How have architects and architecture changed over your career?
Drawing: The 60’s was pencil and graphos pens on tracing paper with dyeline machines, then Rapidographs and Letraset, then CAD and plotters. Pencil and paper is still the quickest way to start!
Teams: Bigger now, more specialized inputs, requiring more time to motivate and lead
Architects’ Education: Few courses turn out work-ready staff, so practices have to invest.
Fulfilment: Has become more elusive with fewer opportunities to make ideas become buildings.
Industry: Big contractors have become very professional; demise of multi trades ‘builders’; contact with specialist sub-contractors more limited by time and contract.
Evidence Base and User Feedback: Still the missing link in the learning loop.
Review Panels: New in the 21st century and they do assist planners in last minute attempts to raise quality.
The S-word: ‘Long life, low energy, loose fit’ is still best, thanks to Alex Gordon PRIBA 1974.
Urban Design: Started as ‘Townscape’ in the era of architect/civic planners who were custodians of civic realm, and now essential to fill the widening gap between policy-driven planners and red-line constrained architects.
Conservation Areas: The first was in 1967. Started in response to – dislike of post-war modern buildings, CDAs (Comprehensive Development Areas) destruction of inner cities, emerging appreciation of Victorian era buildings (it does take about 60 years for an era to be cherished), fear of the new, and a general public reaction to rapid change.
Public Opinion: Much more TV discussion about design, but its value remains under appreciated. The spec’ development business model creates lack of choice so the banal will always sell.
Consultation: In the 1980’s the ‘percent for consultation’ idea acknowledged an extra service and programme period needed; all work is now included in a lower lump sum fee and erodes ‘Time for Design’ (EP 1996)
Quality: Despite endless DQI lists since Vitruvius, there is no substitute for talent.
Competitions: Every commission involves some sort of competition. In the 70’s and 80’s competition shortlists were often clusters of similar ethos practices, thus revealing the client’s affinity with a certain architectural approach. Then public procurement with PFI, OJEU, EoI, ITT, etc, led to objective, low-risk, economically advantageous, non-visual methods of selection, and rarely innovative design.
Remuneration: Now barely adequate for real design and responsibilities carried.
High-rise Housing: Ronan Point collapse in 1968 led to a backlash. Lack of adequate maintenance funds may be the next rude awakening for high-rise leaseholders.
Social housing: In 1966 150,000 homes were built, by 2013 just 43,000. Right to Buy, introduced in 1980, has seen 1.87m local authority homes sold in England, and triggered the sudden decline in building them.
Materials: Low budgets in the 70’s led to nontraditional building systems and claddings; good that bricks are back.
Distinctiveness: Decades of ‘everywhere and nowhere’ now drives the quest for genius loci-inspired design.
Clients: Pre-Thatcher many were other architects (City Architects and Development Corporation Chiefs) who read about our work and wanted some; this is still true in the private sector. They seem to be getting younger, and wiser.
David Prichard and Neil Deely first worked together at MJP Architects and in 2005 set up Metropolitan Workshop together.
David semi-retired in 2015, but that doesn’t seem to have slowed him down!