UK architects and designers react to result of EU referendum
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UK architects and designers react to "nightmare" result of EU referendum

Brexit crisis: the UK's architects and designers have been left reeling by the results of yesterday's referendum, in which the country voted to leave the European Union.

The result, which came through overnight, was split 52 per cent in favour of leave, and 48 per cent remain.

Architects and designers including Richard Rogers, Amanda Levete, Ilse Crawford, Philippe Malouin and Benjamin Hubert are among those to have expressed their disappointment with the outcome.

"What a nightmare," said Roger Hawkins, co-founder of architecture firm Hawkins\Brown. "The lack of proper debate in the referendum has been alarming. It has generated the worst in some people and the best in very few."

"I'm extremely disappointed, both in what's going to happen and the mentality of the country we live in," commented designer and Layer studio founder Benjamin Hubert.

Every designer and architect who spoke to Dezeen earlier this week said they would vote to remain in the EU.

Their views were reflected in the areas of London, Scotland, Northern Ireland, all of which voted strongly to remain. Outside the capital and major cities, almost every English region voted to leave.

Following the result, many architects and designers expressed concern for the direct impact the uncertainty over the next few years would affect their business and employees.

"All those questions left hanging by those leading the drive towards leaving the EU will now have to be answered," the partners at Rogers Stirk Harbour said in a statement.

"This result is not only significant for our practice but especially for the important proportion of our staff for whom this is not only a signal of a new, less open Britain but one that may lead to real and practical changes in their lives."

A few tried to strike a more optimistic note, choosing to see the level of political engagement around the referendum as a positive.

"Of course I'm extremely disappointed, but I have to respect the majority decision," said Amanda Levete, architect and founder of AL_A. "The debate has engaged the nation, especially younger people, and it can only be a positive to see people talking passionately about the future."

The Royal Institute of British Architects put out a statement addressing the uncertainty over withdrawal and seeking to reassure the industry.

"In common with other UK businesses and organisations, the RIBA is assessing the short and longer term effect of the withdrawal on our members and the Institute and we will provide further guidance in due course," said RIBA president Jane Duncan.

"Most importantly, we will work with colleagues in industry and government to ensure that architects have a strong voice in the coming weeks, months and years."

European illustrators have shared their reactions in pictorial form via Instagram and Twitter.

Read on to find out how architects and designers have reacted to the UK's vote to leave the EU in their own words:


Amanda Levete, architect, founder of AL_A

Amanda Levete portrait by Dezeen

Of course I'm extremely disappointed, but I have to respect the majority decision.

The debate has engaged the nation, especially younger people, and it can only be a positive to see people talking passionately about the future. However, our politicians need to get better at articulating what we have in common rather than what divides us.

We will continue to work both in Europe and around the world – and continue to express our commonality of ideals – democracy, openness, tolerance, and creativity.


Philippe Malouin, designer, director of Post-Office

Philippe Malouin

It is a shame that Brexit will limit free movement from EU nationals into the UK in order to live and work.

The immense creative and cultural exchange that we currently get to experience will be restricted. This exchange is at the very heart of the design world and enriched all of us. I believe that our industry and many others will suffer from this.


Richard Rogers, Graham Stirk, Ivan Harbour and partners from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

rogers-stirk-harbour-dezeen-sq

Where do we go from here? We now face a difficult period of great uncertainty. All those questions left hanging by those leading the drive towards leaving the EU will now have to be answered. This will take years and in the interim requires great adaptability and resilience from us all.

Most importantly we need to know what will happen with those relationships – contractual, personal and professional – that will have to be forged anew as a consequence of this vote.

This result is not only significant for our practice but especially for the important proportion of our staff for whom this is not only a signal of a new, less open Britain but one that may lead to real and practical changes in their lives. In the aftermath of a divisive campaign, we will need to heal the wounds not just within a dis-United Kingdom but with our neighbours across Europe.

Going forward, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners will continue to be an inclusive and internationally-minded practice steeped in the values of a broad European culture.


Ilse Crawford, designer, founder of StudioIlse

Portrait Ilse Crawford

Today a Design Academy Eindhoven education for British students has shifted from costing €1984 a year to €8,575 for a Bachelors degree or €14,554 for a Masters degree (non EU rates).

In general it's going to be much more difficult for talent to cross borders both ways. Not a good thing.


Jane Duncan, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects

RIBA president Jane Duncan

The RIBA is a global organisation that supports its members, validates schools of architecture and champions the importance of a quality built environment around the world. UK architecture talent is incredibly resilient and we will continue to ensure that our profession has a bright future, whatever the operating environment.

Clearly there is uncertainty about the timescales and impact on a range of issues important to our industry including free movement in the EU for architects as well as students, trading and material sourcing, inward investment relationships, EU procurement rules and the effect on the construction sector if restrictions are placed on EU migration.

In common with other UK businesses and organisations, the RIBA is assessing the short and longer term effect of the withdrawal on our members and the Institute and we will provide further guidance in due course.

Most importantly, we will work with colleagues in industry and government to ensure that architects have a strong voice in the coming weeks, months and years.


Benjamin Hubert, designer, founder of Layer

Benjamin Hubert portrait

I'm extremely disappointed, both in what's going to happen and the mentality of the country we live in.

You can already start to see the effects on the market and things like that, but the bigger thing is that I think people missed the point that togetherness and inclusiveness is strength and modernity, and this backwards, isolated, often bigoted point of view on primarily immigration – which is where this referendum has swung on – is unbelievable really.


