Architecture debates are rubbish. We’ve all been there: a panel of similar people with similar views taking it in turns to talk at length about their similar work – too polite, too deferential, too dull. At best they are lukewarm love-ins, critically impotent, elitist and stuffy. Turncoats is a shot in the arm. Framed by theatrically provocative opening gambits, a series of debates will rugby tackle fundamental issues facing contemporary practice with a playful and combative format designed to ferment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.
Tear up the Rule Book
7:00pm, Thursday 25th January 18
The intersection of design and democracy should be an exhilarating moment of civic and spatial richness. Instead British architecture is blockaded by a byzantine planning culture at best onerous and at worst corrupt. Feckless backseat-designer planning officers take out their churlish frustrations on the smallest of schemes, demanding ill-conceived arbitrary alterations bleeding the vivacity from our streets and homes as vast bland monocultural developments are nodded through. Nostalgia for a brief era of post-war planning heroics is hopeless. Given anarchic freedom we created the Georgian great estates. Given paternalistic planning we created Taylor Wimpey. Fire the planners and tear up the rule book – anarchy for the UK.
Jo Negrini (Chair)
is Chief Executive of Croydon Council. Previously she has been Director of Regeneration at Lambeth, Chief Borough Planning Officer At Newham and Head of Place at Croydon.
is an architect, cartoonish, satirist and commentator on the Middle East. He is a Director at PLP Architecture in London and co-author of Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture and an outspoken Marxist critic of the British planning system.
is the principal director of Shiva Ltd and sponsor of the Antepavilion. Shiva is a long-term property investment company working exclusively with sites and buildings of special cultural, architectural or historic interest around central London. in 1995 Russell placed a Soviet T-34 tank on Mandela Way in South London the turret of which is said to be aimed at Southwark's planning offices.
is an architect and urban designer working in the Regeneration Team at the Greater London Authority. She has lived and worked in Mumbai, London and New York and undertaken varying scales of projects from interiors to urban strategies.
is a co-founder of architecture and art collective Assemble and maker of very loud sound systems.
6:45pm, Thursday 15th February 18
Architectural culture sneers at contemporary classical architects with ferocious contempt. Our dominant taste consensus mocks classical practitioners as derivative, pampered sell-outs. This miserly derision is idiotic, robbing the profession of a rich and varied vocabulary that is widely popular with the public. Classicists are daubed as elitists but really it is the latter-day modernists who are the aesthetic snobs. Wake up and smell the acanthus, it is time for a classical come back. Go classical or go home.
6:45pm, Thursday 7th December 17
“When a man is tired of London he has come to his senses.”
In London average rents now consume over two thirds of average wages. Our infrastructure is cramped and crumbling. Our air and water are poisoned. Cycling kills. Starting a new company is impossibly expensive. This is no benign city with posh coffee, but an oppressive antagonist sucking the political, cultural, economic, intellectual and architectural life force out of our stagnating nation. Regional pleading for attention is shrill and ineffective, but if bold professionals turned their back on leech-like London we could transform cities across the country. London gave up enriching your life years ago, it is time to give up on London.
Lee Ivett (Chair)
founded participatory architecture firm, Baxendale. His mode of practise is intensely generative, developing low-budget socially-focussed projects from scratch largely for working class communities in and around Glasgow where he is based.
is an architectural designer based in London. He is director JA Projects, co-founder of collective Sacha Ren and resident curator of Diddy's bar and cafe in East London. He's the author of a masterplan which has transformed a school of children with special educational needs and created a model of alternative education called Pineapple Island.
is Executive Director of London First, a think tank on a mission to make London the best city in the world to do business, where she leads the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign.
is a writer, organiser and connector. She is a Senior Account Director at ING Media and previously led a design practice Melbourne. She has managed the Stirling Prize and Royal Gold Medal programmes at the RIBA and most notably took first prize in an Architecture Foundation balloon debate arguing for the resurrection of Acid House.
is a director of Baxendale and lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art. He recently facilitated the Back to the City conference - examining the move back towards the re-densification of post-industrial & post slum urban landscapes within the inner cities which was a doddle compared to his parenting duties as a father of six.
