Eliza Grosvenor is Programme Manager for the London Festival of Architecture.
In many ways, 2020 was a year of the unexpected and uninvited. Within the first few weeks of transitioning into the new year, unfortunately 2021 looked to repeat the stripes of the previous year.
However, amongst the unwelcome disruptions, 2020 brought with it the coming together of local communities to revive London’s local high streets, the opening of conversations on the long overdue subject of race and inclusion in the industry, and a rethink of how we build and live in our city moving forward. Although there is a long way to go in many of these conversations, 2020 saw the first steps being taken.
And as we passed through the first few weeks of this new year, we were also given several causes of celebration as acclaimed architect Kate Macintosh was awarded the Jane Drew Prize for her contribution in raising the profile of women in architecture and design. London mayor Sadiq Khan pledged that “London can build back better and become a better place to live and work after this pandemic than it was before.” And the announcement of ‘Teeter-Totter Wall’ as the 2020 Beazley Design of the Year, just hours before the passover from Trump to Biden, highlighted the importance of equality, meaningful connection and play.
‘Teeter-Totter Wall’, the temporary interactive installation designed by architecture studio Rael San Fratello, can be explored in the virtual experience of this year’s Beazley Design of the Year exhibition. A very topical collection, focusing on topics ranging from activism and protest to celebrations of new technologies and innovations.
If you’re keen to understand the impact of Brexit the industry, then I recommend joining the breakfast talk ‘Brexit – The Impact on Architecture, Engineering and Construction’, or if understanding different ways of working towards more inclusionary and equal practices calls out to you, ‘Exploring Feminist Design Practices Then and Now’, part of The Bartlett International Lecture Series, is one not to miss.
To consider how we can really tackle the climate emergency in a way that makes the difference needed, the latest Negroni talk on Greenwashing is definitely one to add to the diary. Or if you are keen to understand how we can change the models around which society is organised, join Sound Advice, SaLADs and Siufan Adey (Afterparti / Panic FM) to discuss how to design New Models of Recognition (and love) as a tool to deliver a more equitable built environment.
If you are looking to escape the digital realm on your daily walk and happen to be in the Royal Docks, I recommended visiting the London Festival of Architecture’s Pews and Perches bench series. Spread along the Royal Docks, the five benches offer fun spaces to both rest and play. Should you wish to learn more about the designs, the series is accompanied by an audio guide talking to designers themselves revealing the stories behind their benches.
As we look towards the rest of 2021, despite everything we have a lot to be hopeful for. Amongst the continued uncertainty of the world, I am looking forward to a rediscovery of our city and a continued rethink about how we build, experience and care for the spaces that surround us.