Futures Forum: Cranbrook: where's the 'good design'?
There might be a reason for it:
The slow death of the Public Architect | The Birmingham Press
Thorp retires from Leeds as last of city architects
John Thorp will retire as Leeds city architect in November, only the seventh and final man to hold the title in more than 100 years. He will stay on part-time till March to bring two key projects to completion: Leeds Arena and the Eastgate retail quarter.
When he joined the council as an architectural assistant in 1970 there was an architects’ department of 400; now the department is no more.
In his four decades Thorp, 68, has done more than any other individual to shape the city, from Millennium Square to the City Museum. Earlier in his career he built 50 schools, four sports centres and worked on the Henry Moore Sculpture Gallery with the sculptor.
“That was a really enriching relationship for someone in my position,” he said. “Like Moore, I was born in this area and the sense of landscape and geology seems to be in the blood. It’s a very strong sense that has run through my work: less of the architecture of buildings and more of landscape and townscape, where buildings become integral to that. Signature buildings are needed but my architecture has been urban dentistry as much as individual buildings.”
More recently he has been a Cabe national and Olympic design review panellist.
Carey Jones director Gordon Carey, who first studied under Thorp 40 years ago before working with him, said Thorp had helped make Leeds great. “John has been fantastic for the city. He is passionate about it – physically and socially – and is responsible for all the good things about it,” he said.
Thorp, who was made an OBE for services to architecture and regeneration six years ago, received an honorary doctorate from Leeds Metropolitan University’s school of architecture and is looking forward to some retirement work there. He is also writing a book on devoting his architectural career to one city.
A Leeds council spokesman said Thorp would not be replaced.
DEATH OF THE ARCHITECTS’ DEPARTMENT
Once a feature of every local authority, architects’ depart-ments were responsible for some of Britain’s finest civic buildings.
With roots in the 1870 Education Act, they were headed by a chief architect whose job was to mediate with the politicians and advise on the quality of private schemes.
The rot set in as lack of money and reorganisations led to their dismantling. Junior architects, engineers and others were lumped together, often under the leadership of someone more familiar with balance sheets than design.
Leslie Morrison, president of the Society of Chief Architects of Local Authorities, said the decline left cities at risk.
“The danger is things get approved for political reasons if you don’t have a design architect at the top to say, ’That’s rubbish; go back to the drawing board’,” he said.