London E2 8BD
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The End of the RIBA
6:45pm, Thursday 2nd November 17
Face it. The Royal Institute of British Architects is a stagnant, antiquated, and irrelevant institution which demonstrably fails to enrich the lives or practice of architects anywhere. Its fees are rising as its membership and influence falls. Turnout for RIBA elections is now pitifully low as the younger generation rightly ask what the point is of this fusty dinosaur. It has no political power, no professional purpose and no vision of the future. Its own members treat it as a punching bag, regularly bitching and sniping about its failings. With a staff team of over 250, it is a bloated bureaucracy, too vast to reform – instead the time has come to put the RIBA out of its misery. Rip it up and start again.
Amanda Baillieu (chair)
is an award-winning editor and founder of events and networking agency, Archiboo. She previously edited Building Design for seven years and has written for a wide range of magazines and newspapers.
is founder of Jane Duncan Architects and Interiors. She was president of the Royal Institute of British Architects from September 2015 to August 2017.
is an architectural designer currently working at Jestico + Whiles. He is an educational lecturer at the V&A and is co-leader of the Global Currents design think tank at The London School of Architecture. Joseph has also run workshops at The RIBA and works with Open City as a mentor for their Accelerate Into Architecture programme.
is chair of the RIBA Client Liason Group and a member of the RIBA Practice & Profession Committee. He is Project Delivery Director at Hawkins\Brown and is author of the Small Projects Handbook and edited the RIBA Job Book and the Handbook of Practice Management.
is a partner at Alma-nac and chair of the RIBA Small Practice Group. He is an Associate Lecturer at the
Birmingham School of Architecture and chair of the RIBA Geurilla Tactics Committee.
Old Cholmeley Boys Club
68 Boleyn Rd
London N16 8JG
Turncoats tickets are available at different prices. Our hope is those with a few extra bob will chip in a bit extra, enabling those in a tight spot to come. If the cheapest tickets are still too pricey for you then email us on email@example.com. The prices are:
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All tickets include beer and vodka!
All that is left is Utopia
7:00pm, Tuesday 5th September 17
We’ve been led to believe that some things just are the way they are and architecture sure isn’t going to do anything about it. It’s best, they said, to get along with the system and arrange the deck chairs.
No. A better world is possible, even if you have to leave this one to find it. When it comes to who commands a street corner and how a community shapes its home, this status quo isn’t working. The fabric of our cities should guide us to a more perfect society, even if we never get there.
Let’s admit what we’ve learned. Design with out a lodestar is captive to base greed, and well-spoken reform hasn’t set us free. All that’s left is Utopia.
designer and space station researcher
activist, currently working on street harassment
art and urbanism journalist
We are pleased to announce a partnership with Heurich House as a primary venue.
Doors open at 7; debate will start at 7:30.
Beer graciously provided by Hellbender Brewery. One shot is also included in the ticket.
Space is limited.
Please note: Turncoats is strictly off the record.
The Good, The Bad and The Belgian
7:00pm, Saturday 1st July 17
A post-war self-build housing boom has saddled the entirety of Belgium with a rash of eccentric, highly individual, often hideous homes. Yet the trope of the Ugly Belgian House is a tribute to the civic freedom of the Belgian citizen.
In an era of rising xenophobia, architectural taste can play a new role as a built barometer for social tolerance. Many in our industry are trying to regain power, wresting architectural control back from the man in the street. They must be stopped – liberty trumps beauty.
More speakers TBA
- Saturday 1 July
- Tickets are free. Booking essential.
- 019 - Museum of Moving Practice
- Design Museum Ghent
- Jan Breydelstraat 5
- 9000 Ghent
Buildings Don’t Matter
7:00pm, Tuesday 13th June 17
Great architects don’t make buildings, they make brands. From Aravena to Zaha, the power of images transcends the impact of built reality. Even the most globe-trotting paid critic will visit a fraction of the new buildings which form architecture’s cultural zeitgeist. Renders are our barometer of taste, Instagram is our King Maker. Bjarke Ingles will be remembered not for his buildings but for his viral YouTube lectures and rockstar ego.
