What made Louis Kahn, an American Architect, relevant in Israel? What made Corbusier relevant in India? When the International Style attempted to distil Architecture down to a set of guiding principles that could be applied in any context, it acknowledged that, in broad terms at least, the requirements of building are the same in any country, any city and any town. Although the specific context may change significantly – Jerusalem bears little in common with Pennsylvania – the approach to a building project can be read from the same book. That is to say that one must first consider climate, topography and orientation, followed by the embedded history of a site, together with the social, cultural and economic condition. Having regard for all of these things, we might begin to consider an Architecture that is sensitive to context and community – this approach can be applied in Jerusalem, Pennsylvania, Glasgow or Gloucester.
Over the years we have made several forays south of the border, to Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire and Lancashire amongst others, but always with one foot on familiar ground. One short journey on our small island brings with it not only a cultural shift, but changes in construction law, building regulations and planning restrictions. At least here we know where we stand.
Or do we? Our political climate is more fragile now than it has ever been and our building regulations change every couple of years. New procurement methods and contract types are continually added to the panoply already available. Uncertainty is not defined by borders.
So this morning we reflect on new opportunities in England and Wales in the context of our substantial experience with universities. The political climate for these institutions is changing, with lower levels of public funding they are developing a strategic response based on a commercial outlook. The opportunity for prospective students is greater now than it has ever been and where there is little to choose between the quality of one course and the next, the decision comes down to which establishment will deliver the best experience - universities can no longer rest on the laurels of achievements past.
For those universities innovation and creativity can be the foundation on which a reputation is built and their estate is a manifestation of these values. Working with our new clients at an early stage in this journey we are helping them to understand how a vision for the future can be realised through the careful planning of their buildings and resources. The principles are the same as they have always been - definition, sense of place, communication and the identification of potential, each one sensitive to the local, regional and national condition. Local sensibility with an international outlook.