If the Olympics were a showcase for the UK, why couldn't architects blow their trumpets too?
It was great that the RIBA and New London Architecture, with the Institution of Structural Engineers, came out into the open with a burst of name-the-Olympic-designer publicity during the 2012 Games. It was done in a spirit of fun – the T-shirts, That Dress, the duct tape over the mouths of Presidents Brady and Nolan, along with our former editor Peter Murray, now director of NLA. The serious underlying point was the ridiculous ban on designers promoting their Olympic work – though some, it seems, are more banned than others. I doubt that Thomas Heatherwick is complaining about the global publicity he received for his kinetic Olympic Cauldron, or Barber Osgerby for its Torch, while those involved in music and film for the Games are promoting themselves with vigour and seeming impunity. Nobody has ever stopped anyone in the media from naming the architects of the various venues. Seriously – if you set out to publicise your Olympian designs, were you really going to have your collar felt? If all the architects and engineers involved did just that, would they have really all ended up in court? Somehow I doubt it, especially given the high-profile backing of their institutes in this way.
Now the party is over, we are promised not a hangover, but a construction boom. The story is that the Games’ ‘legacy’ effect will transform East London as central London expands. Central London is expanding anyway, especially south – the Shard and its hinterland are clear evidence of that. But London is a bubble compared to the nation as a whole. Overall, construction output is well down, though the early-warning experience of architects would suggest it is about to start rising again. Whatever happens, good architecture needs patrons, which is why, in this issue, we look at client-architect relationships. When the right client finds the right architect, everything starts looking up.