Stay open for international design business, Arup’s Frost urges

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Arup’s head of global cities Jerome Frost made a plea for London to retain its openness and an ‘outward looking mentality’ as he launched NLA’s latest show and event series: London: Design Capital on Tuesday night.

Frost said that it was interesting to note that only 25% of the electorate who voted Ken Livingstone in as mayor had been eligible to vote when the GLC came into being, such had been the ‘churn’ in the capital’s population in that period. ‘I think that tells us a lot about London. We’re a city that experiences a huge amount of churn; we invite people in from all over the world. And that openness and diversity is absolutely epitomised in the design community. It’s such an important part of what it has to offer the world.’

Around a third of London’s architectural community come from outside the UK, said Frost, and 75% of them come from the EU. The architectural component of the construction industry is worth around £2bn per annum and is growing at a faster rate than virtually any other rival industry, emphasising the importance of keeping that openness, for the economy and for the wider city.

Arup began its life in London, but it was only when it exported its knowledge to Sydney to help build the Opera House and put it on the map culturally that it really made headway, said Frost. ‘That relationship with the city went a lot further than just a design challenge. We even today in Arup have 2,000 people based in Australia as one of our biggest practices outside London and the relationship extends way beyond design to leadership in government and amongst the client networks that exist in Australian cities.’ Working in London, concluded Frost, means that Arup is contributing to design thinking, across the world.

NLA chairman Peter Murray said that it was only when the London: Design Capital report launched on Tuesday and which formed the basis of the exhibition arrived from the printers that one could feel the ‘weight and quality’ of the work which is being done from London and around the world. Murray felt the report will be a very powerful tool to get across the message to politicians of the strength of the sector in the capital, looking at the massive international scale of London’s built environment professions and the problems that may be faced as the UK exits from the EU. Recommendations in the report include that we should continue to maintain access to international talent; that government should recognise and promote London’s built environment organisations as a specific sector to the export market, and that London is made an attractive and affordable place to live in the long term, with created and reinforced links with other cities towards a better voice for the profession around the world.

The report also cited research unveiled last month by the GLA for the LFA that London’s construction industry is worth £16.9 billion. ‘What we are talking about is a really important contribution to the UK economy’ said Murray, ‘and that needs to be recognised.’

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

Download the full report here
See the full London: Design Capital event programme here  
London: Design Capital is part of the International Dialogues Programme 

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