When you read that architects are "award winning" it is a pretty reliable sign that their output will be hideous and show more regard for winning an award than for the plight of the poor suckers expected to live and work in the monstrosities they have created. So it is depressing that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson announces that he is spending £8 million of our money on a scheme that will surely result in new homes in the capital being uglier than they would otherwise have been.
The ploy is to give modernist architects control of the design for self build homes, and projects under the community right to build initiative. There could be all sorts of good ways to encourage these schemes. The worst possible option, and the one chosen, is a subsidy for those who opt for ugly design.
The press release says:
The Mayor, who has already introduced a design guide for new homes as part of his London Plan, has enlisted the help of leading London architects and designers who have offered to help successful
applicants refine their ideas into projects which will improve the capital’s neighbourhoods and make them better places to live, work and invest in.
Ben Derbyshire, managing director of awarding winning architects HTA; Peter Murray, architect and chairman of New London Architecture; David Birkbeck, chief executive Design for Homes and Tamsie Thomson, director at the Royal Institute of British Architects, are all lending their expertise to the initiative, helping successful bidders to bring their ideas to fruition through specialist design review sessions.
Just look at the awful homes (or rather "housing units") churned out by HTA. Or those from New London Architecture. Or Design for Homes. Then weep. Ironically, the worst of the bunch, from the perspective of the Prince of Wales, is RIBA.
If the Government and the Mayor of London want to promote what most people would regard as good design there are a few good firms of neo-classical architects. There is, of course, the Princes Foundation for Building Community. For half a century we have seen the disastrous impact of the planning and architectural establishment in blighting our nation. Why do the Mayor and the Government choose to strengthen rather than break their stranglehold?