Free-riding council tenants? They want a city for the rich, says top architect
New principal at Zaha Hadid Architects said all social housing should be abolished
05 December, 2016 — By Koos Couvée
Gordon Warrell (left) and architect Patrik Schumacher
RENOWNED Clerkenwell firm Zaha Hadid Architects has distanced itself from its new principal, who said “free-riding” council tenants should be moved out of London.
A remarkable open letter, published on Tuesday, said Patrik Schumacher’s vision of a privatised city did not reflect the Bowling Green Lane-based firm’s past and “will not be our future” – raising questions about his future at the firm.
In a keynote address at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin last week, the German, who took over at the helm of the company after Ms Hadid died unexpectedly aged 65 in March, said social housing should be abolished and all streets, squares, public spaces and parks privatised. Council tenants in gentrifying inner-city areas should not expect to be able to carry on living in central London when their estates are demolished, he said, adding that they should be replaced by more “productive” residents.
He suggested 80 per cent of Hyde Park should be built over.
Speaking to the Tribune this week, life-long council tenant Gordon Warrell, 82, said Mr Schumacher’s vision was of a London “just for rich people.”
Mr Warrell was among the first tenants to move into post-war council flats on the Pleydell estate, near Old Street, where he still lives.
The pensioner, who has campaigned for social housing, added: “I won’t suffer but I worry that my relations’ children and their children will not be able to live here. All these top people are coming over here to live in their private houses that cost a huge amount of money.
“Finsbury has always been for the poorer people, before the war and after, when they put up all the big council flats. I’ve always lived in them and we had a big community.”
Council leader Richard Watts described Mr Schumacher as a “prat”, adding: “These comments are both ignorant and grossly insulting to the many thousands of Islington resident who live in council housing.
“Islington, and London as a whole, need to remain a diverse area where everyone can live. All this prat wants to do is to socially cleanse families who have lived in our borough for generations.
“The kind of privatised and free-market world he wants would destroy the London we know and love. It would rip apart communities and tear the heart out of the city.
“The Tories have pushed these policies for years and they have utterly failed London.”
Mr Schumacher’s “urban policy manifesto” lecture has come as a huge embarrassment to Zaha Hadid Architects, where he has worked since 1988. In the open letter, the firm said: “Zaha Hadid did not write manifestos. She built them. Zaha Hadid Architects has delivered 56 projects for all members of the community in 45 cities around the world.
“Refusing to be confined by limitations or boundaries, Zaha did not reserve her ideology for the lecture hall. She lived it.”
Stressing the high number of ethnic minority and female architects working at the firm, the open letter added: “Architects around the world are calling for the profession to become more inclusive. The national and international press have also done a very good job of highlighting the critical issues of housing and the threats to vital public spaces.”
Ms Hadid’s closest confidantes also distanced themselves from Mr Schumacher. Rana Hadid, Peter Palumbo and Brian Clarke – the three other trustees of the Zaha Hadid Foundation, and executors of Ms Hadid’s estate – said they “totally disagree” with his views.