Yasmin Shariff is a principal of Dennis Sharp Architects. She was Head of Design of a multi-academy sponsor, Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster, non-executive director of the East of England Development Agency and a member of the Governments UK Round Table on Sustainable Development..
Having campaigned in government and sat on countless government committees since the 1996 Habitat 2 Conference I am sad to say that the UK Government have never taken the construction industry seriously. The consequences are catastrophic for the leaky poorly built structures that many of the poor and elderly live in. It is shameful that people in this country have to choose between heating and eating. Decisions on these government committees are made mostly by the bird and bee brigade who have little or no professional knowledge of the built environment. Meanwhile the profession is being unskilled and reduced to external decorators. We can build new housing that requires no heating, we can upgrade existing structures. It is not difficult when you know how. Seeing money being poured into well meaning but clueless initiatives is painful.
Scruton is expressing a prejudice inherent in today's homophobic, xenophobic and profit motivated culture. The Building Beautiful Commission with its token architectural advisor is doing little more than wallpapering over the obscenities of housebuilders. A new chair won't fix the problem. It is rather like getting a diyer to do heart surgery and then slapping paint on the cadaver to make it look pretty. How about a Ministry of Housing and Local Communities that actually has architectural teams planning and designing neighbourhoods where race, gender and the rich diversity of life and people can be nurtured and flourish. Time to quarterise the BBCommission with its colonial class-ridden phobias of the super privileged and over turn the prejudice that excludes architects and people with roots in non-western cultures. Resurrecting the Architects and Building Branch would be a good start.
What ever happened to integrity, vitality, character, health and well-being, caring and sharing. Beautiful architecture nurtures the soul and is full of diverse people and diverse activities. The sterile grandeur of imperialist structures should be a thing of the past. Lauding the classical has sinister implications of colonial oppression and is divisive.
Owusu is the only candidate who has the guts to tackle inconvenient truths that have alienated the membership and impoverished the Institute culturally, financially and morally.
Lets not get diverted by the morally reprehensible gagging letter or colour the issue- this is a race for the presidency not about race.
It pains me deeply to see the blatant misogyny, xenophobia and anti-architect culture which has imploded at Grenfell. The report is no surprise, obvious and fails to see the fundamental flaw. Without a trained profession accountable and skilled to lead the process it is no surprise that the expensive and fatal refurb of Grenfell occurred. Whilst public procumbent continues in this gung ho manner- rather like doing heart surgery without a surgeon- there continues to be a danger of more incidents like Grenfell flaring up at great personal and public cost- but who cares they are only scroungers or immigrants and all the diversity polies have been ticked off by the procurement companies so everyone complies. If only Grenfell could restore respect and dignity of all people regardless of colour, creed or sex and those in financial need helped rather than bulldozed or set alight.
The legacy of PFI, Design and Build and Framework Agreements are far too expensive to countenance. In the absence of trained professionals the country is being vandalised by estates of noddyland with poor services and social amenities. The legacy of social housing continues to be trashed through poor refurbs and lack of maintenance and care. How long will we ignore trained professionals (architects) and rely on greedy and opportunistic developers, contractors and well meaning diy ‘experts’?
It is time for architects departments to arise out of the ashes in local authorities skilled and able to refurbish estates, provide social housing and public buildings that we can be proud of. Britain used to lead the world in innovation and design in the public sector. Post war Hertfordshire Architects Department, LCC, Camden Council were published, filmed and looked upon as exemplars. We still have some of the best architectural brains in the world- it is time we used them.