Amanda Levete warns UK government: "Do not mess with trans-European collaboration"
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Amanda Levete warns UK government: "Do not mess with trans-European collaboration"

London architect Amanda Levete has warned that, if the UK government doesn't provide certainty over Brexit soon, it will result in a major shortfall in the country's creative talent pool.

Speaking at a Brexit conference in London yesterday, the AL_A founder said that the UK leaving the European Union is set to dismantle a "spirit of co-operation" that has taken decades to build, and has huge implications for the creative industries.

"My message to our leaders is: do not mess with this trans-European collaboration," she told the audience.

"It's not just about trade and what we can extract, it's about culture and society. It's about the exchange of talent and knowledge and respect for each other's nations."

Levete considering part-relocation to Paris

Levete revealed she is considering moving part of her architectural studio to Paris, in the fear she won't be able to recruit enough talented staff after Brexit.

She previously raised the idea during a Brexit design summit hosted by Dezeen in 2016 – even though, she said, it goes against the collaborative approach she wants to promote in her practice.

Amanda Levete said she is considering moving part of her studio to Paris in the wake of Brexit

"I would be derelict in my duty if I were not now exploring the potential for having a base in the EU," she said.

"We are being actively encouraged to set up an office in Paris and they're making it financially competitive because they see the value that a practice like ours would bring to the city," she continued.

"But this is a distraction for us and it sends the wrong message. Our studio and our discipline have collaboration at its core. Having separate offices for people with different passports runs completely counter to those values."

Talent must be imported so ideas can be exported

The Creative Industries Federation invited Levete to give the speech as part of an event billed as the "single largest gathering of creative industries on Brexit".

The conference took place at the National Gallery in London yesterday, 15 March 2018, and featured a series of high-profile speakers, including UK creatives, business leaders and politicians. The aim was to set out priorities, to help inform the government's Brexit trade negotiations, and to emphasise the £92 billion contribution that the creative industries make to the UK economy.

Levete said that, without access to talent and expertise from Europe, she feared the UK would struggle to maintain its position as a world leader in architecture and design.

"In the 20th century, Britain went from the position of being the "workshop of the world" when we sent finished goods across the globe, to being the "workshop for the world", importing talent and exporting ideas," she stated.

"If we can't import the talent, how can we export the ideas?"

V&A would be different in post-Brexit Britain

The architect also suggested that her latest big project – the new wing of the V&A museum in London – would have been inferior if completed after the UK left the European Union.

"We depended on talent and expertise from architects and specialists from across Europe," she explained.

Victoria & Albert museum by AL_A
Levete suggested her V&A museum extension would have been inferior if completed after the UK left the European Union

"By way of example, the porcelain tiles for the courtyard required two years of intense research with a manufacturer based in The Netherlands. Yes, we have great manufacturers in Britain. But we cannot replace the expertise that we don't have," she added.

"Tichelaar is the oldest company in Holland and they've been working with ceramics for over 400 years. In future, Dutch tiles may prove to be too expensive and we'll have to use cheaper, inferior products for our national museums."

Levete warned that uncertainty about the UK's trade future with Europe will not only discourage talented staff but will also affect the way that institutions like the V&A operate.

"All clients – and especially public institutions – need cost certainty. But unknown tariffs and delays at customs will give cause for alarm," she said.

"Rather than a bold new Britain, we will become more cautious and risk-averse. And that runs completely counter to creative thinking."

Loss of talent will dilute UK's creative voice

Levete ranked at number 134 on Dezeen Hot List 2017.

She has long opposed the UK's vote to leave the EU, in the referendum that took place on 23 June 2016. She was among hundreds of high-profile architects and designers that signed the Dezeen Brexit Manifesto, which set out guidelines for what the architecture and design industry needed to thrive after Brexit.

Two years later, she said one of her biggest concerns is that the culture of "democracy, openness and creativity" that has underpinned the UK's creative sector is under threat.

"The creative industries are engaged, enterprising and solve problems every day. It's what we do," she said.

"We have a voice that is listened to and respected on an international stage. But loss of talent will hugely dilute our voice and the UK's pre-eminence in the creative sector. We need to mobilise now and to hold our leaders to account – so that Britain remains a creative nation - of hope, diversity and tolerance."

Other speakers at the event included screenwriter and director Amma Asante, artistic director and ballet dancer Tamara Rojo, and arts and philanthropy adviser Munira Mirza.

Read on for Levete's entire speech in full: