Leading UK architects and designers will vote overwhelmingly to remain in tomorrow’s EU referendum, according to a straw poll conducted by Dezeen, with figures including David Chipperfield and Ron Arad explaining how they will vote and why.
Every designer and architect that spoke to Dezeen said they would vote to remain in the EU.
London firm Studio Egret West has even demonstrated its support for the Remain campaign by painting its windows with the slogan “We love EU” and a smiling face based on the European flag.
Many creatives said that their businesses would be directly impacted if Britain leaves the EU, and employ 40 to 75 per cent of their staff from across the EU.
“It is difficult to imagine how isolated my own profession would become, detached from the influences and inspiration of continental colleagues,” said architect David Chipperfield.
“Open borders create a large and mobile pool of talent which is hugely beneficial for the design industry and the creative industry as a whole,” added designer Ilse Crawford.
Jay Osgerby – one half of London design duo Barber and Osgerby – said the EU accounted for the vast majority of the income and staff across his businesses.
A number of industry figures expressed disappointment at the level of debate that has surrounded the referendum, which will see UK residents vote to remain in or leave the EU in the referendum tomorrow.
The UK is home to many of the world’s most famous designers and architects. A number are the children of immigrants or moved to the UK in the 1970s and 1980s for their careers.
Also voting to remain are industry figures like Deyan Sudjic, director of London’s Design Museum, and employers around the peripheries of the creative industries like Nick Jones of Soho House, whose in-house design and build team is now around 50 strong.
Designer Tom Dixon previously told Dezeen that a “Brexit” vote could damage London’s status as an intentional centre of design.
James Dyson is the highest profile creative industry figure to have publicly come out in favour of exiting the EU, but declined to comment for this article.
Read on to find out why creatives are voting for Britain to remain in the EU in their own words:
I am in support for the UK remaining in the European Union. The arguments for remaining are much more profound than just immediate economic considerations. The European Union is a political, social and cultural project.
In the UK our politicians have always been reluctant to articulate this, therefore the rhetoric has been limited to commercial criteria and avoided explicit philosophical and political debate. This has allowed us to pretend that we don’t need to be ideologically engaged in this project.
We should embrace the reality of European Union in all its potential. We have a lot to offer our European cousins, and they have a lot to teach us; the unique collaboration between the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and Latin cultures in close proximity is the extraordinary fortune of Europe.
It is apparent that the connections made by what might be called the cultural community (including design and architecture) are both substantial and significant. Indeed it is difficult to imagine how our cultural institutions could function without these intellectual and practical connections, and how isolated my own profession would become, detached from the influences and inspiration of continental colleagues.
In our increasingly synthetic world, the forging of cultural connections must be regarded as central to a healthy society – spiritually and commercially – and should not be brushed aside as the romantic. We British have an unhappy record of underestimating the importance of culture as an international language. This is short-sighted both in terms of our external influence and in terms of our own psyche. We are often so wedded to the idea of commercial viability that we see no other measure.
If we accidentally complete our isolation from Europe, please don’t let us imagine that this creates a new openness to the rest of the world – isolation is isolation. We would not only give up the distinct practical advantages of collaboration but the social, political and intellectual advantages too.
We cannot continue to maintain the attitude that Europe is just the faceless bureaucratic administration in Brussels, because it is clearly first and foremost a continent linked together by a common history, committed to sharing political and cultural visions.
I am voting remain. To leave would be an irreversible decision, whose consequences are unclear.
In the early days of the campaign, it seemed like a matter of economic advantage to stay. I think that Barack Obama, the governor of the Bank of England, and Christine Lagarde (managing director of the International Monetary Fund) are more reliable guides to the economy than Boris Johnson and Michael Gove whose grasp on the truth is reflected in their demonstrably false claims that we send £350 million a week to the EU, and that 70 million Turks are about to arrive in Dover.
I am worried by the poison that the out camp have pumped into the system. Those who disagree with them are [cast as] not just wrong, they are liars, who have been bought by Brussels gold. This is concerning, it calls into question the strength of the institutions on which Britain’s identity is based. Those who want Britian to leave on the other hand include Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, who would do us harm if they could.
I’m of course absolutely in. I’m a migrant myself. I came here in 1988. I’m from the Commonwealth, from Canada, a country that’s based on immigration. It’s the source of all of Canada’s success. Of course some of its failures too, but generally it’s a pretty successful country that’s very inclusive, very multicultural and not particularly nationalistic because we’re all very aware of our diversity.
