The free movement of labour has enriched my disciplineby Amanda Levete / May 9, 2016 / Leave a comment
Britain is a part of Europe—whether we’re in or out of the European Union. We’re shaped so much by our common histories. But Europe is also the product of its diversity. During my time as an architect I’ve seen how open borders—the free movement of labour—has enriched the discipline. Architecture feeds off diversity: the diversity of skills and perceptions. And it is only through staying in the EU that we can continue to create a collaborative environment to allow architecture to flourish.
At AL_A, the studio I founded, we employ architects from 11 European countries, and over half of our staff are non-British EU citizens. They each have differing perspectives and approaches, different architectural and cultural references. This makeup is replicated in countless studios across Britain who work internationally—where talent has been attracted by our fostering of creativity as well as unlimited access to European markets.
In the 20th century, Britain went from the position of being the “workshop of the world,” when we sent finished goods across the globe, to now importing innovative minds and exporting ideas. It’s no accident that our creative sector has grown as our borders have become more open. Britain’s creative industries are regarded as world-leaders. As architects, we are not only creators, but entrepreneurs—thousands of people are employed in the sector and it generates millions of pounds in revenue. But this is about much more than just economics.
At AL_A, we’ve found that combining British and European architects makes for a powerful mix. On the continent, architectural training is more technical and encourages different ways of seeing and explaining buildings. For example, Spanish universities don’t allow students to present their work in person to their tutors—everything has to be in the drawing. When European-educated architects work alongside British-educated ones, who often have a stronger focus on conceptual design and narrative, we are better equipped to produce exceptional buildings.
While many British architectural practices have a Germanic or Swiss dominance, our office feels more Latin, due to a strong Italian and Spanish contingent. It…