Bob Sheil, director of The Bartlett School of Architecture

Bob Sheil, Bartlett School of Architecture

This is not a result any of us wanted. But the role of academia is to work within the environment you're in, and I think the Bartlett's strengths have always been in how we react to uncertainty. I have a lot of confidence in our ability as an academic centre of thinking to try and resolve this for ourselves. The foreground issue for us is now how creativity and views about the future, which are often built around critical optimism, address concerns about xenophobia and racism. It's really heavy shit out there and it is quite upsetting.

In the end I don't think it will impact on the talent that we attract to study here. But we will feel more isolated.

I feel very sad for the Brits who have voted for it so strongly. In a way, the areas that voted for this will be the areas that will be the most affected, sadly. That is what is so crazy about it. For us, it's not going to make such a big difference. We've been an international academy now for nearly 30 years. Students work all over the world, and they come from all over the world. We worked out this morning that about 30 per cent of our staff are British, about 40 per cent of our students are British. We're a big international school, with big international agendas.

Britain has made this decision. Today is day one of having to work our way through this. What that means generally for higher education is that we're not just a place that provides graduates with work and practice in the construction industry, we're a place of learning and study, and the role of higher education is to educate. There is an awful lot of education that needs to be done about how to think this through, and how to build bridges, rather than condemn people who have – in my view – made a terrible decision.


Alison Brooks, architect, founder of Alison Brooks Architects

Alison Brooks

I describe Brexit as the One Giant Leap Backwards. I'm dismayed that Britain has chosen to isolate itself from the European project. How can we claim to be citizens of the world concerned for the welfare of our planet when we can't even be citizens of Europe? The UK has so clearly benefitted from the 30 years of hard work and creative stimulus of our pan-European workforce. The consequences for architecture and design culture in the UK are serious.

On a pragmatic level, the Leave camp cannot be aware that most construction materials in the UK are imported from Europe. Virtually all cladding systems, windows, structural timber, tiles, kitchens, porcelain ware, zinc, copper and high-quality steel are all supplied from Europe. The pound's reduced purchasing power means that architectural quality will suffer as a consequence. Already precarious, the moments of generosity in UK development, particularly in housing, could vanish. This will make our jobs and our clients' jobs harder, compounding the damage done by five years of construction cost inflation.

A positive outcome might be that the referendum has exposed the shallow rhetoric and cynicism of party politics in the UK, where egotism and selfish interests are put ahead of the common good. Hopefully this will galvanise the younger generation to challenge and steer politics in an entirely new direction. The referendum could trigger wholesale change in Britain's leadership in a way that could repair the damage done by the current government. I have the eternal optimist's faith in the idealism and open-mindedness of our younger generation. They'll ensure that Britain will re-join Europe.


Sebastian Cox, designer

Sebastian Cox

My initial reaction was of complete despair, but we can't change it. It's what the public want and I respect the democratic process. So this morning I went into work an hour early and cracked on with trying to stabilise my business to make sure that we've got work, because the next 12 months looks very different for us now.

I started my business in the depths of the recession and I'm sure we'll be okay, but we're going to have work really hard. I'm not going to be whinging, sad or complaining though. We need to get our heads down and try to survive.

I think it's going to be very difficult for the design industry as a whole because we rely on confidence, and confidence is going to be at rock bottom. If the property market is affected, surely furniture doesn't sell as well.

The hope I have is that the businesses that were doing well yesterday are those that made it through the recession. We're all probably going to be able to trim back and survive again.


Roger Hawkins, architect, co-founder of Hawkins\Brown

Roger Hawkins

What a nightmare. The lack of proper debate in the referendum has been alarming. It has generated the worst in some people and the best in very few.

We elect Members of Parliament to represent our interests and expect them to act with foresight and intelligence. A vote in the House of Commons would have been significantly in favour of remain so why did we even expose ourselves to this process? We have been hijacked by a negative, short-sighted Little Englander mentality. No doubt this result will have an impact on immigration figures because a lot of people will want to leave the country.


Nicolas Roope, entrepreneur, founder of Plumen

Nicholas Roope

I'm shocked and saddened, but also curious to see how this plays out. Now that we're all committed to this sovereignty experiment, we have to make the best of it that we can. Maybe the 52 percent of brexiters were on to something. Only time will tell.


Paul White, architect, director of Buckley Gray Yeoman

Paul White, Buckley Gray Yeoman

This is not the decision we were hoping the country would make. This decision is likely to signal a period of political and economic instability for the UK, with almost certainly a change in prime minister, panicked financial markets and a lack of confidence in the economy as a whole. This decision is likely to have a negative effect on the construction industry and our workload.

Serious consideration is being made in our office about starting a petition for London entitled 'Take us with you Europe'.


Liam Treanor, designer

liam-treanor-portrait-brexit_dezeen_sq

I'm devastated. I'm living in a country I no longer recognise. We've always supported causes that are positive on a global scale as well as of course a European scale. We've always tried to look after those closest to us.

Things can get messy very quickly in politics. What worries me the most is our lack of strength now. I personally think we have an obligation to look after migrants, which is an issue causing turmoil in EU states, and we've actually been very selfish in this decision to leave.

I trade a lot with EU states and I imagine they are going to be put off trading with Britain. I like to think there won't be too much of a grudge but I think it will have a negative impact on my business.

People are scared and it's time to make plans for the next couple of years just so that businesses like my own can stay afloat. We hope for growth but I think it will be on a more modest scale than what would have been possible had we remained in the European Union.