Richard Rogers urges architects to be more political
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.