Leaked E-mail: Schumacher Reacts to ZHA’s Open Letter
Following up with the consequences of Patrik Schumacher’s controversial keynote speech at the World Architecture Festival (WAF) in Berlin, an e-mail by the Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) partner, himself, to all ZHA staff has been leaked to the Architect’s Journal. The e-mail was a re-assurance to the practice staff that the open letter issued by ZHA, disowning his own statement on social housing in the WAF, was not approved by the directors but was the lone effort of ZHA’s head of press, Roger Howie.
Schumacher’s WAF speech, last November, in which he suggested abolishing social housing in London, building on 80% of Hyde Park, and privatizing public spaces, has caused public uproar. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, accused Schumacher of “not understanding the first thing about the city.” The anarchist group “Class War” held protests outside ZHA offices, claiming that Schumacher and ZHA are anti-working class. Also, the executors of Zaha Hadid’s estate and foundation trustees, including her niece Rana Hadid, reported their disagreement to Schumacher’s views, asserting that the Zaha Hadid they knew would have totally opposed them too. All the commotion was, finally, followed by an open letter from Zaha Hadid Architects rejecting their partner’s proposed policies, and affirming ZHA’s diversity and inclusive architecture policy. The signals which the open letter carried required Schumacher’s personal attention and immediate reaction.
While still in Hong Kong, Schumacher sent an e-mail to ZHA staff from his iPhone the night the open letter was released. The e-mail, which was written in a non-formal sarcastic tone, meant to confirm that the whole matter was exaggerated by the media which, in his words, creates news “out of thin air.” He explained that the letter was Howie’s reaction to the media’s stormy coverage, and he criticized him for the individual act that indicated “a rift which does not exist” inside ZHA. Additionally, he mocked the media’s overstatement of the implications of that letter, which hinted an “open feud” and Schumacher’s “imminent unemployment.” He, also, expressed his regret for his statement and the protests they have evoked, showing his concern for the safety of the staff in London. Finally, he concluded by admitting to his error in approaching the matter the way he did, saying: “Politics and professional service don’t mix.”
ZHA’s Principal and Studio partner had formerly expressed his surprise at the aggressive reaction towards his statements, claiming that he only meant to trigger discussion. On that accord, he accepted the challenge by Simon Elmer, co-founder of The Architects for Social Housing, for a public debate on the issues raised in London. Nonetheless, it seems that the fire Schumacher has ignited with his words will not be suppressed so fast, if at all.
Here is the full email:
Sent: 29 November 2016 23:56
To: # All Staff
Subject: all cool !!! the ominous ZHA statement was Roger’s heroic solo effort
Welcome to hyper-reality… where “news” can be created out of thin air, hyped up to snowball quickly into volleys that might hurt, but don’t if you have a healthy thick skin and a good conscience. I for my part won’t loose [sic] my humour over this, as my confidence in who we are can’t be touched by (fake or real but fallacious) indignation. Don’t worry, I am in charge and won’t let you down. Roger unfortunately temporarily drowned in the quicksands of the media spin and issued a statement on behalf of ZHA which had nobody’s endorsement except his very own. I guess he got carried away by his own virtuoso rhetorical flourish – fighting one front without noticing that he was opening thereby another; he failed to reflect that his punchy phrases could never have been endorsed by me and thus would falsely but inevitably signal a rift inside ZHA, a rift which does not exist at all. He had circulated this piece to all directors, and got duly rebuked by all telling him that this was inappropriate and would be read as implying fracture.
But feeling the real pressure of the hyper-volleys flying all over and around him in the eerie media vortex where he is residing since WAF, he failed to wait for their response and released his piece into this spinning hungry media vortex. I found out about this only when some stunning new twitter headlines popped onto my iPhone (tonight here in Hong Kong) about an “open feud” at the heart of ZHA and about my imminent unemployment (about to “stress test my libertarian ideology”. Hahahaha!!! Hey, there is at least still some humour out there among all the real and faked outrage). So now we have yet another myth to dispel. Sorry Roger, you have been doing a fantastic and fantastically difficult job in that phantasmagoric controversy that I regretfully enflamed with embarrassing innocence and perhaps with a dose of rather selfish recklessness (sorry to you all!) but I had to expose your slippage to dispel the confusion about who is (and who might want to be??) in charge of ZHA. (The media were also already speculating who might have authored this statement.)I’ll be back Friday morning to strategise about the best way to communicate our sound levelheaded sanity amidst all this sensationalising mad media frenzy (and pompous posturing as well as real honest anger, confusion and puzzlement). I am sorry i can’t be there when this scary self-appointed “class war” pushes against our gates. I hope the protest is peaceful! In any case please be careful and avoid confrontation – as broken teeth or similar calamities are to be avoided by all means. I am in good spirits trusting that my faux pas will be forgiven (by you for sure, but also by the world, our colleagues, clients, etc). Hey, shit happens … and lessons are learned! Politics and professional service don’t mix. I have written about this at length. How these aspects of a meaningful and ambitious life might co-exist peacefully, without compromising and subverting each other remains to be carefully defined and (most cautiously!!!) probed in due time (not now !!!).
Sent from my iPhone