Architectural Workers, are an anonymous, independent network of people who work in and around the architectural industry. We campaign against the negative effects of architectural work: on physical bodies and mental health, as well as the wider social and physical environment. Although we are mainly focused on the UK situation, this is a global condition.
We formed in December 2016 with an open letter calling for the media and public attention garnered by Patrik Schumacher’s plans for privitisation of social housing to be refocused on our bosses, the heads of London’s leading regeneration firms. In June 2017 we facilitated a public debate at the threatened Cressingham Gardens Estate in Lambeth; inviting heads of practice, activists, academics and residents’ groups to discuss ‘What is the Architects Role in the Housing Crisis?’. We have continued to campaign on the issues affecting us as workers within the industry: unpaid overtime, the London Living Wage, and the moral evaluation of the tasks we are employed to carry out. We believe that a worker-led union is an essential instrument to change both the conditions and nature of work within the sector, and anticipate its launch later this Spring.
Press / Events
/ Doug Spencer, ‘Architecture After California‘, e-flux Architecture Positions, 12 October 2017.
/ Phineas Harper, ‘“Middle-class guilt is weaponised to keep architectural labourers from demanding reform”‘, Dezeen Opinion, 11 October 2017. Read the full interview here.
/ ‘Routine Destruction‘, STRIKE!, Issue 18, Summer 2017.
1. How can I get involved?
– Contribute to our survey of architectural practices. Your answers will help us to build a strong case against the work done by our offices, safeguarding the interests of workers and residents alike.
– Contact us directly at email@example.com and become involved in the longer struggle. We are looking for input on graphics, research, social media, filmography. Your help will be invaluable to communicating to a wide audience effectively, making our arguments clear and bold.
– You can report your practice to the RIBA for not paying the [London] Living Wage, as per RIBA requirements. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line :’[London] Living Wage – breach of Chartered Practice Criteria’. Click here for a draft letter.
– Pass on information to us about company malpractice and how your office has been instrumental in gentrification. Disclose close relationships between developers, planning authorities and architects. Tell us about how your work has contributed to furthering the privatisation of London. Email us privately (see FAQ .02)
2. How do I send Architectural Workers an anonymous email?
For a back and forth exchange you can create an email account using credentials that can’t be linked to your real identity. This should only take a few minutes. For a single email you can use a disposable email address via GuerrillaMail.
3. Who can join Architectural Workers?
Anyone who is interested in or working in the built environment. We want to know about staff treatment, ‘unspoken’ office rules, operating procedures and specific instances where residents interests have been intentionally de-prioritised. You are necessary to illustrate the breadth of the industry’s failures. You may be a chartered architect unhappy with the course of your professional career in financialized home-destruction. You may be an office administrative worker who can provide key insights into company accounts and pay discrepancies.
If you don’t work in or around architecture, you are very welcome to join us. Your help will be invaluable to communicating to a wide audience effectively, making our arguments clear and bold.
We meet biweekly and commit some evenings and weekends to Architectural Workers. We welcome anyone who can contribute their time and skills, on an ad hoc or more routine basis.
We welcome people from all academic and professional backgrounds. We value the input of people across gender, race, class and religious backgrounds.
4. Why do you work for the practices you criticise?
We came to our respective offices explicitly to work in regeneration. For some of us, it was knowing that it is highly problematic, but hoping that it held some promise of working for the public sector, or a valuable education in the mechanisms of capital. For others we were encouraged by the possibilities of ‘good’ work following positive articles in the architectural press. We’ve all come to better understand the intricacies and realities since a period of working in the industry.
5. Why are you anonymous?
Staying anonymous allows us to voice real concerns to a public audience. We’re enabled to discuss openly what we can’t talk about in the office. Anonymity allows us to continue organising and gain knowledge within the industry we want to reform. Lastly, safeguarding our identities is key to protect our livelihoods and income.
6. Doesn’t regeneration improve ‘run-down’ estates?
Having worked across leading ‘regeneration’ practices, we’ve grown to be wary of the socially-led claims made by our bosses, journalists and local councils alike.
In many cases, it’s difficult to portray to a wider public the many effects of regeneration beyond the project statistics: how many homes created, or the offsetting proposed by delivering a new play facility. Such descriptions deliberately obscure the cumulative effect of gentrification, as well as the sticky processes and intentions behind ‘regeneration’ projects. Even statistics, which might declare that a scheme is ‘100% social housing’, can be deployed in ways that disguise the real implications of the development. The purely affordable development is in fact a decant site for estate demolition, replacing homes at a rate less than 1 for 1 so that new luxury dwellings can take over the prime land.
7. What’s the alternative then?
We believe in architecture that puts the needs of people who live in our buildings front and centre. We believe that architecture shouldn’t be used as a tool of capital, making profit at the cost of the city’s residents. At the very least, architects working in estate regeneration should be doing their upmost to put the needs of people before finance. For more read our manifesto and demands.
8. What’s the long term vision for Architectural Workers?
This is a working document. The answers above cover our ambition and ethos, in response to frequently asked questions.