Is Quality Public Architecture Finished in the UK?


Staying across the pond for one more post this morning: While things have looked gloomy for years now in the profession architecture, there have been some lights at the end of some tunnels, like the AIA‘s recent report that predicts fairly widespread turnarounds as early as next year, designer and architect Rab Bennetts tells the Guardian that he believes public projects across his native UK are in for a particularly horrible series of years. Bennetts is just now wrapping up his new and high-profile Royal Shakespeare Theater, which he believes might be the very last impressive publicly-funded building England is able to afford, given both the worldwide recession and a host of other financial problems currently plaguing his country:

“When we had the last deep recesssion, the building and construction industry lost half a million people and I don’t think they ever came back. We are talking about a permanent loss of jobs and skills. And construction is the second biggest industry in the country, so of course it can depress the whole economy.”

…”I wish there could be some kind of flywheel that could stabilise the extremes of building in times of both boom and bust. Clearly, some of the buildings that went up over the last 10 years weren’t necessary and were just monuments to their creators. But although there were excesses, it will look like a golden age,” he added.

Of course there’s always another side to every coin and as such, fellow Guardianian Vanessa Thorpe spoke to readers who pulled out lots of examples of great public projects built during the UK’s last major recession. She also asks if maybe the industry improves from having bust and boom cycles, just like most other businesses do. If anything, even if public building stops completely and things like schools and hospitals start crumbling and getting overcrowded, at least the UK will have private industry to build things like London’s new Strata Tower. And isn’t the UK right in the middle of lots of building for the Olympics?