Tamsie Thomson is the director of the London Festival of Architecture and has just announced the plans for next year’s festival which will be exploring the theme of ‘memory.’
Why a festival of architecture?
There isn’t any other festival in England that focuses on architecture.
What we’re about is the key issues that help make, shape, develop and evolve cities so it’s crucially important to me that practitioners and the wider general public have an opportunity to talk about it, learn about it, debate it and understand it better.
Why have you chosen memory as this year’s theme?
We want to explore how memory has shaped the construction of London and how it will go on doing that, influencing developers in their placemaking and architects in their design. There’s so many rich things to look at, from the stories of London and its hidden aspects, the way it’s evolved and the questions of what that legacy now means and how we develop it.
What’s planned for 2017?
One of the things the Festival has done extremely well previously is to commission live projects such as the closing of Exhibition Road in Kensington in 2008, and also the solar/water powered lift installed on the Duke of York steps in the Mall. Because it’s a festival and temporary, people will allow you to do things that otherwise would be too scary or contentious. That’s something I really want to bring back into the festival, and the first of these will be at the Dulwich Picture Gallery where we’ve just launched a competition to create a temporary events space.
You also hope to do some number crunching in 2017?
Hopefully we will be collaborating with the GLA’s Economics Unit to pull together all the figures on the value of architecture. No one seems to know how much architecture actually brings in to the economy. We know we are a world leader, so for no one to have brought all that information together is a massive oversight. The next step, is to put a quantifiable value on good design. If you design something well, what does that mean in terms of wellbeing, educational attainment among children and so on? That’s a big piece of work, which for us will be stage two.
What’s your favourite building in London?
That’s a tricky one. I’ve got lots. The National Theatre is a classic. Westminster underground station, because it transforms the experience of being in a tube station and Walter Segal ’s self-build project in south east London reflects my interest in housing. I also came across Asylum or Caroline Gardens Chapel during Open London House, where there is a chapel preserved in a beautiful moment of decay. I liked it so much I got married in it two months later and we’ve used it for other family events since then.
How do you relax?
I work full time and have two kids, so there’s not much of that. But we take advantage of living in Peckham and go and see culturally interesting things that are happening in the area.
What keeps you awake at night?
Not much - for the same reasons!