British architects have become political and cultural punch-bags, and the Budget’s “radically relaxed” planning rules in Enterprise Zones will batter them even more. Ruth Reed, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba), welcomes the Chancellor’s proposal with a pathos-laden hope that the new rules will “protect the essential requirements of sustainability and good design”.
George Osborne’s “gift” to enterprise, and Ms Reed’s painfully dutiful response to it, highlights the fact that the architectural profession is riven by confusion. Are architects cultured designers or glorified triage surgeons working in towns and cities lacerated by architectural collateral damage caused by political and commercial expediency, rubber-stamped by planners?
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, thinks architects are conniving bread-heads. Sir David Chipperfield, one of Britain’s most culturally thoughtful architects, says the profession’s rising generation of new talent has been blocked from competing for major projects. Our Government has no rigorous interest in architectural standards. And now, even the Riba is daring to suggest that the current version of homo architectus could die out by 2025.