For me, in a way, the European community represents pretty much the highest state of civilisation that’s been achieved globally. Because it’s not an empire in the sense that somebody went around and conquered and absorbed colonies – it’s a voluntary organisation and it represents our capacity to coexist in a civilised way.
It’s not all economic, it’s about the kind of world that we want to live in and future generations to live in. I can’t even imagine what a huge step backwards it will be if Britain leaves the EU.
Not to mention that my office is 75 per cent European architects. I’m not really sure what will happen if Britain leaves. Just the administrative and bureaucratic nightmare that will happen if there is a Brexit – the cost of that probably outdoes any other cost, just the mechanisms of implementing all sorts of new regulations.
It’s very frightening. It’s not the regulations and the beauraracy that’s frightening, it’s the kind of lack of faith in humanity. Lack of faith that maybe someday it might be better if there aren’t a lot of borders and a lot of nationalities all competing against each other and learning to support each other regardless of race or nationality. It really shouldn’t be an issue.
I am for the Remain camp. From a business standpoint, I would say 60 per cent of our team are from the European Union, but not necessarily UK nationals. Our work is probably across the studio 80 per cent international, and 90 per cent of that is based in the EU. I spend a day a week travelling within the EU, and for me, for us, the freedom of movement and services is fundamental to the way that we operate our businesses in the creative industries.
From a business point of view it seems to me incredibly expedient and useful to work within this framework. From a personal level, I feel European. I’m obviously English by birth but I’m European by outlet. I feel that it would be a great loss to turn our backs on Europe.
I’ve been disappointed by the way the referendum campaigns have been conducted. It’s been a he-said she-said kind of thing, when actually it would’ve been much more interesting to frame it against the cultural backdrop or at least about how we see our culture, our civilisation, and how – together with people who are only a few miles away from us, thankfully – we can work together to make a much better place with a shared ethos.
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners firmly believes that remaining within the European Union is in the best interests of the United Kingdom.
Britain has always been at its best when we have engaged with our neighbours, embracing the exchange of people, ideas and influences. The quality of life in Britain, particularly its architecture and its cities, has greatly benefited from the personal, professional and cultural relationships we have with the rest of Europe. This interaction has made us more civilised.
More than 40 per cent of the staff at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners are non-British EU citizens. These individuals stimulate and enrich our practice through the diversity of perspectives they bring to our work, their extraordinary talent and dynamism. A significant proportion of the practice’s work is currently situated within the EU and many of our greatest projects have been built in Europe.
As a practice we think that leaving the European Union would represent a catastrophic error of judgement in its impact on our economy, not least within the construction sector. Importantly, it would also leave us culturally, socially and environmentally impoverished. We are convinced that we are better and stronger together than apart.
I’m most definitely in. Britain is a part of Europe whether we’re in or out of the EU – we’re shaped by our common landscapes and histories and a shared future. But Europe is also the product of its diversity and diversity feeds architecture. So it’s no coincidence that more than 50 per cent of our office are non-British EU citizens and others are from further continents. Our work is all the richer for it.
The European relationship is deep and reciprocal. The two most important civic projects in reunified Berlin are the products of British architects, the Reichstag and Neues Museum, both of which go to the heart of Germany’s identity. AL_A has been entrusted with the remodelling of Galeries Lafayette, an icon of Paris, so in effect we’re looking at what it means to be French.
In London our tallest tower is designed by an Italian and our most popular museum is designed by Swiss architects. These icons on the skyline reinforce the sense of British identity, they just happen to have been designed by someone else.
Architects design the very physical manifestations of a nation’s identity so we’re naturally receptive to the idea of a union that is social and cultural as well as economic. We get the notion that we’re all in it together and that we have a commonality of ideals – democracy, openness, tolerance, as well as creativity. Quite simply we are better together.
I’m currently sitting at the Design Academy in Eindhoven where if we do exit its effects will be visible. Access to affordable, high-quality European education has been a real bonus for British students – it opens minds as well as borders.
In general open borders create a large and mobile pool of talent which is hugely beneficial for the design industry and the creative industry as a whole. It’s changed our cities for the better.
All my family are going to be away and they were responsible enough to organise a proxy vote for me. I’m going to vote four times to remain of course.
I don’t like tribes and borders. About the economy, I’m not an expert. You look at who is on what side, and it’s no brainer what side you want to be on. And more than that, I don’t know anyone who is voting to leave. It always seems to me like “them”.
