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Sorrell challenges architects to give us more delight

Sir John Sorrell has called for a new generation of architects with the attitude and talent to make Britain more delightful.

Photo by Tim Ellis

Photo by Tim Ellis

Sorrell challenged the architecture profession, in a talk at Tate Modern on 16 November 2009, to stop being the servant of poor quality development. ‘We need architects who offer more than just artistic direction. People with the confidence to challenge the client and influence the brief.  Architects who will resign a job if it is destined to create a bad building’, says Sorrell.

The speech made the case for new and different values underpinning the architecture which should emerge from this recession. He argued that many architects have exactly the optimism and inventiveness which Britain needs to progress from an age of anxiety to an era of delight.

Sorrell also called on the Government to sustain investment in public buildings, particularly schools. He argued that Government should not squander the investment already made, and it should use the emerging quality of public buildings as a springboard for the future.

‘I would go so far as to say that the art of public building has been refound.
Sir John Sorrell, chair of CABE

‘I would go so far as to say that the art of public building has been refound,’ claims Sorrell, citing a raft of recent projects including the Marlowe Academy, the Kentish Town Health Centre, Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Castleford Bridge and Northala Fields.

His talk reflected on lessons to be learnt from previous financial crises, including the crash of 1825. This saw public investment refocused on improvements to the streets of London and public services, and Hampstead Heath saved from speculative housebuilders. ‘It suggests to me that one of our primary concerns should be to avoid a return to business as usual and the development norms that prevailed two years ago’, said Sorrell.

‘We need a shift in attitude and values. And a public sector epitomised by strength of character and sticking to what you believe in. Localism for me means support for people working in public sector organisations and in local government. Not blaming them for the financial mess we are in. And certainly not demonising the very public servants who will need to deliver cuts, and who we need to do that job with great skill and shrewdness.’ 

Read Sir John Sorrell's speech 


Now that there is no longer the means for an architecture of wealth, do we have the imagination to create new kinds of places which lift our spirits? CABE Chair Sir John Sorrell explored this topic at an event at Tate Modern on 16 November 2009.


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