Ellis Woodman, Director of the Architecture Foundation, has argued that even Le Corbusier and James Stirling were great architects because for them, “the making of buildings was an activity subsidiary to the making and publishing of images.” Or, as Leon Krier has put it, “I don’t build because I am an architect. I can make true Architecture because I do not build.”
Time to ‘fess up and face the music. In architecture, the buildings are a distraction.
In partnership with the Architect’s Newspaper
- Tuesday 13 June, 2017
- The Cooper Union
- Rose Auditorium
- 41 Cooper Sq
- New York City
Design The Wall
5:00pm, Thursday 26th January 17
Say what you will about a Trump presidency, it will be good for business. When the leader of the free world is a real estate developer, architects will still just be service providers, and that’s okay. Architects shouldn’t be political. Some of history’s most celebrated buildings were built under regimes with stomach churning track records. Getting upset about policy is a distraction from doing great work. Spare us your hysteria! Buildings outlast politicians.
- Thursday 26 January, 2017
- Inform Interiors
- 50 Water St
- Vancouver, BC V6B 1A4 CA
Smart Cities Are Dumb
7:00pm, Thursday 6th October 16
Sensors, tech, nudges, big data. Urban areas are being invaded by the so-called future, and while some people welcome our robotic municipal overlords, others are reticent. ‘Digital kiosks’ and ‘connectivity’ are infantilising anti-civic band-aids dreamt up by campus-dwelling silicon valley kids between rounds of ping-pong. What use is much-lauded Internet of Things when neighbourhoods across the country don’t even have access to basic goods and services? If Pokémon Go can’t even be distributed equally, what chance does that give substantive digital innovations?
As tech and media companies increasingly encroach on the urban realm peddling smart city rhetoric, the potential for a Big Brother-style mass surveillance takeover is at hand. And for what? Optimised traffic patterns that make the commute to work a few minutes swifter? Minor carbon savings that deplete rare earth reserves instead? Computers that think so citizens don’t have to? Surely we can do better!
This first-ever debate at SXSW Eco gives architects and technology lovers and haters alike the chance to speak freely and say together, “Smart Cities are Dumb!”…or are they?
ArchiFringe and Creative Dundee present
The Glamour Chase
7:00pm, Thursday 29th September 16
Is Dundee losing itself in the chase for glamour? What is the cultural future of Dundee beyond razzamatazz. As the new waterfront emerges into the sunshine are the city’s industrial hinterlands being left behind to decay and demolition? What areas of the city and what specific buildings within them are crucial for Dundee’s future? What strategic infrastructure does the city need to nurture, both culturally and spatially, to position itself locally, nationally and internationally? Blending humour with critical thought, join us to share your views as we move towards the halfway-point of Dundee’s biggest urban transformation yet.
- Thursday 29 September
- Tickets are free. Booking essential.
- Dundee Contemporary Arts
- 152 Nethergate
- Dundee DD1
Sorry about tomorrow
12:00am, Thursday 21st July 16
The built environment is increasingly irrelevant. Modern society is built around digital space and online networks. Edinburgh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is ‘liked’ more often on Instagram than in damp, chilly reality. Nightclubs are no longer required, when friendship and flirtation is available at a swipe with Tinder, Grindr and Snapchat.
Two Edinburghs now exist in parallel, and the relationship between the physical and virtual versions grows ever-more distant. Good! It’s time for us all to step away from the crumbling street and inhabit an instantaneous, clean, energy-rich and aesthetically pleasing augmented reality, all together, online. *Like!*
Director of Relate Lab and former Digital Engagement Manager for the Scottish Government
Chair of Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh
Head of Outreach & Advocacy at Edinburgh World Heritage Trust
Andy Summers (Chair)
co-creator of the Archifringe festival
- Thursday 7 July
- Tickets are free. Booking essential.