James Dyson is for Brexit. Last week both him and me got the Compasso d’Oro [industrial design award] in Milan for lifetime achievement. We both got the international one. This is mainly because we are part of Europe, we work in Europe, we enjoy Europe and Europe enjoys us. Especially vacuum cleaners, and now hand dryers.
I have been in London for 43 years. I’m worried every time I see a car with a St George’s cross on it. I don’t like tribes, whatever they are. You can have a lot of nice things to do with communities and places and history and tradition, but it shouldn’t be excluding others.
I don’t know [what will happen if Britain votes to leave]. I don’t know how it’s going to affect my profession. I design for British companies a little bit, but mostly for European companies. My market for the art world is in Paris, and Germany and places… I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows really. We can scare and we can guess, and we can wish for the best.
I think there’s a risk to the European Union, because other countries might follow. Yes it is a hard time, there are refugees, but I think Europe and European countries should help refugees and share the burden. It’s the worst thing in the world to be a refugee. No one chooses to be a refugee.
At one point it seemed it was the economy, and then when Cameron’s side managed to get the upper hand on the economy thing, they pressed the button on the immigration thing. Both sides are based on scaring people about a terrible outcome.
I don’t consider myself anything [in terms of nationality], but my studio…. I’ve never worked anywhere else in my life but here, and I studied here and I’ve lived here most of my life.
I look around now here [in my studio], and we have one guy from Finland, and one French girl, and we have a few Londoners, one German passport, one Swiss passport, and an American, someone from Sheffield – Sheffield is in Europe – and Irish. So we are like an EU here.
Nick Jones, founder of Soho House
It is an interesting one and I think I can safely say I would rather stay in for all sorts of reasons. Europe is far from perfect. It needs lots of sorting out, but I think for the disruption it’s going to cause – businesses and people – I think it would be safer to stay in.
I think on the big argument about immigration… we love immigration. If we didn’t have immigration we would find it very difficult to find people for Soho House.
I think we have 87 different nationalities worldwide and it’s very apparent, even in the UK, that only 20-30 per cent are actually born in the UK, so it’s very important to us.
I’m an inny. I think the main thing is that it feels like for economic and cultural reasons it makes more sense to remain connected to the region in which we’re geographically located. Not least because of the issues and difficulties and reconciling our agenda with the other countries in the region. I think it’s a double-edged sword because I think a lot of the reasons to leave are also the reasons to stay.
I’m Remain. I think we’re stronger in Europe than we are without it. And I’m proud to be part of the EU, on the whole, although it’s obviously not perfect.
Specifically for my business, it makes much more sense to be in the EU. There’s two fronts really: one is the perception of the UK and London, and the other one is the practical what would happen on a day-to-day basis, the nitty-gritty of paperwork.
London is obviously a cultural superpower and it’s important that we maintain that. Most of our business comes from overseas. Particularly in the furniture world, they come to us because they want a conduit into the UK and into London, because it has a huge percentage of the world’s biggest architects and specifiers. Obviously if we leave the EU, and if the Sterling crashes as much as they’re saying, which is up to 30 per cent, then all those businesses are going to stop coming to us.
The economy here would go down. People would stop investing, particularly in premium design goods, premium furniture – it’s one of the first things to stop booming.
The UK has only just come out of a recession and it’s only just stabilising. Something like this makes me nervous because when things are going well generally and the economy is picking up then why mess with that? What we don’t need is another recession, and if this stimulates that then I can’t understand why people would even contemplate the idea.
My business is growing really quickly and a big part of that is talent – getting the best designers and engineers and thinkers from around the world to be in the studio is always a challenge. What we don’t need is another barrier to getting that happening. 90 per cent of the people here [in the business] are from overseas. Most from mainland Europe.
There are various things people are saying about a points system in terms of talented people moving to the UK, but why do we need more red tape, more paperwork in order to get those people coming over here and helping our business and the economy in general?
I am going to vote in and I will be voting that way because I think we need to be pulling together in the future rather than fragmenting.
One of the more persuasive arguments for the Out campaign is the one about sovereignty. But I think actually sometimes you need something that has a slightly more long-term view than a five-year government.
In terms of environmental policy, which is really important to my business, and me, five-year Downing Street governments don’t do enough and the EU has done a massive amount in terms of imposing green legislation.
You need people within the structure of society with a longer view than just the next five years and winning the next general election. It’s up to organisations like the EU to take on governments with short-term agendas.
When you look at automotive design and the restrictions the EU has put on that, I only see it as a good thing – safety standards, environmental standards. These are issues short-term governments don’t tackle.
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