An irate group of protesters arrived outside the offices of Zaha Hadid Architects on November 30th to raise objections to the company’s director, Patrik Schumacher. Schumacher had just given a speech where he voiced some strong opinions on London’s social housing and private market. The protesters, from a group known as Class War, are accusing Schumacher, and ZHA by association, of being anti-working class. The company has since provided a statement on where they stand on the issue, but this won’t be enough for many protesters.
Patrik Schumacher’s comments on social housing and public have caused an uproar! After the conference, Mr. Schumacher described his speech as “brainstorming” but repeated the view that his staff could not be expected to live in “provincial” areas because it would “make them less productive and compromise their careers.” He later said in a Facebook post that the views were his own and did not represent the policies of the practice he leads. He wrote: “Would I recommend ZHA to refuse a social housing project? Not at all! We did in fact deliver social housing in Vienna and we a proud of what we have contributed to there.”
The protest came after Schumacher called for an overhaul of Landon’s social housing strategy and the privatization of public land. The director was giving a keynote speech at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin. He attacked the policy on social housing, stating that they restrict the creativity of architects and make poor use of the space in London. In another controversial moment of the speech, he called for the privatization of the public space, with the idea of building upon 80% of Hyde Park!
The comments have caused great upset in London, with critics attacking his views on London’s green spaces and campaigners about social fascism. The statement on the working class receiving unfair access the center were particularly poorly received. The protesters took to their megaphones, calling for Schumacher to come out! However, it seems that he was still out of the country on business
It is not just Class War that was riled up by Schumacher’s comments, but Zaha Hadid Architects are being careful with their response.
One of those that joined Class War to speak out to condemn this viewpoint was London Mayor Sadiq Khan. He praised the diversity of London and accused Schumacher of being so out-of-touch that doesn’t understand the city. The prospect of abolishing affordable housing and building at Hyde Park were laughable as approaches to the city’s housing crisis.
“One of our biggest strengths as a city is our diversity, with Londoners from different backgrounds living side by side,” Khan was speaking to the Evening Standard. “So whether these out-of-touch comments were designed to shock or not, anyone who thinks abolishing affordable housing altogether, supporting ‘buy-to-leave’ empty properties, and building on Hyde Park is the answer to London’s housing crisis doesn’t understand the first thing about our great city.”
“I was elected as Mayor because of my commitment to tackle the housing crisis. I know – and most Londoners agree – that this means building more new and affordable homes for Londoners to rent and buy, and protecting our public square and parks.” Khan added!
Schumacher has since come out as saying that he wanted to spark a debate issue, and it appears that he may have been deliberately controversial in his argument to get a reaction. His apology statement talks about a desire to see an inclusive society and appreciation that he touched on a sensitive subject. However, few seem keen to forgive and forget!
Simon Elmer, co-founder of The Architects for Social Housing described his views as “pretty crude social engineering” and challenged Mr Schumacher to a public debate on the issues raised in London, which he has accepted.