After a surprising election result, the UK’s architects and designers are reacting to the uncertainty of a hung parliament, and what it means for upcoming Brexit negotiations.
Theresa May’s Conservatives’ remains the largest party in parliament after yesterday’s vote. But it only won 318 seats, eight short of the majority needed to form government, resulting in a hung parliament.
The Tories now intend to form a minority government with the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. However this will significantly impact its ability to negotiate the “hard Brexit” it previously threatened – and which was largely unwelcomed by the creative industries.
The result has been viewed as a triumph for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, which has gained at least 31 seats, bringing it to 261 so far. It is the first time the Labour party has gained seats in an election since 1997.
The UK’s architects and designers have revealed mixed reactions – but many see the result as an opportunity to negotiate a better trade deal with the EU, but are concerned about the political uncertainty it will bring.
“A hung parliament will inevitably lead to greater questioning of the direction the UK will take. This will bring yet more problems, but also opportunities that I for one welcome,” said architect David Kohn.
“It’s a day of mixed emotions,” added Russell Curtis, co-founder of architecture studio RCKa. “Uncertainty over what happens now is doubtless going to have a disruptive effect on the economy – and the construction industry as its bellwether – so my delight is tempered somewhat by the potential impact on the profession in the coming months.
Some believe the result will result in more funding being allocated to public services, infrastructure and culture.
“My belief is that investment in both infrastructure and housing will still be at the top of the list,” said dRMM co-founder Sadie Morgan. “Partnership will be the way forward for both the industry and for, it seems, government.”
These views are reflected in the statement released by the Creative Industries Federation earlier today. The organisation raised concerns about instability, but claims the government no long has any mandate for a hard Brexit.
“This general election vote now offers the opportunity to look at the issue again,” it said.
Read on to find out how architects and designers reacted to the election result in their own words. This list will be updated throughout the day, as more reactions come in.
Sadie Morgan, architect and dRMM co-founder
“The seismic political shifts that are happening in the UK, and indeed the rest of the world, will mean that there will be an inevitable period of instability. My belief is that investment in both infrastructure and housing will still be at the top of the list. Partnership will be the way forward for both the industry and for, it seems, government.
“Regardless of who is running the country, architects need to be much more savvy in their ability to negotiate change and be adaptable enough to benefit from the investment that will inevitably come.
“Hope in, and an understanding of, the future is critical. The fact that we now have the highest number of female MPs in history, and that 72 per cent of 18 to 25 year olds voted, is a great start.”
David Kohn, architect and David Kohn Architects founder
“Brexit remains the biggest issue the UK faces in the coming years. The election has not made the UK’s Brexit position any clearer, as neither of the main parties took the opportunity to set out their policies in any more detail.
“Either the electorate didn’t mind the absence of Brexit debate, focusing on issues closer to home, or they voted in the hope that a different political landscape would lead to greater debate on this issue. Either way, a hung parliament will inevitably lead to greater questioning of the direction the UK will take. This will bring yet more problems, but also opportunities that I for one welcome.
“In terms of architecture and design, the near future is continued political uncertainty, which will affect different practitioners in different ways. Again, this is an opportunity for the architecture and design communities to lobby for their interests which include: continued rights for EU workers in UK businesses, continued access to work in Europe, continued environmental protection, greater delivery of affordable housing, greater investment in arts infrastructure and a general optimism about the future of our built environment if government and designers work together.”
Samuel Wilkinson, designer
“I feel positive about this result. Hopefully it shows that the Conservatives’ approach to a potential hard Brexit is not what a lot of people want. Even if they manage to form a government, they will be pushed other parties to consider a different approach, which can only be a good thing. It’s such an important part of our future, we need all sides represented.
“Hopefully more power to Labour will, at least in the long term, also mean more spending and support for arts and culture, which is really needed.”
Joe Morris, architect and Duggan Morris Architects director
“The events that have unfolded since the snap election was announced by Theresa May in April prove that the will of the many and the voice of the collective have power, that all votes truly count and can make a difference.
