Statement of regret follows high-profile withdrawals from climate pledge

Architects Declare has made a peace offering to Zaha Hadid Architects and Foster & Partners after they pulled out of the climate commitment signed by more than 1,000 practices.

The group said it regretted not trying to talk to ZHA before publicly suggesting the firm should step down because of pro-growth comments made by its principal Patrik Schumacher.

It invited both ZHA and Fosters to consider re-signing the declaration which commits practices to 11 principles around working to mitigate climate change and biodiversity decline.

“We are saddened and disappointed that two such globally influential practices have found it necessary to withdraw,” it said.

Fosters was first to pull out at the start of the month, with Norman Foster himself issuing a statement criticising Architects Declare (AD) for using protest rather than innovation to tackle the issues. He was denounced by a separate group, the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN), for what it called a “bizarre, outdated statement” relating to the aviation industry.

Foster said emissions from the production of hamburgers, steaks and similar agricultural products was equivalent to those produced by air and motorised transport and called for a sense of proportion.

The following day ZHA announced it too was walking away from AD because the group had published a statement asking it to consider its position. Members objected to remarks by Schumacher about the primacy of growth and prosperity.

In a statement published last night AD said: “…from the outset it has been AD’s policy not to publicly ‘call out’ our signatory colleagues’ work. We recognise that practices have varying approaches to meeting the goals of the declaration. What unites us is a shared vision of a built environment that addresses the climate and biodiversity crises.

“The reason we felt compelled to respond to Patrik Schumacher’s recent statements was because they appeared to represent a shift away from this shared vision and thereby undermine the principles of the declaration.

“Having read ZHA’s withdrawal statement, we regret not having sought further dialogue with ZHA before suggesting that they withdraw from the declaration. We would like to encourage both Foster & Partners and ZHA to consider signing the declaration again soon in order to be part of this growing collaborative network.”

More than 1,000 architectural practices have signed the pledge in the 18 months since it was launched by all 17 Stirling Prize-winners, including ZHA and Fosters.

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It has set up regional groups, begun writing a Climate Emergency Practice Guide, raised £15,000 towards a paid coordinator and met government officials including former PRP chief Andy von Bradsky, who is now head of architecture at MHCLG, and Catherine Westoby from BEIS’s behaviour change division.

“We have built real momentum and we now face an absolutely critical 12 months before [climate talks] COP26 in which we can grow the seeds of transformative change in the built environment,” It said.

“We believe that high ambitions for change will benefit from unity and the coming together of all architecture practices, large and small, and that this collective, practice-level action is central to the strength of Architects Declare.”