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I had a dreadful sense of foreboding and as I closed the door to our studio in Waterloo at the start of the March lockdown. I knew I would miss the exchange of ideas and the casual conversations about our business, about design. I worried that the technology to work from home would measure up. I’ve never been a fan of working from home. I need colleagues. It’s all I’ve known. Whenever one of my Partners over the past 35 years is “working from home” my first thought is “day off”. I fear I may even have expressed that view from time to time. It’s my background. Work means going somewhere to work. Yet here we are 9 months later and although some of us have ventured back to the office, I’ve changed. We all have.
In my role as a mentor for both the RIBA and the Company of Architects I found myself looking through the list of AJ100 Architects over the weekend in order to assist one of my mentees. It was interesting to see just how many were represented by the Architects Company. The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects (to give it it’s full name) is a modern Livery Company.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the isolation of rural communities from the country’s transport infrastructure.
With a growing elderly and vulnerable population, matched with splintering social structures, many find themselves lacking access to social and communal support. Meanwhile, rural bus services are increasingly underfunded and underused, constantly threatened with closure at great detriment to those who rely on them to support their daily lives.
Digital technology is rapidly changing the way that airports operate, streamlining efficiency and creating new possibilities for improving `end to end’ customer experience. By adopting a more human perspective, airports can spatially respond to the demands of the aging population, in particular passengers with dementia.
In September 2019 when no-one had heard of Covid-19 Chris was asked to introduce a Symposium organised by the RIBA on the subject of ‘The Happy City’ in Kuwait. The introduction has been updated, filmed and is available to watch here.
I was asked to help at a new local vaccination centre next to Wembley Stadium. You will be pleased to know that I wasn’t let anywhere near a syringe. Or even the plasters. I was put outside in the car park to help direct the steady stream of visitors.
During the Covid-19 lockdown many of us have had the chance to appreciate nature a little more than usual. Maybe for some spending time in their gardens, others the local park or walking round the local streets. For others spending time by a river trying to focus on the sunlight glinting on the water in Durham before starting a long journey home.
As I’m writing this (working from home obviously) it occurs to me that it is five years to the day that Bill Gates gave his TED talk predicting the pandemic we are now in the middle of. If you haven’t seen it, you might find it interesting. But even in 2015 it was nothing we didn’t know.
At Dubai Cityscape I gave a presentation promoting the advantages of Polycentric Cities citing London as an example. London was formed from small distinct communities such as Chelsea, Dalston, Hampstead and Brixton, which have grown together into a fantastic world city. The extensive underground rail system has helped enormously bind the city together but even now there are distinct communities.
This month, Kuwait is hosting a symposium on the subject of “Happiness in the City”. The event will provide a unique platform for cultural, creative and technical minds from the UK and the Gulf to explore the issue of how our built environments can be designed to promote happiness and wellbeing. The symposium has been organised by the RIBA in conjunction with the DiT.
As we contemplate how our high streets must reinvent themselves in light of the rise of online and the shift toward the experiential, it is perhaps not a coincidence that we are seeing the shopping centre break free from its internalised focus and look much more urban.
The emphasis on reducing carbon emissions is forcing all of us to examine the way we travel. Greta Thunberg sailed to New York over 15 days rather than flying in six hours. This is commercially unsustainable for most businesses. But there could be other solutions.