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 free debates will rugby tackle six fundamental issues facing contemporary practice with a playful and combative format designed to ferment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.

Test Unit Presents

Pop Up? Piss Off!

6.30pm, Firday 23 June

Pop-up food, booze, fashion and architecture. Whats next?

As our collective attention span is diminishing to the point of no return how much more can we take? Advocates suggest temporary & pop-up architecture is an agile way of testing ideas in an urban context, or is it just an exploitative phenomenon that saps creativity and creates quick wins for those with capital interests in contested sites? To round off our day of collective back-slapping on the advantages of ‘prototyping ideas’ we invite a feisty panel to discuss the pros-and-cons of this ubiquitous trend in urban development.

The Panel

  • Jonathan Charley, Director of Cultural Studies - University of Strathclyde. Jonathan studied architecture in Portsmouth, London and Moscow, and subsequently worked in community architecture for seven years. He has lived in Glasgow for nearly thirty years, is currently Director of Cultural Studies at the University of Strathclyde and is currently working on two new books: The Monologues of City X, (2018), takes the reader on a journey into the heart of the capitalist city through four fictional narratives, capital, machine, nature and utopia. The second is the Routledge Companion for Architecture, Literature and The City, (2017)

  • Penny Lewis, Lecturer - University of Dundee. Penny teaches at the Architecture and Urban Planning department of the University of Dundee and on a joint UoD and Wuhan University course in China. She has been teaching for the past 10 years. Prior to that she was the editor of Prospect the Scottish architectural journal and she continues to write for the architectural press. She is a founding member of the AE Foundation (aefoundation.co.uk).

  • Diarmaid Lawlor, Director of Place - Architecture & Design Scotland - A&DS. Diarmaid is an urbanist, with a multi disciplinary background. He has almost 20 years’ experience of helping clients make well informed decisions about complex, connected urban policy and investment challenges. His experience has been gained from project, programme and policy working with clients in Ireland, the UK and Europe, for the public, private and tertiary sectors. Diarmaid is an educator, communicator and collaborator who writes and speaks on creative approaches to making better places.

  • Chaired by Ambrose Gillick - BAXENDALE. Ambrose is a researcher and lecturer at the GSA. Ambrose 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
  • 6.30pm
  • Friday 23 June
  • Tickets are free. Booking essential.
  • Civic House
  • 26 Civic Street
  • Glasgow G4 9SS
  • Scotland

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The Good, The Bad and The Belgian

7pm, Saturday 1 July, Gent

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.

The Panel

  • Job Floris

  • Martino Tattara

  • More speakers TBA
  • 7pm
  • Saturday 1 July
  • Tickets are free. Booking essential.
  • 019 - Museum of Moving Practice
  • Design Museum Ghent
  • Jan Breydelstraat 5
  • 9000 Ghent
  • Belgium

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Buildings Don't Matter

Tuesday 13 June, 2017, New York City

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
    • 7pm
    • Tuesday 13 June, 2017
    • The Cooper Union
    • Rose Auditorium
    • 41 Cooper Sq
    • New York City

    Get a ticket

    Design The Wall

    Thursday 26 January, 2017

    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.

    • 5pm
    • Thursday 26 January, 2017
    • $10
    • Inform Interiors
    • 50 Water St
    • Vancouver, BC V6B 1A4 CA

    Get a ticket

    Smart Cities Are Dumb


    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?

    The Panel

    ArchiFringe and Creative Dundee present

    The Glamour Chase

    7.00pm, Thursday 29 September

    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.

    • 7.00pm
    • Thursday 29 September
    • Tickets are free. Booking essential.
    • Dundee Contemporary Arts
    • 152 Nethergate
    • Dundee DD1
    • Scotland

    Get a ticket

    Sorry about tomorrow

    7.00pm, Thursday 21 July

    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!*

    The Panel

    • Leah Lockhart, Director of Relate Lab and former Digital Engagement Manager for the Scottish Government

    • Chris Speed, Chair of Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh

    • Nicholas Hotham, Head of Outreach & Advocacy at Edinburgh World Heritage Trust
    • Andy Summers (Chair) co-creator of the Archifringe festival
    • 7.00pm
    • Thursday 7 July
    • Tickets are free. Booking essential.
    • Edinburgh College of Art
    • Lauriston Place
    • Edinburgh EH3 9DF
    • Scotland

    Get a ticket

    Rip it up and start again

    7.00pm, Thursday 7 July

    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.

