Architectural debates are rubbish.
We've all been there: a panel of similar designers with similar views taking it in turns to talk at length about their similar work - too polite, too deferential, too dull. At best they are lukewarm love-ins, critically impotent, elitist and stuffy. Turncoats is a shot in the arm. Framed by theatrically provocative opening gambits, a series of free debates will rugby tackle six fundamental issues facing contemporary practice with a playful and combative format designed to ferment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.

Toss Posh Tosh

Hoxton Hall, Thursday 25 February 2016

Meritocracy is a myth. At every level architecture is carefully calibrated to covertly and overly privilege the middle class. Faced with declining authority we scrabble to blame architecture schools' detachment from practice, a rising consultant class and cultural devaluation of design but are unable to face up to the reality that our pampered posh profession is simply too privileged to engage with the real world. The struggle for a broader base of backgrounds is not just about architecture's cosmetic inclusivity - it is about its survival.

The Panel

  • Lee Ivett founded participatory architecture firm, Baxendale. His mode of practise is intensely generative, developing low-budget socially-focussed projects from scratch largely for working class communties in around Glasgow where he is based.

  • Julia King is an architectural designer and urban researcher based out of LSE Cities. Her design practice is concerned with housing, sanitation infrastructure, urban planning, and participatory design processes mostly in developing countries. She has won numerous awards including Emerging Woman Architect of the Year. She has taught at the Bartlett, AA and the CASS where she recently completed her PhD-by-practice.

  • Igor Toronyi-Lalic is the arts editor at the Spectator and co-director of the London Contemporary Music Festival. He is a critic and curator, writing extensively on the arts for The Times, The Sunday Telegraph, Economist, London Evening Standard and Building Design. He is the author of a report on public art, What's That Thing? (2012), and a biography, Benjamin Britten (2013), for Penguin.

  • Martyn Evans is a man of many hats. He is principally know as Creative Director and king of design at property developers U+i. He chaired the The Forgiveness Project for a decade, is a board member of the London Festival of Architecture and at one time ran the Body Shop’s media strategy. He advises business, charity and government on development issues and read Business at Leicester Polytechnic.

  • Chair
  • Claire Fox is Director of the Institute of Ideas, which she established to create a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint. She is a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze and convenes the yearly Battle of Ideas festival at the Barbican.
  • Toss Posh Tosh
  • £ Free
  • 6.30pm
  • Thursday 25 February 2016
  • Hoxton Hall
  • 130 Hoxton St
  • London N1 6SH

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Quit Architecture Now

5 November

We all assume that to quit architecture is to fail. Yet the vast majority of those who stick it out are sucked into a world of disempowered subservience to big business. Becoming an architect squanders the creativity and energy of those who are attracted to study architecture in the first place, robbing society and the individual of their potential. There is a better way. We should all quit architecture before it's too late.

    The Debators

  • This debate's panel all studied architecture before quitting. They are best known for their varied and influential work leading projects beyond the profession but still related to architecture and wider culture.

  • Harry Parr studied architecture at the Bartlett before cofounding Bompas and Parr, the Jelly wielding, breathable alcohol emitting design studio currently in the process of launching the British Museum of Food.

  • Claire Bennie studied architecture at Bath and Glasgow School of Art. After practicing as an architect she became Development Director of the housing association giant Peabody before setting up as an independent development specialist. She is also writing a radio play about property development.

  • VS

  • Kate MacTiernan studied architecture at the University of Melbourne and the CASS and was Senior Architectural Designer at London-based practice Makespace. She is now Creative Director of Shuffle, a community organisation and powerhouse behind the annual Shuffle Festival in Mile End.

  • Crispin Kelly studied architecture at the Architectural Association where he was president from 2001 to 2002. He founded and runs the widely respected property development company Baylight.

  • Chair

  • Phineas Harper and Maria Smith

Consultation Con

12 November

Community consultation is meaningless vacuous tick-box bullshit. It has become a decoy that developers deploy to shove unwanted projects down the throats of an unconsenting public. Its cringeworthy language of community empowerment is just thinly veiled power moves and lazy spin. The profession, the public, and the built environment would be better off without it.

    The Debators

  • This debate's panel are all concerned with the role of public communication in architecture. They have all worked on projects where community engagement and collaborative design have been a gamechanging part of the process.

  • Daisy Froud is a founder of AOC and whilst at the practice headed up the participation team. Daisy specialises in facilitating collaborative planning through implementing strategies to encourage diverse community groups to find common ground during the design process. She is currently teaching at the Bartlett school of architecture, whilst also sitting on the Hackney Design Review panel.

