Comment by Justin Bere

Building Design, New Architects

16 February 2001

We were first involved with the Architecture Foundation through the publication New Architects, published in 1998. As a fledgling practice, we had just reached that magic three years lifespan that is widely regarded as a benchmark. If you last three years you’re probably a survivor.

During that time we developed our approach to building, and it was naturally pleasing that this was recognised by the AF. In the period following the publication, we felt an increased responsibility to continue to develop our own approach.

For us, the book was not a vehicle to go asking for bigger projects, and it was important not to be blinded by our own hype. It was certainly a boost to receive some praise but important not to be overwhelmed by it.

When clients referred to the book, it helped to establish a good foundation for our relationship. However, it is most important to work with clients who really understand and trust you, and for this there’s nothing like personal referrals, which is where most of our work comes from.

It was particularly exciting, however, to receive three invitations to limited competitions for public buildings, directly from the book. We were second in two of these so the financial costs were forgotten.

Those who were selected in the first New Architects and those who will be selected in the coming weeks for the next edition, will know that with the honour comes the extra burden of responsibility to uphold the aims of the foundation.

What are these aims?

  1. To encourage public participation, education and debate on the design, planning and sustainability of our cities.

  2. To emphasise the importance of and to explore ways of humanising the public domain.

  3. To celebrate the work of emerging talent and established practices.

The challenge to those who are no longer “new” is to continue to live up to (1) and (2) by contributing charitably to the wider community and to remain engaged with the foundation. The challenge to those who succeed in being selected for the second edition of New Architects is to be prepared to give as well as receive.

If you’re thinking of entering for selection, but may feel, modestly, that you’re being a bit presumptuous, you’re probably exactly the kind of individual or small practice that should be entering.

Justin Bere is the director of Bere Architects.