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Addressing Britain’s housing crisis and the future of sustainable design: Interview with Ufuk Bahar

In this wide-ranging chat with our founder, we unpack everything from how better use of the Green Belt could help Britain’s housing crisis, to AI’s potential impact on architecture

25 January 2024
6 minutes read

From sustainability practices to the rise of artificial intelligence, there’s no question the way the architecture industry operates in 2024 is worlds away from where we were just 10 to 20 years ago. In this multifaceted chat with our founder, Ufuk Bahar, we explore his ideas around architecture’s future from a sustainability standpoint, as well as his best career advice for those just starting out in the profession. Let’s jump in.

How do we fix Britain's housing crisis?

The Green Belt is often used as an excuse for not building enough homes, but with such a huge housing demand, a proper and fair assessment of its use is necessary to address the housing crisis. Furthermore, policy reform should consider the modernisation of planning laws to incentivise developers to build on brownfield sites. Debates around housing should also extend beyond quantity to the quality and affordability of homes, ensuring they meet the long-term needs of communities.

How will artificial intelligence impact the architecture field?

AI won't replace many architecture jobs, but it will change most of them. Knowing how to fully use AI tools will be crucial. As our design models grow with data, organisation and quality assurance will become essential for architectural practices. Moreover, AI will foster innovative design processes that can lead to more personalised living spaces. It's a topic of contention whether AI can truly complement the creative intuition of architects or if it may eventually constrain architectural innovation.

How does community input affect sustainable architecture?

If you design a building without engaging the community, you've missed a golden opportunity. The real power lies in involving local residents in the planning process. In fact, this fosters a sense of ownership and makes the built-environment more sustainable through collective care. Additionally, community engagement can reveal local knowledge and preferences that might otherwise be overlooked, leading to more contextually appropriate designs. Critics, however, may argue that too much community input can compromise architectural integrity and delay progress.

What advice would you give to developers for creating successful buildings?

I would advise conducting a detailed demographic analysis to understand future residents' evolving needs. Then, integrate this insight with sustainable and contextual design to create enduring buildings. Developers should also remain flexible to adapt to the changing dynamics of urban life and technological advances. There's a balance to be struck between visionary architecture and practical functionality, a debate that continues to shape the industry.

What's your approach to blending modern architecture with the UK's historical landscape?

Our focus centres on architectural storytelling where we integrate modern functionalities with cues from historical patterns. This approach turns each building into a narrative that honours its context. It's a delicate dance between innovation and preservation, aiming to respect the past while embracing the future. Some may question if modern interventions dilute the historical character, but it's a necessary dialogue for progressive conservation.

What is your favourite project you've worked on, and why does it stand out for you?

I really don’t have one - there's been so many incredible designs over our journey so far. To single out one project would be like choosing a favourite chapter in an ongoing story - it's the collective experience that truly matters. Each project carries its unique set of challenges and triumphs, contributing to the growth of our practice. This perspective often invites debate on whether architects should be more emotionally invested in individual projects or maintain an objective distance.

What are your thoughts on the role of architecture in achieving net-zero carbon emissions, particularly in the UK context?

Achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the UK necessitates architects to not merely adapt, but to advocate for systemic change, influencing policy to prioritise sustainability. Architects must also innovate in the use of materials and designs that reduce carbon footprints. This stance is sometimes met with scepticism about the feasibility of such ambitions within commercial constraints, sparking discussions on the role of government incentives.

What career advice would you offer designers for succeeding in the UK's architectural landscape?

Success begins with discovering the fact that there is no one else to blame or change except ourselves. Once we embrace this truth, we gain the power to take control of our actions and shape our own path to success. Designers should also seek to continuously learn and adapt, understanding that the field is evolving rapidly. While some debate the importance of specialisation versus a more generalist approach, the key may well lie in the ability to integrate diverse skills to remain relevant.

What makes Urbanist Architecture different?

It's our people and our culture that set us apart. We have a passion for quality and a drive to succeed, but what truly makes us unique is the way we collaborate and think creatively. Our willingness to challenge conventional wisdom and push boundaries defines our ethos. Some may argue that such a culture is difficult to sustain in a competitive market, but we believe it's what makes our work stand out.

Conclusion

As you’ll have garnered from this article, a lot is changing in the world of architecture. While change can be scary, it’s also hugely exciting seeing advances in the sustainability and technology sectors, advances we believe will ultimately make our services more innovative than ever before. One of the elements we pride ourselves on at Urbanist Architecture is our ability to stay up-to-date with all industry developments, ensuring our clients are being presented with the best possible design strategies and solutions available. If you’re looking at making a start on your next project and are eager to learn more about our expert services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team.

Ufuk Bahar, Founder and Managing Director of Urbanist Architecture
AUTHOR

Ufuk Bahar

Urbanist Architecture’s founder and managing director, Ufuk Bahar takes personal charge of some of our larger projects, focusing particularly on Green Belt developments, new-build flats and housing and high-end full refurbishments.

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