not need to have expressed any preference. It would have been good to have made it possible for architects to vote with open eyes, rather than in the absence of facts deliberately withheld.

    David Green Director Belsize Architects

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