Fitzrovia’s future through the eyes of dreamy architects

Are they part of the solution or part of the problem? Often seen as the stooges of greedy property developers, architects are blamed for everything that is bad about the recent changes in Fitzrovia and elsewhere in central London.

Window of architecture practice.

Dreaming of Fitzrovia. FCB Studios wander through the looking-glass neighbourhood.

Lack of affordable homes and derisory amounts of public open space in monstrous new developments suggests that the architecture industry has lost its moral compass as they appear to conjure up designs that cram as much floorspace into brash, bulky developments, with poor doors for social housing or no doors at all.

Now local architects Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios are opening a portal into their world to show they are not asleep on the job in producing architecture for the public good. This week they are inviting the public to… Dreaming of Fitzrovia: A Bohemian Tea Party.

“Drop in to our London studio for an afternoon of thinking, drawing, model making and tea” is the invitation from the Tottenham Street architecture practice.

Presumably they won’t be considering confidential viability assessments explaining why new developments can’t provide policy-compliant social housing. “Ask the property developers, we’re only following orders here…”

The mad-hatter architects are also holding an evening discussion — Fitzrovia: Work in Progress to ponder the question What does the future hold for Fitzrovia?

Speakers include Lee Lyons from the Fitzrovia Business Improvement District, Nicole Tarrio from Arup, John Davies from Derwent London, Hugo Hinsley from the School of Architecture Graduate School, and photographer Doralba Picerno.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of this discussion as most of the new developments so far in Fitzrovia — and much of London — are delivering luxury flats and expensive glossy offices. And despite the increase in floor space, little or nothing in the way of public open space.

FCB Studios pride themselves on a strong ethos: “Social and environmental responsibility is at the heart of our practice. We are committed to designing communities at home and abroad that support sustainable lifestyles and accommodate different patterns of living, learning and working.”

Architects can be as creative, playful and as progressive as they like in their own minds. But unless they — and local councils — stand up and challenge the property developers that are swarming around the Crossrail gravy train in central London, is anything really going to change from business as usual? Dream on.

Fitzrovia: Work in Progress. What does the future hold for Fitzrovia? Doors 6pm, starts at 6:30pm, 23 June 2015. Dreaming of Fitzrovia: A Bohemian Tea Party. Drop in between 2:00 and 4:30pm, 27 June 2015. FCB Studios, Front Room, 20 Tottenham Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 4RF. Part of the London Festival of Architecture 2015, and RIBA London Open Studios. For both events please RSVP events@fcbstudios.com

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