Comment on: Tread softly for you tread on my dreams
Architecture has always been a means of legitimising the occupation of territory through the judicious manipulation of construction and iconography. Land is currently one of the most valuable commodities on the market and London’s territories are – inevitably - highly contested.
Impetus for urban change comes from many constituencies but the most powerful is the realisation of value through the expeditious use of capital. Gentrification, social cleansing, these are terms for the expropriation of territory by those with capital at the expense of those without it.
The current model of the architecture profession, which purports to elevate what is, to all intents and purposes, a technocratic exercise to an honourable vocation, necessarily supports the powerful in this battle for territory - the professional body’s raison d’etre to improve the lot of its members, together with its ethos of putting clients’ interests first, makes it more or less impossible to refuse commissions on strictly professional grounds; whether an architect participates, say, in the systematic expropriation of land under public ownership by the private sector, is a matter for their personal conscience. Refusing commissions is precisely what commentators with collectivist instincts such as Own Hatherley have started to call on architects to do but it’s hard to see how effective the profession closing ranks could be whilst there are plenty of people, unburdened by the title of Architect, who would be happy to mop up the commissions architects refuse.
While the profession of architecture may be a largely ethics-free zone, there are still those for whom buildings can be a source of pleasure and even reverence. It should be remembered that one of the main impetuses for the redevelopment of Rye Lane came from local conservation groups adamant that Peckham Rye Station, which currently languishes behind a 1930s development, deserved to be fronting a generously scaled public space. It was this opportunity to celebrate Victorian architecture (surely, incidentally a byword for the dynamism of bourgeois enterprise), which prompted the more invidious and opportunistic approach to the Peckham regeneration championed by Network Rail.
Comment on: The Death and Life of the Architect
. . . of Walter Mitty's what? Trousers, mother in law jokes, collection of miniature jugs? Yes, dear readers, this is a tetchy point about grammar. Saying something considered about the nature of the profession would require a little more thought. . .
Comment on: Latest listing bid for Robin Hood Gardens fails
The Historic England assessor observes that 'by the time the building was completed in 1972 the 'streets-in-the-air approach' was at least 20 years old' and that, as such, Robin Hood Gardens cannot be considered 'innovative in its design'. Perhaps she can explain in what way the many listed Georgian and Victorian London town houses - the typology for which evolved over generations and whose ideas for ornamentation date back to the time of the Ancient Greeks - are innovative. . .
The very existence of Crossrail is a monumental achievement, particularly in this country where infrastructure projects are too often the victims of political whim and are rarely accorded the time and money required for their proper gestation and development. As an architect, I am of course thrilled to see great infrastructure architecture, such as Foster's Canary Wharf, realised but more important still is getting the strategic decisions right.
Time will tell whether the enormous congestion relief project at Victoria Station Underground, the Victoria Station Upgrade will prove to have anticipated future infrastructure and civic developments in the locale. Weston Williamson were involved both at the strategic stage and in the development of the finishes. It has been disappointing to see the design of the latter effectively taken over by London Underground functionaries (with the introduction of the New Opportunities Brief, a mandatory list of bland materials, intended to consolidate corporate identity but in practice ensuring mediocrity) but the latter will pale into insignificance if the Victoria Line platforms remain too crowded for passengers from the Network Rail Station to access the underground.