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.Â
Its president, Jane Duncan said in a statement:Â
"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.Â
"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.Â
"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)