The new city region mayors are a much-needed force for change, writes Emily Booth
With so many divisive and fractious ballots in our political life just lately, and another biggie on the horizon, it’s a relief to consider that the election of metro mayors has passed off so peacefully. An eminently sensible idea, people seem to reckon.
Government tends to think on the level of macro-economics; its decisions are top-line, a ministerial pen through a line on a balance sheet. But for everyone else, and especially for those living outside London and the South East, the everyday impact of those decisions can be tough.
The new metro mayors will know – and make it their business to know, sharpish – about the specific challenges of their city regions. Andy Burnham, the newly elected mayor of greater Manchester, whom we profile this week, won’t be the only one with his eye on a ‘spatial strategy’. From Liverpool to the West Midlands, all the other mayors cite housing as a crucial concern.
Even the phrase ‘city region’, though clunky, is welcome. It recognises the importance of successful cities as thriving, distinct communities that exert a strong economic pull on a much wider area, and which need to be supported and championed to do so. Of course these mayors should have real power and clout: that’s how change happens.
Architects ‘do’ cities. They ‘get’ housing. More regional power should mean more power for regional architects. And architects outside London need that opportunity. Our fees survey shows that charge-out rates of architects outside London are significantly lower than those of their London counterparts. Given that the profession as whole woefully undercharges for its expertise, this is an added concern for regional practices.
Our news feature on the reality of rural practice demonstrates the challenges faced and dedication needed to make a successful business outside the great metropolitan centres. Those architects we interviewed relish their locations and local communities, and rightly so. But there are sacrifices involved. The further you get from any city – not just London – the tougher the gig.
But of course strong design is not limited to a few London-based practices. Its realisation is not limited to a few locations. Exceptional architecture is created by all sizes of practices based throughout the UK. Our new AJ Architecture Awards are open to all architects, regardless of size or scale of practice, and will celebrate and reward this design excellence in UK architecture. Our expert judging panels will visit all finalists to meet the architecture teams and capture a true understanding of the challenges involved in bringing each building to life.
We look forward to hearing the story of your standout work, wherever you’re based.