British architects react with anger and dismay to ‘Brexit’

The shock result of Britain’s referendum on membership of the European Union (EU) this morning has drawn sharp expressions of anger and dismay among prominent British architects.

Ben Derbyshire (pictured), chairman of HTA Design and candidate for the role of president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has spoken of his "overwhelming sense of sadness and regret at the damage we have done", as the British electorate voted by a narrow margin – 52% – to leave the EU, contrary to late polling projections.

Brexit is akin to full-scale urban blight– Cany Ash, Ash Sakula Architects

Partners at Rogers, Stirk Harbour & Partners warned of "a difficult period of great uncertainty", for the practice and for its staff, more than 40% of whom are non-British EU citizens.

Speaking to UK industry magazine, Building, others called the result a "nightmare" and spoke of a feeling of personal devastation.

Shares in major UK housebuilders, meanwhile, plummeted by as much as 24% in early trading today, while larger listed general contractors saw their share values fall by up to 9%.

"Now the uncertainty, which most of us in the profession feared, begins," HTA’s Ben Derbyshire told Building. "Who will govern, and will there be any continuity of policy, who will invest in development during the interregnum, how will we manage while government replaces EU regulation through years of tortuous negotiation?"

"Beyond that," he added, "I have an overwhelming sense of sadness and regret at the damage we have done to European politcal, economic and cultural unity. We must hope for the best, but if my sense of profound uncertainty, bordering dread, is in any way reflected by the worlds influential decision-makers, I fear we are in for a very difficult time."

Partners of Rogers, Stirk Harbour & Partners told Building: "Where do we go from here? We now face a difficult period of great uncertainty. All those questions left hanging by those leading the drive towards leaving the EU will now have to be answered. This will take time (years) and in the interim requires great adaptability and resilience from us all.

"Most importantly we need to know what will happen with those relationships (contractual, personal and professional) that will have to be forged anew as a consequence of this vote."

"In the aftermath of a divisive campaign," they added, "we will need to heal the wounds not just within a dis-United Kingdom but with our neighbours across Europe."

Other architects expressed their anger more forcefully.

"Brexit is akin to full-scale urban blight," said Cany Ash, director of Ash Sakula Architects. "All our energies will be wasted while this bureaucratic mess is cleared up. Housing and social projects brokered through delicate public private partnerships only achieve momentum through stability and optimism… and we have pissed that away."

Sally Lewis, director at Stitch, said: "On a personal level, I am devastated. On a professional level it is hard to judge what the immediate impacts might be if we vote to leave. But I know for sure that the housing construction industry relies heavily on highly skilled and hard-working Europeans. As we’re struggling anyway to deliver the housing we need, filtering out the workforce that can help us meet our housing delivery targets is plain daft."

"What a nightmare," said Roger Hawkins, director at Hawkins Brown. "The lack of proper debate in the referendum has been alarming. It has generated the worst in some people and the best in very few."

He added: "We have been hijacked by a negative, short-sighted Little Englander mentality. No doubt this result will have an impact on immigration figures because a lot of people will want to leave the country."

The RIBA itself took a more conciliatory tone. 

Its president, Jane Duncan said in a statement: 

"Clearly there is uncertainty about the timescales and impact on a range of issues important to our industry including free movement in the EU for architects as well as students, trading and material sourcing, inward investment relationships, EU procurement rules and the effect on the construction sector if restrictions are placed on EU migration. 

"In common with other UK businesses and organisations, the RIBA is assessing the short and longer term effect of the withdrawal on our members and the Institute and we will provide further guidance in due course. 

"Most importantly, we will work with colleagues in industry and government to ensure that architects have a strong voice in the coming weeks, months and years."

Image: Ben Derbyshire, chairman of HTA Design (HTA)

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  1. As an Engineer, may I flippantly raise the question as to whether our future developments will need to comply with the Construction Products Regulations and Eurocodes, or will they just be arbitrarily swept away leaving the customers and end users with sub standard projects.

  2. I’m interested.

  3. Yes, we have had the benefit of cheap imported labour here for a while now, why have house prices not fallen ?

  4. Why all this negativity, this is INDEPENDENCE, This is the British citizens believing in their country & how much more productive & stronger GB will be without the shackles of Brussels? Not little Englanders, but Englanders believing in the strength of their great country & taking back control for a great future. Sure there will be short term pain, but let’s stop bleeding about it & get on with starting the process of building a Great Britain. Keep calm & carry on, this is INDEPENDANCE DAY for goodness sake! As for sub-standard projects, no I don’t think so. Architects never have been entrepreneurs; just believe in GB!

