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RIBA South West chair Jane Hamlyn considers lessons learned

Since 2020, People, Place, Planet has been the core theme for RIBA South West events and activities. Key to this has been a series of talks held in conjunction with Wessex region, which this year, will include at least one event per month. The virtual world has enabled us to secure many important speakers and reach a much wider audience than we would have considered possible a short time ago. Now part way through the programme, what have we learnt so far?

22 February 2021


The South West of England has arguably been one of the best places to be over the last turbulent year. However, even for us lucky few, the course of the pandemic has not been easy and recognising this has become increasingly important. We have therefore decided to look into ways to enhance support across the membership at local and regional levels. Currently we are in the early stages of establishing a peer support network which will match members together to provide mutual support and advice. A simple conversation can make a big difference, especially for architects who are natural problem solvers and enjoy helping others. The RIBA South West small and emerging practice group continues to be a vital link between practitioners seeking counsel across the regions and it is encouraging to hear that more regions in England will soon have access to similar groups.


Place has become extremely important over the last year. For many of us, the most significant place has been home. Restricted to our local areas we have been forced to become more familiar with the landscapes and built environment of our immediate surroundings. One of the ways we stayed connected was through the lockdown photography series posted on social media. RIBA Cornwall branch members were invited to submit photographs of home projects and views from daily exercise which were then shared allowing a glimpse into each other’s lives. This also gave followers a chance to enjoy the fabulous variety of landscapes and architecture from across the South West.

Earlier this year we held the It’s all about the place event which demonstrated how councils across the country are working together with architects to regenerate areas and revitalise communities. Hayle Harbour is one such project where Cornwall Council and Feilden Clegg Bradley are seeking to bring a post-industrial landscape back to life. Projects like this are vital to ensure the long term viability of places as life changes over time.


In November, our Plymouth branch launched the brilliant Future Plymouth series of lectures with Peter Clegg’s fascinating talk: Beyond the declaration – A response to the climate and biodiversity crisis. This wonderful series of events is a collaboration led by RIBA Plymouth with Plymouth City Council, University of Plymouth, Stride Treglown and a number of other partners.

Last year, RIBA Exeter branch hosted a fascinating talk by Professor David Coley who posed the question: Can buildings be evil? Considering the moral obligations of working with buildings, is it really acceptable to build unsustainably anymore?

As we begin to see more clearly what needs to be done within the industry it feels like there is a desire here in the South West and further afield to seek a more sustainable way of living and working. Now is the time for action, and the question is, can we act fast enough?

This summer the G7 will be held in Carbis Bay, and as we look towards COP 26 later in the year, all eyes will be on the UK. The People, Place, Planet programme has demonstrated that we are all working towards a shared goal and there are many remarkable research projects taking place involving architecture, biodiversity and the battle to reduce carbon emissions. Educating ourselves is vital. We all know what a massive contributor our industry is to carbon levels when considering the construction and operational cost of a building. However, our role as architects also presents us with a phenomenal opportunity to influence change. Even small changes that we and our clients make can add up to a big difference and there is no time like the present to start.

Jane Hamlyn, RIBA South West chair
March 2021

RIBA South West chair Jane Hamlyn ©Jane Hamlyn

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