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Thursday24 July 2014

Ian Simpson attacks ordinary architecture

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Rising star of commercial architecture Ian Simpson has slammed architects for filling Britain’s cities with “ordinary” buildings, and immediately won the backing of RIBA president George Ferguson.

Simpson, who at present has £1.25 billion worth of buildings under development, including major commercial schemes in Manchester, Liverpool, London and Newcastle, told BD that architects were failing because they were not ambitious enough.

“An unacceptable proportion of architects don’t produce good architecture,” he said. “Most of what fills our cities are ordinary buildings… There is a blandness about a lot of what is designed, and this is due to lack of aspiration and lack of vision. It is often blamed on lack of money or lack of intent from the client, but as a profession we should be questioning these things.

“I’m interested in getting hold of commercial stuff and making it better because that is the stuff that affects us. This needs to be tackled comprehensively and on a large scale.”

He claimed developers had responded positively to this approach and urged more architects to do the same.

Reacting to Simpson’s comments, Ferguson said: “There are too many architects operating in the commercial sector who are achieving standards below what we find acceptable...I thoroughly agree we should raise our game. But there can be very beautifully-designed ‘ordinary’ buildings. Good background architecture is an important part of what we do.”

Simpson also revealed his practice’s growing success was beginning to stretch his 55 staff, based in Manchester and London, to the limit.

The firm has recently been appointed to major new mixed-use schemes in Glasgow, Leicester and London’s South Bank (News November 26).

“Effectively, we should be three times bigger than we are,” Simpson said. “We have a staff of 55 and we are looking to double that… it’s a fantastically exciting time because, theoretically, we don’t need any more work for the next four years.”

Simpson’s strategy involves opening a new London office in the spring. He is also considering alliances to aid delivery of the larger projects, which has led to talks with the design arm of contractor Amec, as well as with executive architect Adamsons.

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