- Edinburgh College of Art
- Lauriston Place
- Edinburgh EH3 9DF
Rip it up and start again
7:00pm, Thursday 7th July 16
Local authorities across Scotland wield wrecking ball and dynamite prefering social cleansing to mindful mending of our working class and marginal neighbourhoods. The destruction of these communities, left to rot and degrade by successive generations of politicians, is luridly feted as a calculated process of gentrification-by-force dilutes people and place. Architects have become complicit in a one-size-fits-all strategy intrinsically weighted towards return-on-investment rather than acting as facilitators for a thoughtful process of social, cultural and economic self-generated development of community.
is a participatory artist deeply integrated with the community of Elephant & Castle who are facing redevelopment of their area. Homepage
is a founder of Stallan Brand Architects are currently working on the student development in Speirs Locks, as well as the recent masterplan for Laurieston. Paul was also a contributor for the recent Land Art Generator Initiative competition.
is a writer, academic and research fellow in cultural policy and producer of Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas. Homepage
- Thursday 7 July
- Tickets are free. Booking essential.
- The Glue Factory
- 22 Farnell Street
- Glasgow, G4 9SE
7:30pm, Saturday 2nd April 16
Architectural education is stagnant, antiquated, and irrelevant. Greedy universities, chasing size, power and fees are accepting hoards of students with no prospect of a fulfilling career as architects. Generations of disillusioned CAD monkeys and copy-cats are churned out doomed to scroll vapid blogs, superficially emulating out of context. Time to turn the tables on our teachers, forget everything we’ve learned and start from scratch.
This debate will be held as part of the Novi Fokus Niš – International Architecture Film Festival on the 1st and 2nd of April.
- Saturday 2 April
- Tickets are free. Booking essential.
- Kupina Cinema
- Balkanska 2
6:00pm, Friday 1st April 16
We deride the derivative, we mock mimics, we fear facsimiles. Why? Hollywood reboots movies, theatre directors restage plays, musicians make covers. The best cultural production comes from the clear consensus that iterating is inventive yet in architecture we despise copying above all things. Our elitist and egotistical obsession with cosmetic novelty necessitates the endless, pointless, reinvention of form, reducing architecture to a spectacle of super-size billboard branding. Is bad originality preferable to a brilliant copy? Bullshit!
is an architect and the founding principal of Measured Architecture Inc., an award-winning full-service architectural firm specializing in high quality, high performance modern buildings.
teaches design and is the co-owner of Monzu and Hannah Design, a local firm focusing on residential and reclaimed wood designs. She has lived and worked in Barcelona, New York and Mexico City.
is an architect and founder of Campos Studio. His work includes several highly-awarded buildings, public art pieces, and competition entries.
is a cofounder and director at the Laboratory for Housing Alternatives (LOHA), as well as an intern architect at Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio. Her work has crossed boundaries between architecture, interior design, graphic design, public space installation and craft brewing.
- Friday 1 April
- DUDOC Dutch Urban Design Centre
- 1445 West Georgia Street
- Vancouver, BC V6G 2T3
Toss Posh Tosh
12:00am, Thursday 25th February 16
Meritocracy is a myth. At every level architecture is carefully calibrated to covertly and overly privilege the middle class. Faced with declining authority we scrabble to blame architecture schools’ detachment from practice, a rising consultant class and cultural devaluation of design but are unable to face up to the reality that our pampered posh profession is simply too privileged to engage with the real world. The struggle for a broader base of backgrounds is not just about architecture’s cosmetic inclusivity – it is about its survival.
founded participatory architecture firm, Baxendale. His mode of practise is intensely generative, developing low-budget socially-focussed projects from scratch largely for working class communties in around Glasgow where he is based.
is an architectural designer and urban researcher based out of LSE Cities. Her design practice is concerned with housing, sanitation infrastructure, urban planning, and participatory design processes mostly in developing countries. She has won numerous awards including Emerging Woman Architect of the Year. She has taught at the Bartlett, AA and the CASS where she recently completed her PhD-by-practice.
is the arts editor at the Spectator and co-director of the London Contemporary Music Festival. He is a critic and curator, writing extensively on the arts for The Times, The Sunday Telegraph, Economist, London Evening Standard and Building Design. He is the author of a report on public art, What's That Thing? (2012), and a biography, Benjamin Britten (2013), for Penguin.
is a man of many hats. He is principally know as Creative Director and king of design at property developers U+i. He chaired the The Forgiveness Project for a decade, is a board member of the London Festival of Architecture and at one time ran the Body Shop’s media strategy. He advises business, charity and government on development issues and read Business at Leicester Polytechnic.
is Director of the Institute of Ideas, which she established to create a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint. She is a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze and convenes the yearly Battle of Ideas festival at the Barbican.
