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ACAN responds to RIBA Stirling Prize - Stop celebrating architecture that is bad for the planet.

The RIBA claims that this year’s Stirling shortlist was based on contributions to community and sustainability.

The Elephant Park ‘regeneration’ scheme, which includes Orchard Gardens, saw the demolition of the Heygate Estate and forcible displacement of council tenants. 1,194 social housing units were replaced by 2,700 homes, of which, only 92 units remain socially rented. Twenty percent of council tenants remained in the SE17 postcode, with the majority relocated to the outskirts of London.

The developer, LendLease, was able to weasel their way out of providing more social housing on the basis that a profit margin of less than 25% would be detrimental to their business case. Southwark council, a partner in the development, accepted this.

Unnecessary demolition further fuels climate breakdown. The replacement of social housing with high end homes is an act of social cleansing, which exacerbates growing inequality facing our societies.

100 Liverpool St is an exercise in greenwashing. Demolition of the 1980s pink granite office block paved way for the erection of a entirely glazed office block. Its claim to ‘net zero’ is founded on the re-use of a portion of the building’s original concrete and steel, hardly a saving for a building that did not need to be demolished in the first place.

The purchase of carbon offsets abroad, in Tibet and Mexico, is contentious. Buying offsets are a ‘get out of jail free’ card that reinforces the status quo of pollution and takes land out of the control of indigenous groups.

Its glazed facade requires an expensive and intensive artificial cooling and heating that in a fuel poverty crisis and climate emergency is thoughtless to promote.

These projects have been described by the RIBA as "ambitious" and an example of "generous architecture fit for a low carbon future". We ask - whose ambition do they further? Who are these projects generous towards?

Upholding projects like these as good examples grossly underestimates the level of change required from the industry to adequately tackle the climate crisis and neglects the needs of marginalised groups in pursuit of profit for a select few.

We recognise housing estate ‘regeneration’ schemes and massive glazed office blocks are nothing new. But labelling these projects as sustainable when they clearly aren’t is an attempt to pull the wool over our own eyes over the negative impacts that our industry continues to have on people and planet.

To the RIBA, we challenge you to reconsider this year’s Stirling Prize nominees. This list is not something to celebrate and promotes architecture that pollutes the planet. Similarly, we appeal to all other awards in architecture and construction to not facilitate greenwashing and use their platforms to champion projects that reflect the age of climate emergency we’re now in.


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