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Tuesday22 August 2017

Marco Goldschmied launches attack on 'corporate' RSHP

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Practice’s former MD also reveals he is abandoning redevelopment of Rogers’ old office

Marco Goldschmied has written an outspoken “letter of regret” to Richard Rogers criticising changes at the practice which he helped found 40 years ago.

His unprecedented intervention was prompted by redundancies made just before Christmas which Goldschmied claimed were handled in a “cowardly” manner.

People who have gone include the highly regarded chief modelmaker, Mike Fairbrass, who had been at the practice nearly 23 years.

Goldschmied criticised the firm for becoming more corporate and moving away the “socially aware, humane and collaborative” founding spirit which “put a shared quality of life as high on the agenda as the quality of the architecture”.

In a letter to Rogers, which he says he has sent to his London home, the former RIBA president puts the boot into the firm which he accuses of abandoning of its founding principles.

He writes: “It was a practice where fun, informality and a collegiate life style went hand-in-hand with striving for design excellence. Of course, over the years, there were differences and arguments but never at the expense of the founding principles.

“I could not help wondering if the choice of new premises coinciding as it did with the cowardly pre-Christmas culling by email of several senior staff over 50 (but excluding Directors of course) somehow also reflected a fundamental change in ethos in the practice and the abandonment of a lot more than just the premises.”

Goldschmied’s letter also follows the handing back to Goldschmied of Thames Wharf when the lease ran out in December. It was the practice’s home for decades until it moved into the Cheesegrater at Christmas.

Goldschmied was planning to redevelop it for housing and commissioned Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners to design a scheme which won planning in the summer.

But today he announced he had torn up the plans because the council’s s106 demand of £6.5 million and 17 “affordable” flats made the housing scheme unviable. Instead it will remain offices for at least five years, he said, taking advantage of a shortage created by the office-to-resi planning relaxation.

Goldschmied began working with Rogers in 1971 and co-founded the Richard Rogers Partnership in 1977. Managing director from 1984 until he left in 2004, he said he was proud to have devised its structure with a charity as the ultimate shareholder and a staff profit share scheme.

He said the practice had since moved in a much more corporate direction. It is currently advertising on LinkedIn for a barrister or solicitor to advise on contracts, appointments and other matters.

“There was something very poignant about the practice vacating the property Richard and I bought 32 years ago, combined with the kind of place it’s going to – a highly corporate City building which we wouldn’t have been seen dead in when we did Lloyd’s – and the way they asked people to leave,” he said.

“Obviously firms have to move things on from time to time but I was moved to write Richard an open letter. It’s not an aggressive letter – it’s a letter of regret.”

RSHP has been contacted for comment.

Marco Goldschmied’s letter to Richard Rogers

Thames Wharf Studios

Rainville Road

London W6 9HA

6 January 2016

Dear Richard,

I am prompted to write to you following the final departure of the practice from Thames Wharf just before Christmas.  The keys you handed back to me on Christmas Eve were a metaphor for something of much greater significance to me than just some bits of metal.

The complex we originally bought together a third of a century ago as an operating oil refinery when Lloyd’s was only just coming out of the ground has seen many transformations not least in the architects practice we had founded five years previously and in the creation of the River Café five years later.

But for all the physical transformations of the Thames Wharf complex one thing endured. The founding spirit and ethos of the practice as a socially aware, humane and collaborative group which put a shared quality of life as high on the agenda as the quality of the architecture.

It was a practice where fun, informality and a collegiate life style went hand-in-hand with striving for design excellence. Of course, over the years, there were differences and arguments but never at the expense of the founding principles.

The architecture of Thames Wharf magically reflected and facilitated those qualities. So it was with mixed feelings that I watched the removal men come to move the practice to its new home in the corporate Cheesegrater.

I could not help wondering if the choice of new premises coinciding as it did with the cowardly pre-Christmas culling by email of several senior staff over 50 (but excluding Directors of course) somehow also reflected a fundamental change in ethos in the practice and the abandonment of a lot more than just the premises.

I am sure this is not a conscious change on your part or, perhaps, you were not even aware it was occurring or had any say in even though you continue to allow the practice to be graced with your name.

Your steadfast championing of the less fortunate and the oppressed has endured the test of time and is undimmed in the half century we have known each other but I appreciate you may no longer have the appetite to fight for it in a practice now run by those to whom we gifted the reins free of charge.

Maybe, with hindsight, some of our choices turned out to be less than wise but one thing that makes history interesting is the mistakes people make. So maybe that’s just how it is: the end of an era.

With my very best wishes to you and Ruthie for 2016

Marco

 

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Clearly any practice that designs One Hyde Park and others has long since abandoned its social ethos, or that which puts citizens first anyway..

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  • Open letters like this always somewhat puzzle me - the posh people's equivalent of twitter / comments section, I suppose? All I would say: the last paragraph should end with a question mark, rather than a full stop.

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  • John Lee

    Not really for sharing I would have thought.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Unfortunately the "steadfast championing of the less fortunate and the oppressed" he praises in his letter does not extend to providing affordable housing.

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  • In a nutshell SSMN

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  • Austin Clegg

    Steadfast pandering to the super rich and the establishment, surely?

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    The words "hopelessly out of touch with the less fortunate and the oppressed about whom he claims to care" suggest themselves.

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  • "savaged by a dead sheep" comes to mind ...

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  • Champagne Socialists.

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