The City Architecture Forum is a group of professionals from varied backgrounds with a common interest in the quality of architecture and public space in the City of London. Formed in 1991 when there was a clear difference of view in the City about the appropriate architecture for the present, the Forum has since heard from the leading designers, developers and planners, visited many landmark buildings and debated the virtues of the wave of development since that date. It is not a campaigning society but hopes to influence policy makers and participants by spreading understanding of issues and approaches amongst its members.
Membership is balanced across disciplines to promote rounded discussion. Typically members are drawn from amongst Architects, Engineers, Surveyors, Planners, Constructors, Developers, Building, Financiers, Conservationists and Media.
As I write this annual review of the Forum’s activities over the past 12 months, I ask myself what has really changed?
Maybe by the time we sit down at the AGM and Annual Dinner on the 7th November something BREXIT related will finally have happened…somehow I suspect not. Will England have won the World Cup….
Meantime however life goes on and our splendid City of London continues to defy the threats of impending economic doom and wholesale job losses to Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin and even Amsterdam.
To my mind the City, perhaps the original knowledge cluster to adopt some prop tech speak is still very much alive and kicking in all regards.
The skyline continues to evolve as new buildings are being completed, some tall, some not so tall, some perhaps more slowly than hoped for; planning applications are still being submitted, most are being approved - with the odd floral exception, and demand from commercial occupiers ,taking a long term view on their commitment to London PLC remains strong and they are still signing up-in some cases some years out due to the lack of adequate current supply.
British Telecom at Aldgate, Cisco Meraki at London Wall, Monzo in Appold Street and Convene at 22 Bishopsgate and 80 Fenchurch Street are all good proxies for the diversity of the new City occupier base. This must be a true blessing for the Corporation’s 24/7 City vision as we move away from the focus on just the old core occupier groups such as finance and insurance.
In parallel with the changing commercial sector, the Corporation of London continue their ambitious plans to enhance our global profile with its more than impressive hub of civic projects, including the Museum of London at West Smithfield and the Centre for Music at London Wall, all moving forward.
In addition to the Culture Mile action in Smithfield, the new Cyber Courts and City Police HQ complex in Fleet Street will be a strong catalyst for the re-energising of the western-most part of the City; this alongside the plans to create a new Business Improvement District in the area.
Whilst we will always have our purveyors of doom and gloom out there and I fully appreciate that there are genuine downside concerns, for example, about the impact of the potential demise of WeWork, I still detect a genuine sense of a real get up and go attitude being prevalent here - the redundancy of capital argument which an old boss of mine, the great Gerry Hines, used to remind us most days. Indeed let us not forget that.
Turning to the Forum I’m delighted to say that we’ve been able to host more events this last year than ever before - 10 in fact in total including the AGM and Dinner. Our events this year have been held with a wide variety of hosts/sponsors including British Land, Brookfield, the Mercers’ Company, Wells Fargo, Trilogy and the Financial Times.
A particularly pleasing aspect for me of our events programme, apart from the sheer diversity of the offering as described above, has been the enthusiastic feedback from attendees.
This is gratifying and tells me we continue to have a genuine role to play in the built environment in the City.
My thanks to all who have either been involved in hosting or attending our events.
Next year’s programme is already looking very strong and I hope this will underpin our steadily growing membership base where we are now up to 129 members.
Andrew Reynolds, Chairman