Architectural debates are rubbish.
We’ve all been there: a panel of similar designers 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 foment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.

Bored of Biennales

7:00pm, Thursday 26th March 20

More than 200 architecture festivals swamp the global design world with a slew of under funded navel gazing ego-centric love-ins. Often impenetrable, frequently more concerned with press than participants and always pretentious.

Meanwhile a cacophony of galleries compete for attention and funding, obsessing over the quantity rather than quality of their audiences. The curatorial models of the art world are dragging architecture in a discursive cul-de-sac ruled by hype and high brow intellectualisation, separating it from prosaic realities of construction, engineering and ordinary people.

The era of the international architecture festival, the jet-setting celebrity curator and architecture’s love affair with the trappings of gallery culture must end. Let Venice sink!

The Panel

  • Brendan Cormier is senior design curator of the V&A.

  • Rob Dickens is a music executive. He Signings have include Prince, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the Sex Pistols and the Madness. He is now chair of the RIBA Trust where he established The Architects' Underground.

  • Siobhain Forde is Senior Architect at Stallan-Brand in Glasgow. She has previously worked with Reiach and Hall and RMJM.

  • Lee Ivett is course leader in architecture at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. He is founder of Baxendale Studio and co-curated the Scottish Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

  • Hettie O'Brien is Assistant Opinion Editor at The Guardian.

Hoxton Docks Laburnum Street

Lost in Space

7:00pm, Friday 7th February 20

Helium sucked from the moon. Minerals dug from asteroids. Mining Mars. Norman Foster has proposed terraforming the red planet with drones and 3-D-printed lunar bases. Bjarke Ingels wants a “Mars simulation city” in the deserts of Dubai.

This is not visionary thinking — it is escapism, seductive only to those whose weak imaginations can see no alternative to infinite growth. Mocked as “unrealistic”, even the most wildly ambitious Green New Deal feels increasingly practical set against the snake oil peddled by a new breed of space-colonising fantasist. If Mars is the answer, you’re asking the wrong question.

The Panel

  • Tosin Thompson is a writer and actor. She has written for New Humanist, the Guardian and the New Statesman.

  • Rory Hyde is curator of Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism at the V&A.

  • Xavier De Kestelier is Principal and Head of Design Technology and Innovation at HASSELL. He previously led a number of Foster + Partners projects related to space exploration.

  • Imani Jacqueline Brown is an artist/activist, researcher, and writer from New Orleans.

  • Steve Austen-Brown is Creative Director of Avantgarde UK, an international creative agency who "turn consumers into fans". He is working on "Message to Space" – the UK Pavilion at the 2020 Expo in Dubai.


St John's Hoxton
Pitfield Street
London N1 6NP


Turncoats tickets are available at different prices depending on income. All tickets include vodka, beer and chaos.

Waged – £10. Got a job? This is the ticket for you.
Solidarity – £15. Have you done part three? Earn more than the median income (£29,400)? Occasionally shop at Waitrose? Good for you. This is the ticket for you.
Student – £8. Fear not, you'll more than make it back in the value of the free beer and vodka.

Volunteer – FREE. Want to volunteer on the night instead of getting a ticket? If you can arrive at the venue by 6pm, drop hello@turncoats.uk a line and become a Turncoat.

Nuclear War

7:00pm, Thursday 9th January 20

Nuclear family homes are a retrogressive hangover from a failed consumerist individualistic project. Isolating, resource-intensive, and intrinsically enmeshed with a sexist division of labour reliant upon the subordination of women, they are an architectural tool of repression and social control. Knock them all down!

The Panel

  • Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is an internet of things author and entrepreneur. She was the first UK distributor of the Arduino. Her projects pepper the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

  • Miranda Hall researches the digital economy, work and care at the New Economics Foundation and Common Wealth. She is setting up a childcare co-operative.

  • Lucy Watson is commissioning editor of architecture design at the Financial Times.

  • India Block (Chair) is Assistant Editor of Dezeen.

  • Ben Derbyshire is chair of HTA, a design consultancy specialising in housing and was until recently, president of the RIBA.

  • Janina Smith and Josephine Timmins will open the night with their legendary feminist wrestling comedy, OKayfabe.


