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Affordable, Innovative, Thoughtful, Profitable

Part 4

Why do you think so few architects have made the same kind of comments that you have?

Maybe there's a lot of new architects coming through, but I think a lot don't feel that housing is part of their remit. I think a lot of architects feel that housing is for house builders. And yet house building is the thing that has the most impact on our lives - no doubt about that.

I really like Norman Foster's 'Gherkin' - I like the idea that you can see it from all over and to me it's not ugly. But it doesn't impact on the lives of people - it won't even impact that much on the lives of people that work in it, because like anything else that would have been built, once you're in it, once you've got your head down at the desk. You won't think "Great, I'm going to work" because it's in that building - it might improve it a little bit, if it's done well and the air conditioning is all correct and the light's all lovely for you to work in, but you're still going to look forward to going home at night.

I think that architects are trained to enter competitions and spend half their bloody lives entering competitions; it's ingrained in them. It's even a competition to win the site. Their whole lives are built around competitions and I think that's probably not such a good thing. It would drive me mad! If you're doing that, you're trying to out-do the competition all the time, and therefore housing is seen as very mundane. And yet to me it's the most important thing we can build.

Do you think it's also the case that architects feel that if they're any good they'll be designing for wealthy clients or very prestigious sites.

Yes, I think that's right. I also think there's such a big gulf between the house builder and the architect. It will get repaired. When I say things like this in a talk, a lot of architects come and say to me, "Well, that might be the case with some architects but I want to work with housing". There are lots of young architects coming up and saying they want to do it. So there are some good signs there. There is a gulf though - house builders are very wary of architects because they cost the house builder.

It isn't easy to cost things in any business but you've got to get a bit closer then some of these buggers are doing. The whole history of architects working with house builders is, "We didn't make profit on that scheme".

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