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Boris will talk big on continuing to prioritise housebuilding, but we need to face the facts that there’s only one problem he’ll be focusing on in the next three months. The task will be down to Jenrick, who will need to edit down a colossal to-do list, as the construction industry lobbies him and his team round the clock. The target remains 300,000 homes – currently the industry is averaging 177,000 a year over the past 10.

He’ll need to ensure that no deal Brexit planning includes measures for ensuring that construction sites don’t rapidly grind to a halt in the aftermath of a chaotic no deal, as already acute staff shortages are exacerbated. The industry also needs help in terms of how it will be able to mitigate further increases in materials costs from a weakening pound, rather than just passing them on to customers.

The plight of SME contractors, the dearth of apprenticeships, the hollowing out of local planning departments, not to mention the struggle to retain good architectural staff post-Brexit – these are just some of the issues on the new Secretary Jenrick’s desk. Hopefully he doesn’t need too much sleep!


James Parker Editor

WUXI TAIHO SHOW THEATRE, CHINA Creating a canopy inspired by the Sea of Bamboo

ONE HEDDON STREET, LONDON Barr Gazetas turns an unremarkable office building into a wellness-driven coworking space for The Crown Estate

ON THE COVER... Inspired by the ‘Bamboo Forest’ of a nearby national park, the Wuxi Tahu Show Theatre designed by Steven Chilton Architects has been shortlisted for the Future Project Award (Cultural) at the World Architecture Festival. For the full report on this project, go to page 32 Cover image © Steven Chilton Architects



combination of feelings have been experienced by yours truly on the reality of Boris Johnson taking the reins of power – a mix of accepting the realisation of the seemingly inevitable, the undeniable shock of actually seeing him in Downing Street.

The worth or otherwise of his previous achievements remain something of an enigma, and as yet we’ve heard and seen little more than words and gestures. Was his attempted Heatherwick-designed garden bridge just a vanity project or a heroic failure? Is he a liar or a bumbling optimist? In our regrettably polarised times, it increasingly depends on who you ask. What we do know is we again have novices in charge of the only Government department dedicated to construction (MHCLG), who will need all the advice and strong encouragement the industry can muster to cut through the Brexit noise.

Boris has said little about construction since entering the office, but one of the shocks in his initial purge of Remainers was the sacking of Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, who was in charge of housing. Only in the job for just over a year (not a bad stint by the standards of some predecessors), he was active in tackling the post-Grenfell fallout, and issues such as residential leaseholds. However his ban on combustible cladding over 18 metres was seen potentially as a knee-jerk reaction sounding the death knell for CLT in tall buildings.

New man Robert Jenrick is a novice in housing. At 37, the ex-solicitor was the youngest Minister in Theresa May’s Government, and has few claims to fame beyond owning a few properties in his own right. Apparently he is something of a champion for protecting ancient buildings, but while at the Treasury was also a key figure in pushing huge amounts of new housebuilding in the ‘Oxford-Cambridge arc,’ to the consternation of protestors.

Esther McVey, replacing Kim Malthouse as Housing Minister, has a much higher, not altogether healthy public profile – mainly from her controversial work on Universal Credit at the DWP. She does however have a background in construction, although her family’s firm specialised in demolition rather than building. She’s the tenth housing minister to go through the revolving door in a decade.



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