Oxo Tower Wharf
Bargehouse Street
London SE1 9PH

Please note, we have learned this venue is not wheelchair accessible and does not have emergency evacuation equipment for disabled users at this time. We are very sorry about this oversight and will ensure all future event take place in accessible venues.


Turncoats tickets are available at different prices depending on income. All tickets include vodka, beer and chaos.

Waged – £10. Got a job? This is the ticket for you.
Solidarity – £15. Have you done part three? Earn more than the median income (£29,400)? Occasionally shop at Waitrose? Good for you. This is the ticket for you.
Student – £8. Fear not, you'll more than make it back in the value of the free beer and vodka.

Volunteer – FREE. Want to volunteer on the night instead of getting a ticket? If you can arrive at the venue by 6pm, drop hello@turncoats.uk a line and become a Turncoat.

Classical Fantastical

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.

The Panel

  • Elly Ward (co-chair) cut her architectural teeth with postmodern pranksters FAT and went on to form Ordinary Architecture from their ashes, reinventing the classical origins of architecture at the Royal Academy last year, much to the horror of Joseph Rykvert. Elly teaches architecture and interiors at the Royal College of Art and is currently launching SITE, a new studio and gallery space on Columbia Road.

  • Robbie Kerr (co-chair) is the youngest director of ADAM Architecture and possibly the youngest bona fide classical architect in the country. He is chair of the Young Georgian Group and is currently working on a scheme for Cuba amid the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Havana.

  • Emmeline Quigley (proposition) is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, Royal College of Art and University of Arts London where she studied fashion before moving into architecture.

  • George Saumarez Smith (proposition) is an architect and a director of ADAM Architecture. His recent exhibition at the RIBA Practice Space "Measure Draw Build" mixed his built work, large-format drawings and sketchbooks from the last 20 years.

  • Steve Webb (opposition) is an engineer, stone fanatic and co-founder of Webb Yates Engineers. He was a senior engineer at Santiago Calatrava's architecture studio until 2003 while Calatrava was still cool.

  • Neal Shasore (opposition) is an uncommonly well dressed architectural historian. He specialises in the early 20th century and is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool.

The Crypt on the Green Clerkenwell Close Clerkenwell London EC1R 0EA Doors: 6.30pm

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.

The Panel

  • 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.

  • Karl Sharro 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.

  • Russell Gray 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.

  • Pooja Agrawal 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.

  • Louis Schultz is a co-founder of architecture and art collective Assemble and maker of very loud sound systems.


Secret Location
London E2 8BD

Sold Out

Fuck London

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.

The Panel

  • 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.

  • Jayden Ali 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.

  • Naomi Smith 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.

  • Caz Facey 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.

  • Ambrose Gillick 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.

Doors: 6.45pm


Secret Location
London E2 8BD


Tickets are currently sold out. Click here to the mailing list for new ticket releases.

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.

The Panel

  • 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.

  • Jane Duncan is founder of Jane Duncan Architects and Interiors. She was president of the Royal Institute of British Architects from September 2015 to August 2017.

  • Joseph Henry 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.

  • Nigel Ostime 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.

  • Chris Bryant 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 hello@turncoats.uk. The prices are:

£8 | Normal - Eight quid. Simples.

£4 | Subsidised - for those who are really feeling the pinch. Rent been trebled? Student loan not come through? Lost your job due to Brexit? Grab one of these! Please don't get one of these unless you need to.

£12 | A Bit Extra - Occasionally shop at Waitrose? Don't break a sweat when renewing RIBA membership? Please get one of these and help support others to attend Turncoats for less.

All tickets include beer and vodka!

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.

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.

Hoxton Hall

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.

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.


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.

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.

Hoxton Hall

Vanity Publishing

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.

The Panel

  • 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.

Consultation Con

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.

The Panel

  • 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.

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.

The Panel

  • 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


Turncoats is a provocative global debating society turning public discourse on its head, shaking and serving over ice. It is off the record, offline and riddled with devil’s advocates hiding in plain sight.  Prepare for big arguments from surprising places, where the only allegiances are to the spirit of the fight.

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 hello@turncoats.uk.

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