24 January 2010
The news that the disgraced former chief executive of RBS, Fred Goodwin, has been given a berth at architecture firm RMJM is strangely delicious, like hearing that the school bully, who is still treated with respect by too many, has turned-up wearing a British National Party badge.
RMJM are, to me, already the epitome of what the ruling business establishment wants from “architecture”. They represent architecture as pure business model, with its crafts base and ethical sense subservient to the business interests of its corporate clients and its production line outputs glammed-up by high-art marketing -– RMJM have already provided a home for architectural “enfant terrible” Will Alsop’s celebrity shape-making bling.
There was a wonderful symmetry to this RMJM/Alsop dream-teaming, and I thought it lacked nothing until I heard this. Of course! What was missing was the application of some neo-liberal financial speculation, leading to proposals for an excitingly-whacky Dubai Formula One business centre in every town
What a fine exemplar of our failure to learn from the 2008 crash, and our monumentally daft hubris over our relationship to our built environment and the world as a whole -– oh, how I tire of those who tell me that “we just need the confidence back”!
So while my heart goes out to my friends who work down the mine at RMJM, and I fear for the application of the RBS business model and the final trashing of a once-great company, I do so enjoy the brazen effrontery of it -– it’s helpful to get these things out in the open.
I’ll try not to think what might happen in the second great crash -– will I have to pay vast RIBA subscriptions to bail out Alsop’s pension?
Instead, I’ll enjoy the sight of turbo-capitalism (on stilts!) eating itself.
Malcolm Fraser is founder of the Edinburgh-based Malcolm Fraser Architects