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Weekend roundup: Not the result the profession was hoping for


This week’s top stories reviewed by the AJ’s Simon Aldous: Election result disappoints the profession • No ARB sanction for climate protester • RIBA names all-female list of honorary fellows • Barbican school shelves expansion plans • Dutch retrofit library wins top world architecture prize

It seems fair to say that this week’s general election result was not what the bulk of the architecture profession was hoping for. The AJ’s survey showed that, while support for Labour was down from the 2017 election, only around 16 per cent of readers backed the Tories.

Strangely, architects seemed unswayed by arguments that ending freedom of movement will stop the flow of cheap European architects and so improve their pay and prospects.

Possibly they feel that the effect will instead be to diminish the UK’s standing as a global centre of architectural excellence; and that the end of Brexit uncertainty will be replaced with a long-term diminution of international opportunities.

But amid the expressions of doom from those speaking to the AJ, architect Maggie Mullan offered a ray of hope. ‘On the plus side,’ she said, ‘Boris Johnson loves big infrastructure projects so we should see progress with improved transport  [schemes] across the country.’

Certainly, contractors will be rubbing their hands with glee – while Johnson was London mayor, Bouygues was paid £21.4 million for moving some machinery in readiness to construct the Garden Bridge. Whether anything will be built this time remains to be seen.

However, the scale of the Tory victory probably means Johnson will be able to forget any qualms he had about High Speed 2 upsetting voters in the shires, and will press ahead with the project.

The election did not prove a good night for architects running as candidates. Bell Phillips architect Jay Morton, standing for Labour, came third in the very safe Tory seat of Chichester; architectural writer Emma Dent Coad. also Labour, lost her Kensington seat by 150 votes; and Geoff Wilkinson, who writes the AJ’s column on regulations, was predictably unsuccessful in his bid to win the Kent seat of Chatham and Aylesford for the Greens.

Another architect standing for parliament was Building Design’s architectural writer Ike Ijeh, who was standing for the Brexit Party in Enfield North. His party was backed by only 2 per cent of AJ readers in our survey, making him at odds with the profession in a manner not seen since 2009 when BD’s then editor declared global warming to be a hoax. Ijeh came last with 797 votes and 1.8 per cent of the vote.

Poll: What do you see as the main upside to this week’s Tory landslide?
• End of Brexit uncertainty
• Increased investment in infrastructure
• Revival of the Garden Bridge
• There is no upside
Vote here

Last week’s poll asked: Which party do you think would be best for architecture and the built environment? Labour was top with 53%, followed by the Greens at 20% and Lib Dems at 14%. The Conservatives were also at 14%. That’s a shame then.

No ARB sanctions for convicted climate protester

Nick newman

Nick newman

After Studio Bark architect Tom Bennett was found guilty of a public order offence last month, he expressed concern that the Architects Registration Board might also want to have its say. But if anything, the board seems impressed by his action.

The architect (pictured above, centre) was given a conditional discharge after he refused to move from Waterloo Bridge during an Extinction Rebellion protest in April. He was also ordered to pay £640 in court fees.

The ARB’s code of conduct says that a criminal conviction ‘may be materially relevant to your fitness to practise’ and Bennett was obliged to report his criminal record to the ARB. It could have chosen to suspend or expel him from the register, meaning he could no longer call himself an architect.

But in this case, it responded with pretty much a pat on the head, letting him know it was not planning any further sanction.

ARB head of professional standards Simon Howard told the AJ that treatment of convictions was centred around integrity. ‘The code is a set of principles,’ he said. ‘As long as you act with integrity – that’s the key.’

And the board’s chief executive Karen Holmes seemed to suggest that the protests had been an inspiration, describing them as a ‘great opportunity to start a conversation’. She added that ARB was looking at whether climate change was sufficiently included in its criteria for architectural education.

No fellows among honorary fellows

Honorary fellows 2020

Honorary fellows 2020

The RIBA has announced its honorary fellowships for 2020, recognising non-architects who have nevertheless made a ‘significant contribution towards architecture’.

And this year they all have something else in common, namely that honorary is the only type of fellow they are ever likely to be, all five of them being women. They include founding director of dRMM Sadie Morgan (pictured bottom left) and founder of Studio Myerscough, Morag Myerscough (middle).

The all-female sweep follows October’s announcement that the RIBA Royal Gold Medal will go to Grafton Architects, which is headed by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara.

While this is the first time the list has been all-female, it seems safe to suggest it’s not the first time the list has only been represented by one gender.

Indeed, a trawl through recent fellowships shows that from 2010 to 2014, there were only two or three women each year on lists that ranged from nine to 14 recipients, notably including – in 2012 – one Boris Johnson.

The past five years, however, have seen a marked sea change, with eight female recipients in 2016 and 2018 and seven in 2017.

Barbican school shelves expansion plans

Nicholas hare barbican

Nicholas hare barbican

The City of London School has ditched Nicholas Hare’s expansion plans for its home, which sits within the Grade II-listed Barbican Estate.

The private school is owned by the City of London Corporation, which is also the local planning authority, so might have been expected to give the proposal an easy ride.

However, the scheme raised the hackles of Barbican residents, who described its planned ‘infill’ canteen underneath one of the residential blocks as ‘a major threat to the architectural heritage’ of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon’s Brutalist development.

Its residents’ association launched a working group to campaign against the expansion, saying it constituted ‘a major threat to the architectural heritage of the estate.’ Clearly its views carry considerable clout.

Such angst, however, only seems to apply to the estate’s publicly visible aspects. Last week Takero Shimazaki Architects’ refit of one of the flats’ interiors, which included the addition of a non-structural column, was lauded by AJ readers.

The school, meanwhile, said that while it would not pursue the expansion plan ‘in its current form … the need for expansion remains’.

Retrofit library wins top world architecture prize

Civic architects  lochal tilburg  15  credits stijn bollaert 1

Civic architects lochal tilburg 15 credits stijn bollaert 1

The conversion of a train shed into a public library has won top prize at this year’s World Architecture Festival. The LocHal Public Libary in the Netherlands is the first retrofit project to win the World Building of the Year award.

The scheme, for the city of Tilburg, was designed by Civic architects, Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau and Inside Outside/Petra Blaisse. It includes public event spaces and ‘labs’ where visitors can learn new skills.

The judges praised the way the project transformed a ’significant building’ which had been earmarked for demolition.



Readers' comments (3)

  • 'Revival of the Garden Bridge' ? - heaven forfend, but the same hubris that led Boris to Sedgefield (shades of Hitler to Compiegne in 1940) might tempt him in that direction.

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  • Actually Boris is the result the country voted for...!!! And a result many architects support so please refrain from blanket statements about the architectural profession based on biased polling....
    The alternative was a terrifying thought but now quashed...and for a long time to come.

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  • For Archeps: I understand your fear of the alternative, but the garden bridge saga surely opened our eyes to the true character of our hon. Prime Minister, and perhaps you're looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
    Please don't forget that the 'result the country voted for' wasn't the result of proportional representation (and I would hazard a guess that a substantial proportion of the electorate couldn't see beyond the 'likeable waffler' image to the real Boris)

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