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In the face of Brexit, architects must focus on what they can control

Emily Booth
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This is a turbulent time, but we must continue to look upwards and outwards, writes Emily Booth

By peter james sampson shutterstock webcrop

By peter james sampson shutterstock webcrop

Talking with a senior architect recently, the discussion turned to that now-inevitable dinner party topic: Brexit. We commented on how unreal the whole thing felt. We agreed that no one has any idea about how it’s going to pan out – and if they say they do, they’re making it up. And we passed a perfectly pleasant time remarking that, most likely, a version of Brexit is going to happen, and it will be a process, and we will each of us need to find a way through, because we will have to. And that we’re living through seismic political change – which is by its nature painful.

Whichever way you voted in the referendum back in 2016, did you think it would be exactly like this? And where are we now, exactly? For the architectural profession and for business at large, the messages are mixed. Some big practices have recently reported substantial profits. Schemes are being built out – but what about underlying, ongoing business strength? Other practices are starting to lay off staff, and a common reason cited is business uncertainty due to Brexit. People are busy, busy, busy – aren’t they? Certainly there are lots of cranes on London’s skyline. But how much new work is in the pipeline? Manchester is also booming. But what about other parts of the UK?

10 years on from the financial crash, a lot of practices have grown up, a lot of thoughtful buildings have been put up

The RIBA’s most recent Future Trends Survey shows that confidence about upcoming workloads is down month-on-month, with private house-building showing the biggest drop. But the number of planned new homes soared in the second quarter, according to recent figures from new home insurance provider NHBC. And while the RIBA’s Future Trends Staffing Index saw a modest rise, the ARB has recorded a 42 per cent fall in registrations from non-British EU architects since the Brexit vote. 

This is a turbulent time. We’re jumpy. But, 10 years on from the financial crash, a lot of practices have grown up. A lot of practices have started up. A lot of thoughtful buildings have been put up. 

Architects invariably look upwards and outwards. So, as we all go through this Brexit negotiations storm, let’s focus on what we can control, with energy and self-belief; focus on the type of work to bid for, the fees set, the shape of practice. Creatively, business-wise, future-wise, there is much to be proud of.

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