The Gender Agenda
7:00pm, Thursday 11th February 16
Women in architecture debates are conservative, traditionalist and infantilising. Widespread conflation of womanhood and parenthood coupled with the irresponsible propagation of flawed statistics has led to a cynical debate whose only use is as a vehicle to manufacture networking and commercial opportunities in the name of progress. It is time to call time on this crass crusade before a generation of young women are pushed into an anachronistic gender war that bears little relevance to their experience or values.
is a writer on politics and liberty. She is a regular contributor to Spiked and a freelance journalist for the Spectator.
Vere Van Gool
is Editor at Ideas City at the New Museum in New York. In 2013 she co-founded MISS, a mobile centre devoted to making space for women in the arts.
is an international architect and Professor in Practice of Architecture at Harvard. She has written extensively on ornament, form and style in her Function Books series and was co-founder of Foreign Office Architects.
is a Canadian architect and founder of Alison Brooks Architects London, renowned for its award-winning work spanning urbanism, housing and the arts. She has taught a Diploma Unit at the AA, is External Examiner at the AA/ Bartlett UCL and lectures internationally.
is a Founding Director of the REAL Foundation whose bi-monthly magazine, The Real Review, presents independent architectural editorial to a general readership. Shumi teaches at AA and Central Saint Martins, is contributing editor for Blueprint magazine and is to curate the British Pavilion at the 15th Venice architecture biennale.
Ornament is crime is crime
6:30pm, Wednesday 27th January 16
We are conditioned to believe that ornament is crime, that less is more. In fact this so-called wisdom stems not from deep human insights nor profound spiritual truths, but from age-old middle-class snobbery. It’s time to abolish the lies around ‘refinement’ and material lust. Within the constraints of contemporary practice, restrained ‘truth to materials’ only works for the wealthy – the normal-person’s version is horrendous and depressing casting class divides in concrete. We must abolish this crude consensus before it irreparably wrecks the experiential and social richness of our environment.
is Curator of Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
co-founded the satirical fashion magazine, The Mushpit. She is a stylist and journalist regularly contributing to i-D, the Guardian, Dazed and Vice where she was Fashion Editor.
Adam Nathaniel Furman
is founder of the Postmodern Society. He is an architect, furniture designer and curator. Among many other projects he runs the research cluster Saturated Space which investigates the role of colour in the built environment.
co-founded Assemble who recently rocked the art world by becoming the first architecture firm to scoop the Turner Prize. She formerly worked at art and architecture firm, Studio Weave and is stuyding a PhD on Brazilian Modernist, Lina Bo Bardi.
is co-founder of Ordinary Architecture. Previously he was a director of FAT where he was responsible for a number of the firm’s key projects including A House for Essex, Islington Square and Thornton Heath Library.
12:00am, Thursday 26th November 15
The design media is little more than a sycophantic, vapid and naval gazing extension of the PR industry. Our monographs, magazines and museums feed a cycle of shallow celebratory hysterics with little to no investigative or critical practice. Awards programmes lurch between jacking off the already engorged egos of starchitects or chasing the virginal myth of untainted emerging designers preying simultaneously on the young’s insecurity and the old’s fear of death in the name of profit for disconnected share holders. Cosy relationships between judges and judged, editors and edited amount to mild corruption – unsubscribe now.
is Architecture Critic at the Guardian and former Features Editor of Building Design Magazine.
is Critic-at-Large of the Architecture Foundation and the former editor of the Architectural Review.
is co-founder of the new crowd-funded magazine, the Real Review and Contributing Editor for the Architectural Review.
is Director of HAT Projects and writes for Building Design magazine, Architecture Today and Icon magazine.
is Editor-in-Chief of Dezeen and founder of ICON magazine.
