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Zaha Hadid Architects: 'Patrik Schumacher’s urban policy manifesto does not reflect our past and will not be our future'

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The director of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), Patrik Schumacher, has come under mounting pressure for his recent controversial comments about social housing, with his own practice distancing themselves from his public pronouncements.

In a strongly-worded statement, ZHA said: “Patrik Schumacher’s ‘urban policy manifesto’ does not reflect Zaha Hadid Architects’ past – and will not be our future. Zaha Hadid did not write manifestos. She built them.”

The growing furore followed a keynote speech delivered by Schumacher at the World architecture Festival in Berlin on 17 November, in which he called for affordable housing to be scrapped and described social housing tenants as “freeriders” stopping more productive workers living in the centre of London. He also suggested that “80 per cent of Hyde Park” in London should be built over with a new city and called for the privatisation of all streets, squares, public spaces and parks.

His comments have drawn the ire of fellow architects, social housing campaigners and the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who described them as “out of touch.”

In their statement, ZHA emphasised their socially inclusive philosophy, pointing to the fact they have “delivered 56 projects for all members of the community in 45 cities around the world” and adding that 43 per cent of architects at ZHA are of an ethnic minority and 40 per cent are women. In a further implied criticism of Schumacher, they added that Hadid “did not reserve her ideology for the lecture hall. She lived it.”

“Zaha Hadid didn’t just break glass ceilings and pull down barriers; she shattered them – inviting everyone of any race, gender, creed or orientation to join her on the journey,” they continued. “Through determination and sheer hard work, Zaha showed us all that architecture can be diverse and democratic. She inspired a whole new generation around the world to engage with their environment, to never stop questioning and never–ever–stop imagining.

“Collaborating with clients, communities and specialists around the world who share this vision, everyone at Zaha Hadid Architects is dedicated to honouring Zaha’s legacy, working with passion and commitment to design and deliver the most transformational projects for all.”

In a separate statement, three of the executors of Hadid’s will – her niece Rana Hadid, former Arts Council chairman Lord Palumbo and artist Brian Clarke – also distanced themselves and Hadid from Schumacher’s arguments.

“The views recently expressed by Patrik Schumacher regarding the closure of art schools, the abandonment of social housing and the building over of Hyde Park are his personal views and are not, in any way, shared by us,” they said. “Knowing Dame Zaha as well as we did, we can state categorically that she would have been totally opposed to these views and would have disassociated herself from them. We personally also totally disagree with these views.”

Schumacher posted a statement of his own on 28 November on Facebook, seemingly since removed, describing the “emerging Mr Nasty image” as a “media caricature” and stating his regret at having “embarrassed” friends and colleagues” with his “naïve discursive misadventure.”

He said: “I was hoping to stir a discussion and got much more than what I had bargained for.”

Clarifying his views, he continued: “Like all of us, I dream of a caring, inclusive, diverse society where everybody can flourish and realise his/her potential and nobody is left behind. All I say is inspired by this longing.”

Expanding on his original comments further, he said, “I envision a society based on free association and mutually voluntary interactions and exchanges, where we grant each other more degrees of freedom and believe in each other’s capacity of self-responsibility and charity, where the rules of interaction can be explored, discovered and allowed to evolve and where organisational and moral standards emerge and adapt to new challenges and technological opportunities in a dispersed, bottom-up process of discovery and cumulative selection/validation, rather than via majority rule.”

Schumacher, who talked extensively about his vision for ZHA in the latest issue of CLADmag, has been leading the studio since the death of Zaha Hadid in March.

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The director of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), Patrik Schumacher, has come under mounting pressure for his recent controversial comments about social housing, with his own practice distancing themselves from his public pronouncements.
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