RIBA Regional Awards 2014: North West
Dave King and Jonathan Falkingham, Liverpool: Working in the north west is either a blessing for an architect or fraught with trial and tribulation – it depends how you practise and what kind of designer you aspire to be. First there’s accommodation – there are wonderful office premises to be had at a fraction of inflated London prices and it’s the same with residential property, which is seductive to the experienced architect with a family. Very beautiful countryside is within easy reach and London’s just over two hours away by train, making it possible to do business in the capital on a ‘day return’ basis.
Now for the downside – commissions, more and more of which emanate from public, government and OJEU sources and are being awarded only to London-based practices. Of course there is an argument for this when an outfit with a proven track record and large resources pitches for out of town work. The same travel arrangements can apply in reverse and a regional ‘outrigger’ office at a very economic rent can look attractive to work hungry metropolitan practices.
But even though the – extremely supportive – RIBA actively supports the wealth of established award winning practices in the north west, this rather perverse logic can trip up a regional practice pitching for work in London, even though regional practices can be more than a match for those based in the capital. Perhaps they don’t sing their own praises enough or move in the right circles. There’s definitely still a London-centric balance in terms of events available for networking. Sadly ‘north of Watford’ is still heard; even the demeaning ‘provincial’.
Recently, though, organisations such as ‘Liverpool in London’ (chamber of commerce) are tilting the balance to the regions. The 2014 ‘festival of business’ is imminent. Architects here must ensure their ambitions include the south east since they have the talent and the infrastructure. London is a world city just a commute away. OJEU take note.
Dave King and Jonathan Falkingham are founders at shedkm