    The Panel

    • Rebecca Davies is a participatory artist deeply integrated with the community of Elephant & Castle who are facing redevelopment of their area. Homepage

    • Paul Stallan 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.
    • Gerry Hassan is a writer, academic and research fellow in cultural policy and producer of Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas. Homepage
    • 7.00pm
    • Thursday 7 July
    • Tickets are free. Booking essential.
    • The Glue Factory
    • 22 Farnell Street
    • Glasgow, G4 9SE
    • Scotland

    Get a ticket

    Original Sin

    6pm, Friday 1 April 2016, Vancouver

    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!

    The Panel

    • Clinton Cuddington 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.

    • Fernanda Hannah 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.

    • Javier Campos is an architect and founder of Campos Studio. His work includes several highly-awarded buildings, public art pieces, and competition entries.

    • Alicia Medina 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.
    • TBA
    • 6pm
    • Friday 1 April
    • $10
    • DUDOC Dutch Urban Design Centre
    • 1445 West Georgia Street
    • Vancouver, BC V6G 2T3
    • Canada

    Get a ticket

    Schools out

    Saturday 2 April

    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.
  • The Panel

    • Jelica Jovanović
    • Nikola Andonov
    • Milan Stevanović
    • Borys Wrzeszcz

    • Moderator
    • Ljuba Slavković
    • 7.30pm
    • Saturday 2 April
    • Tickets are free. Booking essential.
    • Kupina Cinema
    • Balkanska 2
    • Niš
    • Serbia

    Get a ticket

    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 hello@turncoats.uk about setting setting up a chapter

    Quit Architecture Now

    5 November, 2015

    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.

      The Debators

    • 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.

    • Harry Parr 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.

    • Claire Bennie 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.

    • VS

    • Kate MacTiernan 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.

    • Crispin Kelly 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.

    • Chair

    • Phineas Harper and Maria Smith

    Consultation Con

    12 November, 2015

    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.

      The Debators

    • 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.

    • Daisy Froud 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.

    • Holly Lewis 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.

    • Piers Taylor 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.

    • Mark Hanson 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.

    • Chair

    • Robert Mull 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.

    Vanity Publishing

    26 November, 2015

    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.

      The Debators

    • Oliver Wainwright is Architecture Critic at the Guardian and former Features Editor of Building Design Magazine.

    • Cath Slessor is Critic-at-Large of the Architecture Foundation and the former editor of the Architectural Review.

    • VS

    • Jack Self is co-founder of the new crowd-funded magazine, the Real Review and Contributing Editor for the Architectural Review.

    • Hana Loftus is Director of HAT Projects and writes for Building Design magazine, Architecture Today and Icon magazine.

    • Chair

    • Marcus Fairs is Editor-in-Chief of Dezeen and founder of ICON magazine.

    Ornament is crime is crime

    Hoxton Hall, 6.30pm, Wednesday 27 January 2016

    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.

    The Panel

    • Rory Hyde is Curator of Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

    • Bertie Brandes 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.

    • Jane Hall 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.

    • Guest Chair
    • Charles Holland 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.

    The Gender Agenda

    U+I, 7.00pm, Thursday 11 February 2016

    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.

    The Panel

    • Ella Whelan 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.

    • Farshid Moussavi 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.

    • Alison Brooks 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.

    • Guest Chair
    • Shumi Bose 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.

    Toss Posh Tosh

    Hoxton Hall, London, Thursday 25 February 2016

    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.

    The Panel

    • Lee Ivett 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.

    • Julia King 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.

    • Igor Toronyi-Lalic 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.

    • Martyn Evans 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.

    • Chair
    • Claire Fox 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.


    Turncoats is a project by Phineas Harper, Robert Mull and Maria Smith supported by the CASS and the Architecture Foundation. For all enquiries write to hello@turncoats.uk

    Turncoats Team

    James Brady
    Margit Kraft
    Amelia Hunter
    Chloe Spiby Loh
    Matthew Dalziel
    Marina Stanimirovic
    Matthew Bovingdon-Downe
    Natalie Simmons
    Lee Wilshire

    Supported by

    Media partners

    In association with

    Courtroom artists

    Andra Antone
    Peter Cross
    Greg Stonard

    Special thanks

    Martyn Evans
    Manon Mollard
    Niamh Lincoln
    Jon Astbury
    Kate MacTiernan
    Ellis Woodman
    Yanni Pitsillides
    James Hignett
    James Rogers
    Simhika Rao

    Site built by Ben Chernett