Letter from London

Letter from London

A weekly column from WAF's Programme Director, Paul Finch
Conflicts of interest are about management, not elimination

18 November 2021

The fuss about ‘sleaze’ in respect of the UK political class has managed to elide a series of issues which are related but need to be treated separately.
Read the article

COP 26 - Where do we go from here?

8 November 2021

As a prequel to COP26, and to coincide with the current architectural biennale, the US-based Design Intelligence group hosted a two-city event in Rome then Venice, discussing the sustainability and its implications for architecture and architects.
Read the article

THINKING ABOUT HUMAN BEINGS – AND OTHER SPECIES

29 October 2021

Having just returned from a trip to Venice, the theme and exhibits at this year’s architecture biennale, curated by Hashim Sarkis, are still fresh in the mind. If you are thinking about a visit, the closing date is 21 November, so there is still enough time to plan a stay – or for teachers to organize a field trip. .
Read the article

Architectural truth can be stranger than fiction

14 October 2021

There has been a certain amount of disquiet over the selection of this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist, but then there usually is. In general, I am more interested in the choices of people who have actually visited the buildings and discussed them in detail with other members of the RIBA Awards Group, than snipers who have seen little.
Read the article

Stirling Prize shortlists are bound to be controversial

7 October 2021

There has been a certain amount of disquiet over the selection of this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist, but then there usually is. In general, I am more interested in the choices of people who have actually visited the buildings and discussed them in detail with other members of the RIBA Awards Group, than snipers who have seen little.
Read the article

Responding to Mister Gove

30 September 2021

The politician now responsible for architecture, Michael Gove, is not a head-banger. Intelligent and experienced, it is unfortunate that not so long ago he had harsh words for the architectural profession about its activities and rewards, in my view almost entirely unjustified.
Read the article

Radical uncertainty the order of the day...

20 September 2021

Things are topsy-turvy here in what is supposed to be the world’s greatest city. Boris Johnson’s new top-team of Cabinet ministers are not there to continue the status quo in relation to planning and architecture...
Read the article

The architectural consequences of 9/11 are not what was expected...

13 September 2021

It was Charles Jencks and Rem Koolhaas who almost instantly provided the most telling architectural comments about 9/11...
Read the article

Planning doesn’t deliver housing...

1 September 2021

Heriot-Watt University researchers have produced a report which, without being particularly accusatory in tone, nevertheless claims that planners have managed to enhance racial inequality in housing in recent decades...
Read the article

Tower architecture hosts urban farming...

25 August 2021

Occasionally a press release needs little re-writing, so here is a fascinating story announced this week...
Read the article

Grade degradation – bad money drives out good...

16 August 2021

Given the surreal acceleration of academic grade degradation in respect of GCSEs and A levels, it will be intriguing to see just how many architects manage to graduate with first-class honours this year. As with school exam standards, the race to the bottom is well and truly flourishing as business-minded universities dish out firsts like confetti in order to attract students to attend their institutions – particularly those from overseas...
Read the article

Sound and fury won’t get homes built

9 August 2021

The political battle over how to build enough homes in the UK is hotting up. Familiar half-truths are being trotted out, including the suggestion that housebuilders (obviously evil since they are private sector and therefore try to make profits) are ‘hoarding’ land. In general this is untrue; of course you can find individual examples where it has happened, but this rarely involves serious housebuilders. That is not how they make money...
Read the article

The Silly Season has started with a bang...

2 August 2021

Perusing newspapers, magazines and websites, it is easy to imagine that alongside everyday life there is a strange parallel universe, where irrationality and prejudice are promoted by people who are supposed to defend enlightenment values of objectivity and fair-mindedness...
Read the article

Liverpool and Stonehenge will thrive, with or without Unesco

26 July 2021

The decision by Unesco to remove ‘World Heritage’ status from Liverpool, and its threat to de-list Stonehenge, tells us more about the institutional problems of Parisian panjandrums than it does about the reality of a city which is thriving and a monument which may finally get the relief road tunnel it deserves...
Read the article

Let's hear it for timber

19 July 2021

The American political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously declared ‘the end of history’, in what turned out to be a highly inaccurate prediction about world futures. (The wittiest critic of his proposition, slightly surprisingly, was Margaret Thatcher, who said it sounded like ‘the start of nonsense’)...
Read the article

Global events trigger showcase architecture

07 July 2021

Major sporting and cultural events generally have an architectural corollary even if, as with the European football spectacular this week, the stadiums used are pretty familiar. Instead we note the backdrops the tv commentary teams use – in the case of ITV, showing us the tower of London in the foreground and Rafael Vinoly’s ‘Walkie Talkie’ office tower as a sort of centre stage. At Wimbledon there is always some new design to take in, especially since the aversion to sliding roofs finally dissipated...
Read the article

Green space need not be sacrosanct

30 June 2021

Guess which London borough we are talking about: ‘The largest number of units delivered in any one year (357) equates to 25% of the annual average needed. Given that performance, and the scale of the shortfall, there is little prospect that the rate of delivery of affordable homes will improve significantly in the short to medium term'...
Read the article

Let’s hear it for real planning!

