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Weekend roundup: Will RIBA be the undoing of Boris Johnson?

Shutterstock boris johnson
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This week’s top stories reviewed by the AJ’s Simon Aldous 
Calls grow to strip Boris Johnson of honorary fellowship • ARB fines ’new Zaha’ after window error • Architects on TV • Adjaye to design Abu Dhabi interfaith centre • Council rejects HTA’s Hoover neighbour

So far, Boris Johnson seems to have been pretty impervious to criticism in what has surely been a trying week. But could the RIBA finally break him? Could it be the tax department to Johnson’s Al Capone?

Architect Walter Menteth has called for the prime minister to be stripped of his RIBA fellowship following the Supreme Court’s ruling that his prorogation of parliament was illegal.

Menteth initially made the call on Twitter, saying the court had unanimously determined that Boris Johnson lied to the Queen, ‘who confers on our Institute our Royal Charter’ and ‘does not meet the profession’s code of conduct’.

His call appeared to be met with general support as well as shock that Johnson had ever been given the fellowship in the first place. Fellowships are awarded annually to people who, according to the RIBA, ‘are not architects but have made a particular contribution to architecture’.

Johnson’s honour was conferred on him in 2011 during his first term as London mayor. Announcing that year’s batch of fellowships, then RIBA president Angela Brady said: ‘Each of this year’s Honorary Fellows has made an enormous contribution to architecture’.

Brady will not, however, be defending Johnson’s honour, having added her signature to a letter urging the institute takes the title back.

Poll: What should Alan Jones’s first act be as RIBA president?
• Take tough action on the climate crisis
• Strip Boris Johnson of his RIBA fellowship
• Appear on national TV
• Launch a new T-shirt range
Vote here

Last week’s poll asked whether readers supported the architects taking part in last week’s climate strike. Only 12% said they did not, while 74% backed the action and 14% said they had taken part themselves.

ARB fines ‘new Zaha’ after window error

Debbie flevotomou crop

Debbie flevotomou crop

The Architects Registration Board has fined architect Debbie Flevotomou £1,000 for unprofessional conduct after she submitted an inaccurate planning application for a loft conversion. 

Flevotomou had incorrectly stated that existing windows were made of timber when in fact they were aluminium with timber borders. She then told her client that she would charge £550 plus VAT to submit a further application revising the error. 

Things turned nasty when the client complained about Flevotomou’s conduct; at which point Flevotomou told the client she would sue her for loss of business. The ARB’s professional conduct committee described the architect’s correspondence as ‘not courteous’. 

Flevotomou has since apologised for not dealing with the complaint appropriately. She said that while she accepted the ARB’s decision, it was arguable that ‘certain governances’ by the body could be ‘construed as pedantic’. 

Flevotomou established her Mayfair-based practice in 2011, having previously worked at Foster + Partners. She specialises in parametric design and on her practice’s website says she has been called ‘the new Zaha’. 

As well as being an architect she is a qualified ballet dancer and choreographer. Earlier this year, in a profile in The Times she said: ‘Every composition my practice creates is treated like a stage show where the dancing, the lighting and scenery need to work together in harmony.’ 

Flevotomou said she would be making a private contribution to the RIBA educational trust to ‘make something positive’ out of the experience.

Why aren’t there more architects on TV?

George clarke filming 1

George clarke filming 1

Why are there so few architects on TV? was the question the AJ asked this week as we marked the two year anniversary of Tom the architect being kicked off The Great British Bake Off – possibly the last instance of a member of the profession being represented on the small screen in a non-property-makeover show capacity.

Why are they not offering their opinions on Newsnight or Question Time? Possibly because the producers feel that baffling pasta-based analogies will add little to the debate.

Piers Taylor, who has not only appeared on architectural programmes but also Mastermind, thinks it is down to a cultural divide. The UK, he says, ‘is a nation of cultural philistines’ that ‘cares little for architecture’; while George Clarke (pictured) thinks the profession looks down on the medium.

Clarke recalls, after his first TV appearance, one of his former tutors saying: ‘What a shame. He would have made a really good architect.’

Such contempt may not be limited to those who don’t appear on TV. With Taylor, it seems to have engendered a certain self-loathing.

‘I prostituted myself shamelessly for the filthy lucre,’ he says of his television career, describing his programmes as ‘primetime drivel’.

But he makes the point that when he’s pitched ‘architectural ideas to the BBC to do with urbanism, sustainability, housing and many other things, they’re just not interested’. 

Adjaye to build interfaith centre in Abu Dhabi

Abrahamicfamilyhouseadjaye

Abrahamicfamilyhouseadjaye

David Adjaye has been selected to design an interfaith centre in Abu Dhabi. The Abrahamic Family House will feature a mosque, a church and a synagogue and will be built on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates capital.

Adjaye Associates was chosen, intriguingly, from a shortlist of unnamed international firms. The site is close to Foster + Partners’ yet-to-complete Zayed National Museum. And like Fosters, the practice is carrying out much of its key work overseas.

In May, Adjaye Associates was selected to design a contemporary art museum and cultural centre for dance and music in New Delhi, while last year it was commissioned to design the National Cathedral of Ghana. Its most well-known building is the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

Adjaye’s highest-profile UK project, the Holocaust Memorial, is however still awaiting a planning decision from Westminster City Council.

Hoovered up

Hta hoover companion

Hta hoover companion

Planners have turned down HTA Design’s proposed 22-storey neighbour to the Hoover Building in west London.

Ealing planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval, but councillors voted against it, arguing that it would have a detrimental effect on the 1933 Hoover Building, described by Historic England as ‘among the most celebrated examples of Art Deco architecture in England’.

HTA’s design would have created 305 homes on the site of a petrol station and part of a car park. Developer Amro said it noted that the planning committee had said the site was suitable for development and that it would be considering its options.

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