12:00am, Thursday 12th November 15
Community consultation is meaningless vacuous tick-box bullshit. It has become a decoy that developers deploy to shove unwanted projects down the throats of an unconsenting public. Its cringeworthy language of community empowerment is just thinly veiled power moves and lazy spin. The profession, the public, and the built environment would be better off without it.
This debate's panel are all concerned with the role of public communication in architecture. They have all worked on projects where community engagement and collaborative design have been a gamechanging part of the process.
is a founder of AOC and whilst at the practice headed up the participation team. Daisy specialises in facilitating collaborative planning through implementing strategies to encourage diverse community groups to find common ground during the design process. She is currently teaching at the Bartlett school of architecture, whilst also sitting on the Hackney Design Review panel.
is a co-founder of We Made That, an architectural practice specialising in urban interventions with a strong public focus. Holly leads the research portfolio of the practice, carrying out comprehensive studies of local environments and economies, which inform her continued involvement in the Tower Hamlets Conservation and Design Advisory Panel.
is founder of Invisible Studio, an anti-practice that attempts to operate in different ways than mainstream architectural practice. Piers was a Studio Master at the AA and Design Fellow at Cambridge and is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Sheffield. He lives in a self built house on a site with no car access and works from a self built studio that was constructed largely from materials found or grown on site with no drawings.
is Head of Development for the Guinness Partnership in London and the South East of England. His background is split roughly evenly between contracting, private house building and housing association development which he has been working in for the past 40 years. He has a strong interest in new and emerging technologies in building and likes good architecture - modern or classical – as long as it’s good.
is the Dean and Director of Architecture and Professor of Architecture and Spatial Design at the Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design. Robert's work is actively concerned with encouraging students and professionals to develop a socially engaged design practice that corresponds to their civic roles as architects in society.
Quit Architecture Now
12:00am, Thursday 5th November 15
We all assume that to quit architecture is to fail. Yet the vast majority of those who stick it out are sucked into a world of disempowered subservience to big business. Becoming an architect squanders the creativity and energy of those who are attracted to study architecture in the first place, robbing society and the individual of their potential. There is a better way. We should all quit architecture before it’s too late.
This debate's panel all studied architecture before quitting. They are best known for their varied and influential work leading projects beyond the profession but still related to architecture and wider culture.
studied architecture at the Bartlett before cofounding Bompas and Parr, the Jelly wielding, breathable alcohol emitting design studio currently in the process of launching the British Museum of Food.
studied architecture at Bath and Glasgow School of Art. After practicing as an architect she became Development Director of the housing association giant Peabody before setting up as an independent development specialist. She is also writing a radio play about property development.
studied architecture at the University of Melbourne and the CASS and was Senior Architectural Designer at London-based practice Makespace. She is now Creative Director of Shuffle, a community organisation and powerhouse behind the annual Shuffle Festival in Mile End.
studied architecture at the Architectural Association where he was president from 2001 to 2002. He founded and runs the widely respected property development company Baylight.
Phineas Harper and Maria Smith
The Society of Turncoats
Any group of people with a thirst for intellectual mischief can join the Society of Turncoats and form a chapter in their city. Membership is free. Once a member, you can use and improve the format to host official Turncoats events. It began with Architecture, but can be transposed to other disciplines in need of an alternative format to niggle into the depths of difficult issues.
Membership entitles chapters to
- Turncoats enamel badges plus the design files to produce more
- Access to the source code of the Turncoats website to use for your events
- A big bundle of images, logos, fonts and templates to help launch events
- Access to the Turncoats network
- A printed guide to running a Turncoats event plus digital copy
- Support from chapters around the word
Email firstname.lastname@example.org about setting setting up a chapter
Turncoats is a project founded by Phineas Harper and Maria Smith with the support of Robert Mull and the Architecture Foundation. For all enquiries write to email@example.com.
Bring turncoats to your city.