16 June 2021

After years of criticism and endless reform, the UK government seems to have got the message that if you want a high-quality, proactive planning system, you need to pay for it. The announcement of a £500 million funding boost to help get the right staff in the right places was of course welcomed by the Royal Town Planning Institute, with reason...
Read the article

'Realigning the profession’? Don’t make me laugh

09 June 2021

Among his myriad responsibilities, including housebuilding, planning, winter-preparedness for pandemics and quite possibly the efficient supply of kitchen sinks, the housing minister Chris Pincher is also responsible for architecture and architects...
Read the article

Don’t sign crazy contracts!

02 June 2021

It may only be in the UK that clients and their lawyers see architects as soft targets for unethical and penalising contract negotiations. Possibly not, but wherever it may happen, it is similarly unethical...
Read the article

Getting cladding right

25 May 2021

The ongoing nightmare of people living in apartment blocks, with cladding comprising what should correctly be called ‘aluminium composite products’ continues to haunt not just their waking hours, but that of government ministers who seem caught in the headlights about how to handle this...
Read the article

Public space is for everybody

19 May 2021

‘Queering public space’ is the rallying cry of a report from Arup and the University of Westminster. What does it all mean, wonders Paul Finch...
Read the article

Mind your language

12 May 2021

Looking at the flyer for a forthcoming built environment conference, I was struck by the following phrase: ‘If your development doesn't serve women well, it doesn't serve anyone well’. Is there some woke hq churning out this weird stuff? It is on a par with that other meaningless slogan: ‘Unless everybody is Covid-safe, nobody is’...
Read the article

Surreal London goes to the polls

05 May 2021

This week London gets the chance to retain or replace its Mayor, and since it is a mainly Labour city will probably return the incumbent, Sadiq Khan. The election campaign has nevertheless begun to focus on the failings of Khan, who is by far the worse holder of the office since it was inaugurated in 2000...
Read the article

Tall buildings put critics in a tizz – as usual

27 April 2021

It comes as a surprise to a certain sort of media commentator that London is increasingly a focus for the development of tall buildings. The annual survey by the New London Architecture organization has, for several years, noted the increasing number of buildings of more than 18 storeys being proposed in the capital. It should not come as a surprise...
Read the article

Overtime debate generates more heat than light

20 April 2021

London practices are debating that periodic issue: how do you win work without asking staff to work overtime, and if you do so, how should that work be remunerated? This has been prompted by a ginger group of young architects, who are demanding that the RIBA ‘does something’ about this question, though it is unclear how many of the protestors are actually RIBA members...
Read the article

The Duke of Edinburgh was a modern from start to finish

15 April 2021

Reports that the Duke of Edinburgh had designed modifications to a Land Rover, in order to provide the hearse for his own funeral, will have come as a surprise to the public, perhaps. But to anyone who has observed the history of his relationship to the world of design it won’t have been surprising at all...
Read the article

Office values defy the doom-merchants over the future of workspace

8 April 2021

There has been intense debate in London about the future of the office market, or ‘workspace’ market as some like to call it. Office occupiers are split about whether the ‘normal’ market will ever come back, with worker-drones now accustomed to the joys of non-commuting, and the fluid lifestyle home-working can provide...
Read the article

Radical uncertainty rules professional futures

14 October 2021

You have to laugh when you hear broadcasters claiming to be able to foresee the future, or just as bad, seeking answers from people who cannot have any idea what is going to happen either. The truth is none of them know.
Read the article

Architectural truth can be stranger than fiction

1 April 2021

It is good to be back on the World Architecture Festival website, after a decade during which this column appeared in Another Journal. Your correspondent is the same, but the column will now, I hope, have a more internationalist feel, as befits a website which promotes a truly global festival, committed to the entire world rather than a particular country or continent. Of course there will be some London gossip too...
Read the article

By continuing to use the site you agree to our cookies policy. Accept