  • Holly Lewis is a co-founder of We Made That, an architectural practice specialising in urban interventions with a strong public focus. Holly leads the research portfolio of the practice, carrying out comprehensive studies of local environments and economies, which inform her continued involvement in the Tower Hamlets Conservation and Design Advisory Panel.

  • Piers Taylor is founder of Invisible Studio, an anti-practice that attempts to operate in different ways than mainstream architectural practice. Piers was a Studio Master at the AA and Design Fellow at Cambridge and is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Sheffield. He lives in a self built house on a site with no car access and works from a self built studio that was constructed largely from materials found or grown on site with no drawings.

  • Mark Hanson is Head of Development for the Guinness Partnership in London and the South East of England. His background is split roughly evenly between contracting, private house building and housing association development which he has been working in for the past 40 years. He has a strong interest in new and emerging technologies in building and likes good architecture - modern or classical – as long as it’s good.

  • Chair

  • Robert Mull is the Dean and Director of Architecture and Professor of Architecture and Spatial Design at the Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design. Robert's work is actively concerned with encouraging students and professionals to develop a socially engaged design practice that corresponds to their civic roles as architects in society.

Ornament is crime is crime

Hoxton Hall, 6.30pm, Wednesday 27 January 2016

We are conditioned to believe that ornament is crime, that less is more. In fact this so-called wisdom stems not from deep human insights nor profound spiritual truths, but from age-old middle-class snobbery. It’s time to abolish the lies around ‘refinement’ and material lust. Within the constraints of contemporary practice, restrained ‘truth to materials’ only works for the wealthy - the normal-person's version is horrendous and depressing casting class divides in concrete. We must abolish this crude consensus before it irreparably wrecks the experiential and social richness of our environment.

The Panel

  • Rory Hyde is Curator of Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

  • Bertie Brandes co-founded the satirical fashion magazine, The Mushpit. She is a stylist and journalist regularly contributing to i-D, the Guardian, Dazed and Vice where she was Fashion Editor.

  • Adam Nathaniel Furman is founder of the Postmodern Society. He is an architect, furniture designer and curator. Among many other projects he runs the research cluster Saturated Space which investigates the role of colour in the built environment.

  • Jane Hall co-founded Assemble who recently rocked the art world by becoming the first architecture firm to scoop the Turner Prize. She formerly worked at art and architecture firm, Studio Weave and is stuyding a PhD on Brazilian Modernist, Lina Bo Bardi.

  • Guest Chair
  • Charles Holland is co-founder of Ordinary Architecture. Previously he was a director of FAT where he was responsible for a number of the firm’s key projects including A House for Essex, Islington Square and Thornton Heath Library.
  • Ornament is crime is crime
  • £ Free
  • 6.30pm
  • Wednesday 27 January 2016
  • Hoxton Hall
  • 130 Hoxton St
  • London N1 6SH

Get a ticket

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  • Vanity Publishing

    26 November

    The design media is little more than a sycophantic, vapid and naval gazing extension of the PR industry. Our monographs, magazines and museums feed a cycle of shallow celebratory hysterics with little to no investigative or critical practice. Awards programmes lurch between jacking off the already engorged egos of starchitects or chasing the virginal myth of untainted emerging designers preying simultaneously on the young's insecurity and the old's fear of death in the name of profit for disconnected share holders. Cosy relationships between judges and judged, editors and edited amount to mild corruption - unsubscribe now.

      The Debators

    • Oliver Wainwright is Architecture Critic at the Guardian and former Features Editor of Building Design Magazine.

    • Cath Slessor is Critic-at-Large of the Architecture Foundation and the former editor of the Architectural Review.

    • VS

    • Jack Self is co-founder of the new crowd-funded magazine, the Real Review and Contributing Editor for the Architectural Review.

    • Hana Loftus is Director of HAT Projects and writes for Building Design magazine, Architecture Today and Icon magazine.

    • Chair

    • Marcus Fairs is Editor-in-Chief of Dezeen and founder of ICON magazine.


    Turncoats is a project by Phineas Harper, Robert Mull and Maria Smith supported by the CASS and the Architecture Foundation. For all enquiries write to hello@turncoats.uk

    Turncoats Team

    James Brady
    Margit Kraft
    Amelia Hunter
    Chloe Spiby Loh
    Matthew Dalziel
    Marina Stanimirovic
    Matthew Bovingdon-Downe
    Natalie Simmons
    Lee Wilshire

    Supported by

    Media partners

    In association with

    Courtroom artists

    Andra Antone
    Peter Cross
    Greg Stonard

    Special thanks

    Martyn Evans
    Manon Mollard
    Niamh Lincoln
    Jon Astbury
    Kate MacTiernan
    Ellis Woodman
    Yanni Pitsillides
    James Hignett
    James Rogers
    Simhika Rao

    Site built by Ben Chernett