We are currently existing in some of the most interesting and challenging times of the past 50 years, politically, socially and environmentally in the UK. But challenging times always give rise to great opportunities to bring about positive change through built environment and architect’s have the skills in our industry to harness these opportunities. Our Industry is no different to any other part of modern British society. Architect’s, designers and clients in the built environment have always risen in the past to the many societal challenges.
Architects’ would like to think that we are expert chameleon’s, we can adapt to global channels around us, as well as those closer to home. Our greatest challenges currently exist around positively addressing the climate change emergency and the housing crisis,
In August 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish climate activist, launched a school strike to raise awareness to the efforts of global climate change. By 30 May 2019 she had published a simple book titled “No one is too small to make a difference”
Its this concept that strikes a chord with me and many of my fellow architect’s, that we can all make a difference, its all about a adapting a simple mind set, that its our moral and ethical destiny, to use our skill and influence to think and act to bring about a positive change. Whether we are looking to address climate change, homelessness and the housing crisis or political inequality.
Therefore those of us involved in the built environment, whether you are an architect, designer, client, consultant, we all have a duty of care to address how we will define a better world for our children and grandchildren.
The British government in May 2019 (the first national government to officially recognise this issue) sign up to the climate change emergency. But this will be hollow and virtue signalling if we don’t act and positively adapt and adopt new principles’ in how and what we do or don’t design. As someone who spends 25 % of my week as an educator in one of the countries newest schools of architecture at Reading University. We are putting this issues at front and centre of everything we discuss with our students.
So how can we all do our bit, if no one is to small to make a difference?
Well firstly it’s a culture change, life can not and will not be able to be business as usual!!!!
Having recently branched out on my own and launched my own practice, we have adopted a very clear philosophy and narrative for the practice, in order that we can be relevant and not become the next dodo of the ever decreasing landscape of the service industry. So our philosophy and offer to the world is really very simple. We believe that architect’s and the built environment holds the potential to be a vehicle of social and economic change for a better world.
So can we respond to the challenges by, re use, reimagining, review if we need to build new at all? Can we reduce the footprint of what we design and build. The answer of course is yes and I see it all the time especially in the hands of brilliantly skilled and innovative architect’s.
Recently I was honoured yet again, to be involved in the judging of the daily telegraph home building and renovating awards and what struck me, was that clients, designers and architects are producing some amazing projects, by re using, re imagining, the building stock. From the Victorian, Edwardian and historical listed buildings from many different eras and doing it with less, less budget, less footprint and less materials. Which means that the use of less energy to both produce the materials for these projects but also to heat these projects.
These current times are difficult for all of us, but I am encouraged that everyone and especially in the architecture industry are waking up that we all can make a diefrence. I am very excited and delighted that my profession are getting passionate about thinking differently and developing philosophises and manifestos for a more ethical practice, that we will question the morals of a project or client. We have the skills to give new life to existing buildings, re imaging, churches, banks, high street shops, farms, and delivering low cost affordable housing, just look at the recent RIBA Stirling price award of the Social Housing in Norwich.
The future really can be bright for our children and grandchildren if we change design thinking, by questioning first what and why we are doing!!
Greta really has stirred the imagination, in many of us, now we just need to collectively apply this logic, which is beautifully summed up by Ai Weiwei in his book Humanity.
You begin to understand that we all have the same basic needs, that our sense of humanity and integrity, our desire for warmth and safety, to be well treated and respected are the same.