When architecture works at all ages

At the official opening of Greenwich University’s Stockwell Street campus this week, Baroness Blackstone, former vice-chancellor of the university, talked about the competition process that selected architect Heneghan Peng. While obviously the main concern was to get the best building – in which the institution has certainly succeeded – she also said that they were keen to encourage younger up-and-coming talent. While Heneghan Peng has certainly already established itself with a roster of  impressive buildings, it is certainly true that, in architectural terms at least, its founders are relatively young. Cause for congratulation for Greenwich.

It is also good to know that architects can have a long future ahead of them. TV presenters may pass their sell-by dates in their 50s (particularly if they are female) and if your skill is in sport or dancing, or even in singing or mathematics, architects can keep going. We are aware of the starry octogenarians like Richard Rogers and Ted Cullinan, shortly to be joined by Norman Foster and Renzo Piano, but it seems that those of more modest profile can still keep going.

I was talking to a friend, talented but certainly not famous, just into her eighth decade. She has a speciality and her knowledge is valuable and she is still being called on to do international consulting work. She wondered if the people she was working with knew just how old she is but concluded, wisely, that it didn’t matter. They want her insight and experience – and they are unlikely to need her to sprint or dance or sing or even present a TV show.

There is a lot wrong with the practice of architecture, but good to remember that ageism isn’t one of its failings.






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