‘Architecture in the Age of Austerity’ was attended by approximately 100 people from many countries including the UK, India, Russia, Italy, Poland, Cyprus, Germany, Cuba, Guatemala, Canada, and the USA. Participants included INTBAU Chapter Heads, members of INTBAU’s College of Traditional Practitioners, general members of INTBAU, members of the Traditional Architecture Group, other practitioners and members of the public, and members of the press.
The purpose of the event was to discuss what type of architecture we can afford in a recession. The morning session consisted of a high-level overview of the economics and social consequences of a recession. The keynote speaker was the Rt Hon Lord Norman Lamont, former Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1990-1993. Lord Lamont prefaced his talk with an explanation of his personal interest in architecture, before giving his thoughts on the current economic climate and the likelihood of recovery in both the short and the longer term in the UK and abroad. He also spoke of the ability of recessions to fulfill a useful purpose, mentioning Schumpeter’s theory of creative destruction.
Lord Lamont said he is “very optimistic” about the future of the architectural profession despite the announcement in April that Britain is in a double-dip recession, caused by a sharp decline in the construction industry. His positive outlook for architects included star architects whose projects involve big budgets and non-traditional, often unsustainable designs. Lord Lamont made many references to literature, popular culture, and the “normalcy bias” of economics, to which he adheres. A Cole Porter song lyric provided the running theme of his talk: “is it an earthquake or simply a shock?”