WHO ARE WE?
We are not … Patrik Schumacher
… “Social housing stars“!
WHAT ARE WE RESPONDING TO?
We’ve watched closely, these past few weeks, as the media-storm around Patrik Schumacher’s keynote address at 2016’s World Architecture Festival has hit the mainstream press. Much of the public anger has been directed at Schumacher as an isolated individual. The predominant response from the architectural establishment has been to frame his views as an aberration, carefully distanced from the profession’s official line. Phineas Harper of the Architectural Foundation, writing in Dezeen, described Schumacher’s views as a ‘fantasy’, and urged – ‘[i]t is time to stop listening’. This disguises the fact that, far from being a fantasy, Schumacher’s super-capitalist capital is already being designed by London-based architects. Architects for Social Housing has been an outspoken and active critic, proposing alternatives to demolition projects; whilst the architectural profession in general has been complacent and complicit in the wholesale privatisation of public land and the social cleansing of our cities. At least Schumacher is honest.
The architects who seize and capitalise upon the complete annihilation of so-called ‘sink estates’ are not decried, as Schumacher has rightfully been, but instead awarded the ultimate commendation for their ‘outstanding’ design work.
The offices we work for operate in the practice of estate regeneration, generating huge revenues from their services to both Labour and Tory councils in increasing land value and displacing the undesirables. Our bosses profit from the rhetoric of a ‘housing crisis’, growing their businesses in the time of a recession; their dubious work done in the name of improvement and progress. They are seen as champions of solutions to a problem rather than the architects of it.
The work we do is disguised as community-led, consultation-driven and contextually-aware. Hand-crafted ‘friendly’-looking timber models and quirky hand drawings, trotted out at community presentations, hide the brutality of demolition and architectural construction that is devoid of context. A sweet PR game is played with the media, from the safety of a plush office interior. Meanwhile, bosses are more than happy to pay their workers less than London Living Wage, whilst we undertake the work that prices us out of our city. The hypocrisy of this situation points to the utter corruption of the system as it stands.
WHAT DO WE SUGGEST?
Schumacher – who admits he has little concrete knowledge to back his ‘solutions’ to the ‘housing crisis’, and has no involvement with public housing projects in London – has already agreed to a public debate with ASH.
We now challenge the heads of leading regeneration practices, as housing “specialists”, to counter our insights, and participate in an open debate about the gentrification they are enabling.
dRMM – Alex De Rijke, Sadie Morgan, Philip Marsh, Jonas Lencer
Haworth Tompkins – Graham Haworth, Steve Tompkins
HTA Design – Ben Derbyshire (President-Elect of RIBA)
Karakusevic Carson Architects – Paul Karakusevic
Mae – Alex Ely
PRP – Anne-Marie Nicholson, Neil Griffiths, Brendan Kilpatrick
We are workers of major regeneration practices, and for fear of our jobs we will remain anonymous. We encourage all dissenting voices, who bear witness to the atrocities executed in the name of ‘urban progress’, to come forward and disclose their experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org