The last year has seen a dramatic political shift to the right in the Western world (and elsewhere), marked in particular by Brexit and the election of Donald J. Trump. Alongside the former, the Tories secured a firm grip on the UK, with Prime Minister Theresa May stepping in to fill the void left after David Cameron’s departure. In the United States, the Republican party has an equally secure hold over the country and its future, controlling all three branches of government.
With this turn to the right, the built environment will undoubtedly change significantly. Cuts to government-subsidized housing are expected in both countries. Meanwhile, much-need infrastructural updates may—or may not—be on the horizon in the U.S., as they were one of the primary campaign promises of the President-elect.
Therefore, it’s not really a surprise that architects on both sides of the Atlantic have voiced opinions on the direction their countries are heading. Two architectural organizations have just released open letters. In the UK, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has issued a statement following the PM’s ‘Brexit Speech’, in which she committed the country to a ‘hard Brexit’, pending some level of Parliamentary approval. That means: no access to the EU’s single market, the restriction of the free movement of peoples, and leaving the European court of justice.
Here’s the statement given by RIBA President Jane Duncan:
I welcome the Prime Minister setting out further details on the UK’s relationship with the EU. After the referendum vote, we outlined a number of key priorities to allow for the continued success of our industry. This included ensuring that the UK could access the best global talent and fill skills gaps, allowing a continuation of vital UK/EU partnership work in research and innovation, and recognising the need to further devolve powers to support a better built environment across the UK. I'm pleased to see the Government recognise how vital such measures are to UK success.
However, continued uncertainty over the status of EU citizens currently living and working in the UK, and of UK citizens living and working in the EU is casting a long shadow over the architecture sector. Around one quarter of ARB registered
architects are EU citizens, and they make a substantial contribution to our vital industry. Our Government and governments across the EU must act swiftly to resolve this issue. Stability for the economy must continue to be the Government’s top priority over the coming months and years. The detail of the UK’s new trading relationships with the EU and with partners across the world is what will drive the success of our sector. I urge this government to continue it dialogue with industry so that we can secure the best deal for all.”
And then, across the pond, the group Architects Advocate, which pushes for greater action on climate change, has also released a letter:
As American architects, we are dedicated to creating healthy, productive, and safe communities for all. We are committed to doing so in a way that is economically viable, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable. In these communities, families and businesses thrive. Throughout our great history we have always depended on the natural environment. It has nurtured us and has enabled vast freedom, growth, innovation, and profit. Today we are already experiencing the
potentially irreversible negative impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. American prosperity is at risk. Our children and grandchildren face the real possibility of our country and world in turmoil. Because buildings alone account for almost 40% of total U.S. energy use and 72% percent of U.S. electricity use, America’s architects are on the front line addressing climate change in a meaningful way.
Action on climate change is supported across party lines by significant majorities of Americans, including the military and leaders of industry, faith, science, and education. By taking decisive action now we all can be remembered as historic and courageous actors who helped secure humanity’s future. We can turn our climate challenge into an unrivaled economic opportunity that creates desirable and healthy jobs in rural and urban communities alike.
All Americans win if:
Together, we can ensure our children and grandchildren will remember us with pride.
229 Architecture Firms
24 Landscape Architecture Firms
21 Design + Consulting Industry Firms
Check out the image gallery to see the full list of firms who signed the letter.