Thursday24 August 2017

Richard Rogers urges architects to be more political

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Peer uses birthday interview to lament the ‘age of greed’

Richard Rogers has criticised the architectural profession for not getting more involved in politics.

In the week that an exhibition opened at the Royal Academy marking his 80th birthday, the Labour peer said it was vital architects step into his political shoes. But he struggled to name a successor and suggested the “age of greed” was to blame for architects’ reluctance to get involved.

“I used to complain bitterly that in the corridors of power you met engineers, surveyors, doctors,” he said. “But did you meet architects? Never.”

Former RIBA president Sunand Prasad shared his concern about the loss of influence on government, but felt the next generation of architects was quite radical.

“The RIBA is now one amongst many lobbying government, at a time when to have any chance of being effective you have to be politically forensic – not something that interests many architects,” he said.

His optimism about young architects was echoed by Irena Bauman, of Bauman Lyons, who said: “Greed is quite an old-fashioned notion for the young generation who are all about pooling ideas and resources. If anything it’s the older generation that’s holding on to it.”

Rogers acknowledged that politics was not the profession’s natural environment – although much of its work had political dimensions – but said architects must make an effort to learn.

“If they don’t there will be pretty serious consequences,” he warned, speaking to BD at the House of Lords while he waited for a vote.

Meanwhile, Rogers also spoke of the difficulty of getting innovative housing built, saying there was a strong lobby against anything new. He argued the government needs to create demand for social housing and empower architects to provide the solutions.

John Prescott’s challenge to design a house for £60,000 has preoccupied his practice since 2004. The next generation of its Oxley Woods low-cost, highly insulated standardised house will be built in the RA courtyard next month, an act he described as political.


Readers' comments (15)

  • grapefruit

    Why has he designed a 44 storey residential tower at the Elephant and Castle full of buy to let shoe boxes that adds nothing to the poblic realm, not even any affordable shoe boxes?
    He is playing at being a socialist, and only talks the talk.

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  • Munter Roe

    Maybe architect's still have morals. MAYBE.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    @ grapefruit - absolutely.
    I can't see someone like Rogers being on the same side of the barricades as me. He has a small role to play, but it's only transitional and ultimately, of no importance. Many of the institutions for which he is happy to work need to be destroyed.

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  • Austin Clegg

    So, this very rich member of the House of Lords whose clients are mostly oligarchs and other rapacious financiers dares to lecture to us about greed!
    Champagne socialism at its best, without a hint of irony.

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  • onlyslightlymoreconvinced

    Watching the imagine documentary the other evening you could see how he was drawn to the public realm and the need to "give something back" to cities and people. The frankly laughable justification/explanation of role of the Cheesegrater and its contribution to the public realm shows how far removed he is from his original ideas on city, people and the public realm. Remind us Richie how many affordable houses were available at Neo Bankside?

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    @ David; his "original" ideas on city, people and the public realm were far from original. They were a hotchpotch of other people's ideas from 20 years before.

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  • onlyslightlymoreconvinced

    @sceptical..I never suggested his ideas were original, very few ideas are, Even if his ideas were on cities and public space were a hotchpotch at least there is an element of social responsibility to it. There is a disparity in what he says and what he does.

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  • The lack of affordable housing in this country is arguably due to the process whereby developers sit on empty properties and land banks to create shortages and raise prices. At any rate, that is what Ed Miliband seems to think.

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  • The guy's alright. He's 80. He has had an amazing career. All things considered, and despite there being a number of projects within his portfolio that might appear contrary to the rhetoric, he has produced some genuinely thought provoking and radical pieces of design. Definitely a man whose heart is in the right place.

    The crux of what he is saying I feel is fundamentally true. Our politicians seem to be a mixture of Lawyers, Accountants and former Special Advisors. It would be great to see Architects in genuine positions of power. If you really really want to make a difference and have your voice heard then you need to be in the room where the decisions get made.

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  • steven harmer

    Well said Lee Ivette!

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