  5. In every change of Government or policy will result in WINNERS AND LOSERS. The best is to adjust to the changed situation instead of becoming angry. Those with vision would have provided for the risk associated with BREXIT. Now there is a possibility of Scotland going their own way and break away from UK and those who may be effected should prepare for this contingency. The same may be the case of Trump winning the US presidency.

  6. I’m sure comments like that of ‘Roger Hawkins, director at Hawkins Brown’ (“We have been hijacked by a negative, short-sighted Little Englander mentality”) will not go down well with the millions of British people who voted to leave – it’s happened, – so let’s get positive

  7. Well I’m a British Chartered Building Consultant and I would have reacted with ‘anger and dismay’ for a vote to stay in the EU. I do however take issue in particular with the cliche’d invective that “We have been hijacked by a negative, short-sighted Little Englander mentality.” How can a fair result in a referendum that saw one of the biggest ever turnouts be constituted as a hijacking just because you don’t like the result, voted for by more than 17 million people with a viewpoint as valid as yours? Of course, we’re now expected to believe that the leavers could not be as intelligent as the remainers, we’re accused of xenophobia and even being right wing extremists; really… 17 million of us? I’m a committed European but that is not mutually inclusive with being a member of a corrupt and failing EU; why is that so difficult to understand? To read stupid comments that “Brexit is akin to full scale urban blight” is, putting it mildly, an emotive response with no factual evidence to underpin the claim. Greece have the opposite view, that being a member of the EU is akin to full scale urban blight, because they’ve experienced first hand the great bail out and loans racket being forced on failing deficit states by the European central banks. The EU is hiding a massive black hole of debt and the single currency is failing, it’s not a matter of if, but when. With any luck the UK’s departure may well hasten the process. Ultimately, whether you voted to leave or remain, don’t we all want whats best for the UK and our families? The remain campaign got this one wrong because they fell for government and corporate globalist propaganda and I have no doubt that this will prove to be the right decision, not just for the UK but for Europe too.

  8. The people of the UK have been afforded the right to choose! This alone in my book is what makes Britain Great!!!

  9. I don’t these people get it ! It is OK if you are vast sums of money, it is a cosy club to “Remain” in. If people take the time to see the majority of votes for “Brexit”” came from, it is in the area where the people have suffered most form immigration, forcing wages down ( Mark Carney sais this) for people who work in manual jobs.

    I am sick and tired of the intelligenica saying that the immigrants are doing the jobs the British worker will not do. It is not that the workers will do these jobs, it I because they cannot afford to work for such low wages. That is of course on the basis we don’t expect them to live in squalor.

    There is not a day goes by that I don’t come across an illegal HMO, one two bedroom house I had to do a valuation on recently had 18 people living, this is why they can afford to take low paid jobs because their outgoings are so low. Is this what it has come to, expecting the works to revert to early Victorian times, where people lived in over crowed slums .

    The Polish alone send back $1 billion every year, money that should be invested in our economy !!
    I am sick of the “Intelligenica” telling us all what is best for us !

    The poor working class has now had the opportunity to voice what it thinks of the political classes ! They hear of the waste of money in Brussels . Moving from Brussels to Strasbourg every month costs 200 million euros per annum. Plus many other misuses of money.

    It is about time that high earners, which includes myself, understand that the manual workers have been devastated by unskilled immigrant workers, who live in the above conditions mentioned above.

    They have as much right to a decent living as the rest of us.

    The UK and France are the two highest contributors in VAT to the EU, between 2007 and 2013 we paid in VAT to the EU £15,406,165,515 staggering figures ! That’s enough to fund the NHS and a lot of schools !!!!

    That is only part of our contribution !

    So you can see why the out of work in the North and Midlands feel bitter.

  10. Even though the vote went against what I voted for I accept this as a clear win for democracy. This is why Britain is great and can be great again. It didn’t really worry me which way this vote went as I could see positives and negatives on both sides. The major issue that concerns me, and one I think we should now be focussing on, is Scotland wanting to pull out of the UK. I am more concerned about keeping the UK together than I am about the EU staying together. Does the Scottish Leader really think that if they break away from the UK and join the EU separately they can ever have a strong influencing voice. The former Eastern Block countries will have a much stronger voice than they and they will be swamped by people who think totally different from them. I think this is a terrific opportunity to show the rest of the world the UK still has a great deal to offer and that our ability to cope with change will be greatly admired in the long run. Don’t be surprised if other countries now follow our lead.

  11. Is it just me, or are all the above comments 8 months out of date and consequently a bit irrelevant??

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