“As an internationally diverse team, our practice of architects and designers continues to be defined by the rich culture, experience and ambition of each team member in the collective, NOT by the actions of one individual. We foster a shared belief in the possibility of the creative problem-solving process – a universal approach and methodology of inclusive means and collaboration. This is a methodology promoting a collective attitude to research and decision-making, where the voice of all is heard.
“This is a spectacular own goal for May. Corbyn’s campaign has been utterly captivating, and his passion and clarity of vision is Simpatico with our ethos: for the many, not the few.”
“My re-elected Labour MP Matthew Pennycook talks about the importance of provision for artists studios in this constituency, so on a very local level it is good to have him back with an increased majority. London faces a crisis of affordable spaces for designers and artists to work in and Matthew takes this issue seriously. The more politicians that make this an issue the better for London’s creative future, as we need to support designers looking to start businesses in the capital.
“More broadly I am feeling optimistic about the increase in the young vote. Hopefully now we’ll see more policies designed to appeal to younger audiences, which can only be a good thing. Obviously with a hung parliament we’re now in for a period of economic uncertainty, but perhaps uncertainty is now the norm in the UK for the foreseeable future. Certainly we’re going to continue with a strategy of exporting to keep growing regardless of what happens here in the UK.
“In terms of a broad impact for design; time will tell, but I had imagined the predicted increased Tory majority would be bad for our industry as the creative industries seem to be regarded as somewhat peripheral by the government, so a strong opposition voice could be good for getting the needs of our industry heard. Design (if such a generalisation can be made about a whole industry) seems to be a global industry and if we continue to embrace this with international collaboration and exporting our goods and ideas, the negative local economic impacts could be less turbulent.”
Dara Huang, architect and DH Liberty founder
“I don’t think the result makes any difference for architects – there will be more uncertainty, but no more than there has been since the Brexit vote. Theresa May will carry on running the country without the majority, and we’ll have two more years of uncertainty for Brexit.
“Our work is worldwide – we just opened a New York office for our North American projects – and I think we’ll now see more London architects consultants looking globally. But while I’ve heard from some industry leaders that they’ll use this as an opportunity to jump ship, I plan to keep London as my headquarters and keep my main body of work here.”
Nelly Ben Hayoun, designer
“In my studio, we pride ourselves for designing experiences that exist between the realm of the impossible, chaos and the scientific sublime. Now it seems like the UK is now giving us this pleasurable message that, finally, we are in line with each other. Disorder as a form of unknown pleasure is not new, Joy Division, JG Ballard and many others in the UK saw it coming.
“Right now, all I can say is that I am ecstatic by the results, happy to see that the Labour Party has won so many more seats, and I am confident that in the future they will soon run the parliament, if not the country. Now we are talking. It is time to take over Number 10.
“I believe that innovation rises from conflict. So in this political context of a hung parliament, which ultimately will result in conflicts inside parliament and passive actions – will only support public action against Brexit and activities outside the realm of the expected. Now, more than ever, is the time to be living in the unconventional UK.”
Russell Curtis, architect and RCKa co-founder
“It’s a day of mixed emotions. It’s wonderful that young people came out to vote in such large numbers, reversing a worrying decline in political engagement. Anything we can do to avoid a hard Brexit is welcome, too. However, uncertainty over what happens now is doubtless going to have a disruptive effect on the economy – and the construction industry as its bellwether –so my delight is tempered somewhat by the potential impact on the profession in the coming months.”
Charlotte Skene Catling, architect and Skene Catling de la Peña co-founder
“This election is a turning point. Integrity prevails! Soundbites, platitudes and the politics of fear have been undermined. There’s a new optimism and a possibility for change. It feels that the mainstream media’s control of our elections has been broken.
“I love the rise of the progressive and positive over austerity, destruction and hate. I salute all the young people who got out and voted. The NHS, education and housing are being valued again beyond the merely financial. Integrity prevails in architecture too; money can no longer be the only goal, a different measure of dreams is coming. The arts thrive in times of political confusion. I hope now there’ll be an explosion of creativity.”
Photograph of Jeremy Corbyn is by Andy Miah.
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