Believe in what you do and inspire those around you

As part of London’s Clerkenwell Design Week 2017, Sadie Morgan, HS2 independent design panel chair, member of Lord Adonis’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), and founding director of architecture practice dRMM, was invited to talk on ‘Can architects have social impact?’

A champion of the importance of design, in conversation with Emily Booth, Executive Editor of Architectural Review, Sadie Morgan put forward the possibility that we could create a built environment where major government-run infrastructural projects end up with joy rather than headache-inducing outcomes.

Over £200bn is being spent on UK energy infrastructure; and infrastructure projects such as HS2 need to deliver on design and benefit everyone in Britain. They need to be fit for purpose and context; they need to have some local ownership. Some of the HS2 ‘temporary’ structures will be around for 17 years. They need to be thought about.

Many big organisations think that architectural design is costly; but design solves problems in an elegant way, which is something that few people can do in the built environment. This isn’t to say that architects know everything – they don’t anymore and can’t pretend they do. They need to look more to their skills and ethics to reassert what they’re good at and the value they bring to projects.

Britain needs architects

Architects can deliver infrastructure that is both beautiful and functional; they are good at thinking about multiple effects and the wider significance; they are able to provide us with a properly designed future. We need to make time to turn great expectation and design into reality because we’re designing for the needs of future generations.

Connecting people to place

If we’re to have an environment that connects people and place we need to value something that enhances lives and isn’t just about cost effectiveness. It may be difficult to monetise this value but we need to convince decision-makers to make decisions based on quality of life; we need to get them to bang this drum. If you design something properly, you get it right the first time – and that saves money.

Collectively, architects and designers need to show procurers good examples of design and explain how it adds value. It seems obvious but we’re just not saying it enough to the people who can make it a reality.


Embrace change and lead

Those in control of big projects need to better explain how people can be involved and be a part of it, not just those directly affected – the way people were involved in the 2012 Olympics. Architecture and architects need to be on the front foot; asking questions, embracing change, and leading rather than following with resigned sighs.

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