Of the many massive social upheavals of 2020, the BLM protests made us ask difficult questions about persistent levels of racial inequality and how many of us are complicit with the current system.
This has resulted in some positive moves within the built environment, with public sector procurement going through a shake-up. Local authority frameworks are being re-imagined and outspoken critics are getting important airtime. Dare we hope that we might be experiencing a paradigm shift that will lead to communities receiving buildings that are actually designed by people who understand them? Or is it more a case of large practices playing the box-ticking game by tagging on a BAME-led practice to their tender entry?
It’s too early to tell if any of the current initiatives will bring about long-term change. All we can know is that we are in the messy period of transition and that things could easily slip back into existing patterns of privilege and old boy networks. We cannot assume that sticking a diversity plaster on procurement, or an in-practice workshop, will lead to wide-ranging systemic improvements. BAME isn't a genre of design, so why are developers looking for black excellence when white mediocrity was sufficient up until now?
Can we bring about a cultural and behavioural revolution that the architecture industry so desperately needs? More importantly how is this done in a competitive market ? And why do so many think it’s not really a problem in the first place?
Joseph Henry, Sound Advice
Jas Bhalla, Jas Bhalla Architects
Marsha Ramroop, RIBA
Peter George, Meridian Water