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Weekend roundup: Fuksas – another single lone male genius?

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Simon Aldous’s take on the big architectural stories of the week: Protests at award snub to Doriana Fuksas • Visas for architects with ‘exceptional talent’ • Historic England objects to Fosters’ Tulip

Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas has been awarded a lifetime achievement prize by Italy’s national institute of architects.

Which is very nice except by giving the prize solely to him it has completely ignored his wife and business partner Doriana Fuksas, who Massimiliano says is due equal credit for their practice’s work. 

It might have been hoped that this habit of singling out the male partner of a couple-run practice had been killed off after the Pritzker Foundation was hauled through the coals for giving its 1991 Prize to Robert Venturi. In doing so it snubbed his partner, Denise Scott Brown, despite Venturi’s assertion that her input had been crucial to the work the prize was acknowledging.

It’s perhaps a sign of evolving attitudes that it was only in 2013 that a petition was launched to retrospectively recognise Scott Brown’s contribution to the work that secured the prize – and while the foundation declined to ‘revisit’ its decision, subsequent joint prizes suggested it wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. 

So it has been left to the Istituto Nazionale di Architettura to revive the tendency to attribute architecture to a ‘single lone male genius’, as Scott Brown has described it – the same attitude that saw the 2014 BBC TV series The Brits Who Built the Modern World photoshop Patty Hopkins out of a photograph of leading UK architects. 

Challenged in its action, the Italian institute pointed to 74-year-old Massimiliano’s career starting 15 years prior to being joined by Doriana (who is 11 years younger) – while at the same time acknowledging that ‘at this moment Doriana has a stronger role than Massimiliano in working on the architecture’, but insisting that hers was ‘another story’. 

A similar argument was made about Venturi’s Pritzker Prize. And yet you’ll notice it always seems to be the woman partner who loses out. 

An open letter to the institute calling for ‘equal recognition of equal work’ has been written by the campaign groups RebelArchitette and Voices of Women Architects, which was also responsible for the Scott Brown petition. That group also organised the flashmob at this year’s Venice Biennale which protested ‘prejudices’ towards women in architecture and was attended by both Doriana and Massimiliano. 

The letter is backed by the two Fuksas partners and its signatories include, appropriately, Scott Brown, as well as Rem Koolhaas and Bjarke Ingels. 

In the meantime, it might be nice next if the next time a man is unjustly singled out in this way, they refuse to accept the prize.

Has government taken heed of Piers Taylor’s open letter?

Border visa shutterstock 609397571

Border visa shutterstock 609397571

No, of course it hasn’t. Though there may have been a glimmer of hope when it announced that it was launching a new way for talented architects from overseas to win the right to work in the UK in the post-Brexit era. 

In October, Piers Taylor wrote an open letter to prime minister Theresa May warning her how Brexit risked harming the profession. The letter, which was signed by an impressive array of high-profile architects, argued that ending freedom of movement between the UK and the EU would immeasurably diminish British architecture. 

The Home Office’s new arrangement will allow architects from abroad to work in the UK for up to five years and four months so long as they pass an RIBAassessment proving they are an ‘internationally recognised expert within the field of architecture’. 

RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance said he was ‘delighted’ with the move, but Taylor described the rule change as ‘meaningless’. 

AJ readers seemed to agree. ‘This initiative seems to provide an opportunity for those who do not need it, while providing no solution for the needs of the vast proportion of practices,’ wrote David Green. 

Tom Kaneko meanwhile made the point that ‘It gives nothing for the idea that a little-known foreign architect could make a success and a name for themselves within the UK’. And suggested it was more about avoiding bad publicity from ‘a highly regarded international professional being refused a visa’.

Taylor, meanwhile, appears to have descended into a deep gloom, penning an expletive-ridden Christmas letter in lieu of a Christmas card this year.

Ruining the delicate equilibrium of the City skyline

Sid and tulip

Sid and tulip

When Foster + Partners announced its proposal to build a 305m-high Tulip tower in the City of London, it was reported that it had met with Historic England four times before submitting the scheme for planning. 

But it turns out those meetings were not as productive as the practice might have hoped. The government heritage watchdog has come out strongly against the structure, telling City of London planners that it would create an unwanted ‘vertical cliff edge’ to the area’s ‘Eastern Cluster’ of skyscrapers and ‘cause harm to the significance of the Tower of London’. 

Yes, it turns out that a mass of buildings that includes the Cheesegrater, Gherkin and Carbuncle Cup-winning Walkie Talkie has some sort of delicate equilibrium that would be destroyed by a giant metallic cotton bud. 

It was only a few weeks ago that Historic England announced it would not be trying to preserve 1-2 Broadgate since previous changes had so diminished the original development the remaining buildings were no longer worth preserving. But this is evidently not an argument that extends to the City skyline. 

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that among the 22 responses to the Tulip’s planning application, one in support congratulated Fosters on its ‘British sense of humour’, calling the tower a superb architectural joke in the style of the Carry On films. Time, I think, to launch a campaign for the structure to be known as the Ooh Matron Tower.

Also this week

Morrisco wildernesse mews 041

Morrisco wildernesse mews 041

  • Morris + Company has completed staggered mews housing for WildernesseEstate (pictured), a retirement community near Sevenoaks, Kent, for PegasusLife. Further elements include an onsite restaurant and a retrofit of the Grade II-listed ‘main’ house by Purcell, which is also adding a communal lounge and spa. 
  • John Priestley, the man hired and sacked as the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s architectural expert has been fined £3,000 after being convicted of misusing the title ‘architect’. He was also ordered to pay a further £3,240 in costs and surcharges. Priestly was relieved of his short-lived duties on the Grenfell inquiry after it transpired that despite his website describing him as ‘a UK registered and chartered architect’, he had not been on the Architects Register since 2010. 
  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris has revealed its initial plans for Elizabeth House near London’s Waterloo Station. The proposal for the site is the latest chapter in a long-running saga around the 1965 block, and replaces designs by David Chipperfield Architects. 
  • HÛT Architecture has won planning permission for a commercial extension of a locally listed building in the heart of Clerkenwell, London. The practice’s plans for the 1,200m² scheme in the Clerkenwell Green Conservation Area will extend the building by three storeys and include the excavation of the basement level. It will include a terrace obscured by steel fins while the ground floor will contain a café and restaurant. 

Simon Aldous’s Weekend Roundup is emailed exclusively to AJ subscribers every Saturday morning. Click here to find out more about our subscription packages

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