When the Mayor of London recently quashed the building of The Tulip, it raised troubling questions for the future of architecture in the UK. The Tulip was set to be London's next iconic piece of architecture, joining a long, illustrious line of pivotal buildings that have lined London's horizon and kept the city at the leading edge of architecture since Sir Christopher Wrenn re-designed St Paul's Cathedral in 1710. But can the UK continue to host such iconic buildings in the shadow of the looming impacts of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss?
The Architects Declare (AD) website reports that buildings and construction play a large part in contributing to the issue of climate change, accounting for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Written and signed by a group comprising of all 17 previous winners of the prestigious Stirling Prize, the Architects Declare is a call for action on climate change by the architectural and construction industries. AD's 11 point plan for tackling the twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss has already garnered more than 500 signatories.
Given the startling statistic on C02 emissions, it's perhaps unsurprising that AD has attracted so much support. It's widely acknowledged within the industry that meeting the needs of our society without breaching the earth's ecological boundaries will demand a paradigm shift in behaviour at all levels. Evidently, adjustments need to be made across all sectors, including in the construction industry, which will undoubtedly make a sizeable impact on the future of architecture. Whether this is a positive or negative impact remains to be seen.
This shift towards sustainability and the reduction of carbon emissions via innovative use of materials and building techniques is a huge step for the industry - but is this feasible whilst also trying to promote growth, success and tourism? Or will property investors take flight from London and take their business to practices that ignore or reject the Architects Declare plan of action?