Peter’s Perspective May/June

Clerkenwell Design Week confirms EC1’s position at the heart of the capital’s creative economy. Our columnist says it’s architects that deserve the credit.

Are there still more architects per square metre in Clerkenwell than anywhere in the world? This was what we reckoned in 2004 at the launch of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA), which started life as the Clerkenwell Architecture Biennale. Rising rents have proved too much for some firms who have moved further east or south. SOM, ORMS and Rogers Stirk Harbour have moved to the City of London, not a location traditionally linked to the creative industries.

RSH did look briefly at the idea of moving into the Farmiloe Building in St John Street but decided they’d prefer to be in a building they designed themselves (The Leadenhall Building). To make up for the departures, local boys AHMM and Hawkins Brown have been growing very fast.

Luckily we now have more accurate data about the scale of the contribution that architecture makes to London’s economy. The LFA prompted the Greater London Authority’s economics team to study the subject in terms of jobs, value added, education and international competitiveness. The analysis showed that London’s architecture sector produced a massive £1.7 billion in gross value added (GVA) – 38 per cent bigger than the product, graphic and fashion design sectors put together and greater than many observers expected.

The sector has grown by 7.6 per cent since 2009, faster than the creative industries and the London economy as a whole. Forty per cent of London architects are female, more than double the rest of the country.

I write this as Clerkenwell gears up for its very successful Design Week, which is celebrating its eighth year in May 2017. In the previous decade the area has become without doubt London’s design centre – but other design disciplines should not forget that architecture is still very much the mother of all the arts.

Peter Murray is Chairman of NLA: London’s Centre for the Built Environment