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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.
WW+P have closed our UK studios for the next few weeks and set up the technology to ensure business as usual and enable all our work to be carried out at home to help slow down the spread of Covid-19. We have ensured that all our teams have the technology to communicate and to be able to securely access the files which they need to work efficiently. It will be challenging but will teach us to work better.
The Weston Williamson mission statement talks about Creating Civilised Cities so quite often I am asked what constitutes a civilised city. The big picture answer is that our work encourages people to use safe, efficient, convenient, well designed public transport rather than their cars and free the streets for pedestrians and cyclists.
Valerie Le Vaillant, who recently became Master of the Company of Architects, has announced that apprenticeships are to be her major focus for the year. This is a subject close to my heart. I am as passionate about social mobility as others rightly are about race and gender equality. To me social mobility embraces all types of inequality and disadvantage. As a member of Valerie's Education Committee under John Assael as Chair, I will do everything I can to help.
The story goes that Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a novel in six words. His brilliant response was “For Sale. Baby shoes, never worn”. It conjures up a tale of grief, heartbreak and tragedy. All in six words.
I’ve just read Jeroen De Flander’s book “The Art of Performance”. He cites numerous examples where people of all ages and abilities have achieved greatness through demonstrating three stages of behaviour: 1. Passion and Purpose 2. Deep Practice and 3. Persistence.
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.
I remember a TV interview with Paul McCartney and (I think) Michael Parkinson where they were discussing the writing of 'I saw her standing there'. McCartney proudly sang his first lines 'She was just seventeen. She could have been a beauty queen’ when John Lennon suggested the second line should be 'You know what I mean'.
I’ve just been listening to Carly Simon talking about the writing of 'You're so Vain'. It's a brilliant pop song - in August 2014, the UK's Official Charts Company crowned it the ultimate song of the 1970s. Like most creations it feels as though it came together easily and perfectly.
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.