Bold, intelligent, tranquil, inspiring, delicate, astonishing, assertive – there are more than 60 RIBA Regional Awards for London in 2018. We've grouped them into five handy categories: arts, commercial, community, private houses and residential
London, characterised by contradiction, hypocrisy, inconsistency, inhumanity, inequality and intense beauty, is the perfect Petri dish for deeply creative architectural responses. All this plus the inordinate pressure of people and the endless question of where to put them? We can’t go up (skyline), we can’t go down (water table) we can’t go in between (garden-grabbing). These constraints are the life blood of architects. We may rail against injustice but it’s good to feel needed.
Difficult sites also spur new types of London developer. A few years ago these were mainly taken on by boutique speculators with low overheads and maybe the odd savvy architect. Now they are beginning to be tackled by bigger beasts, seeking to emulate the successes of the small guys. Ambitious councils are setting up arm’s length development companies to look at small sites programmes, which would never have been financially viable before, and are pursuing them with idealistic, design-led gusto. Community Land Trusts are getting projects off the ground. Unusual partnerships are forming, with arts-focused developers looking to fill the void of artists’ housing in the city.
We are also seeing more mainstream interest in design quality: the word ‘beauty’ – long derided as implicitly flighty, indulgent, subjective, altogether too feminine for serious discussion – was even used by our (short-lived) last housing minister.
This seems to indicate a wider audience embracing design. Perhaps the idea successfully trialled by the tech businesses, that design is king, has percolated down to the construction industry. Areas traditionally dominated by specialist practices have opened up to new bidders, breathing fresh air into stale spaces, the Cinderellas of architecture: hospitals and housing. And proving that a fresh pair of eyes can sometimes outweigh decades of experience.
Tatiana von Preussen is director of vPPR Architects
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