DD2028 London Festival of Architecture

Type of decision: 
Director's decision
Date signed: 
20 July 2016
Decision by: 
Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Executive Director of Development, Enterprise and Environment

Executive summary

The London Festival of Architecture is an annual city-wide celebration of architecture and architectural talent in the capital. It brings architects and communities together to examine how to make London a better place. It highlights the unique pool of creative talent that London has to offer and promotes London as a leading international centre of learning and creativity. The aims of the Festival align well with Mayoral priorities and with specific objectives in the Economic Development Strategy and Cultural Strategy.

Funding is sought from the GLA to support the festival that took place during the month of June 2016 and for the next three years up to and including 2019, to reflect the GLA’s ongoing role as a key partner. The GLA has supported the Festival over the previous years (DD869 in 2012, ADD11 in 2013, ADD187 in 2014, ADD344 in 2015).



That the Executive Director approves expenditure of up to £80,000 in grant funding to support the London Festival of Architecture Ltd (up to £20,000 per year) as a contribution to its annual costs of holding the London Festival of Architecture from 2016 to 2019 (inclusive), subject to yearly break clauses to reflect the GLA annual budget process and to the annual submission of a satisfactory evaluation report setting out impact and outcomes of the previous year’s festival.


Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

1.1        London is the capital of culture and our creative industries contribute £19 billion a year to our economy. There are over 10,000 architects in London, many of whom are working across the world, supported by the capital’s innovation in engineering and building services. London is both a hub of architectural talent, and a site for architects to engage with pressing urban issues. From its earliest days, the festival has showcased this creative talent, as well as providing a platform for engagement in, and observation about, the city.

1.2    The annual London Festival of Architecture (LFA) – a month-long, citywide celebration of architectural experimentation, thinking and practice – will return to venues across the capital throughout June 2016. The theme of the 2016 the London Festival of Architecture is Community and will feature a programme of exhibitions and events organised by London’s leading architectural, cultural and academic institutions and practising architects, designers, curators and community groups.

1.3    The programme will respond to the theme by exploring the central role that architecture plays in developing ideas of community, even questioning its very definition. How will the enormous changes faced by London’s growth and the impact of issues such as climate change, technology, the under-supply of housing and record immigration affect the way we live and work together? How will we protect the existing in the face of the new and build real cohesive, sustainable places where people can live fulfilling lives, be cared for when they’re older or sick and inspired when they’re young. Architecture is the tool that can unlock our ability to create these communities for the long term.

1.4    The theme of Community continues the LFA legacy as a catalyst for change by proposing ways in which Londoners, as well as visitors to this global hub, can be active participants in the city. From reinterpreting familiar places through new installations and animations, and redesigning public spaces, to testing interactive forms of consultation and planning for future urban development, festival participants will be encouraged to comment on, and propose ideas for the betterment of the city around them.

1.5    London has a strong calendar of creative events, which attract significant domestic and global attention, as well as visitors, investors and buyers. Some of these have emerged in the recent past, while others have built on their existing foundations to become even more successful. Shows like London Fashion Week, London Film Festival and, relatively more recently, London Design Festival, are constantly refreshing London’s image as a creative capital. 

1.6    This annual architecture festival is becoming part of this international offer, reinforcing London’s reputation as a hub for some of the world’s best architects and architecture schools. Furthermore, London’s built form is a living showcase for its architectural excellence – in its buildings as well as its public realm. The Festival works on two levels: a public-facing festival that encourages the public to explore their city, and a moment for architects and built environment professionals to engage with setting the future agenda for London. By breaking down barriers between the two, the festival presents a real opportunity to include citizens in the conversations that are shaping their city around them. 

1.7    The London Festival of Architecture provides a vehicle to:
•    Shine a spotlight on, celebrate and communicate the talent of our architectural profession - its practices, education, critical thinking and physical contribution to London;
•    showcase the economic contribution of architecture to the UK economy and its global reputation as a creative leader;
•    use the creativity of the profession to help Londoners understand their city - both its changing nature and opportunities for experimentation and shaping our quality of life.

1.8    The 2015 London Festival of Architecture hosted over 200 architectural events with a common thread focusing on the theme ’Work in Progress’. The Festival explored the changing nature of work and workspace, the impact this is having on London and the ways in which architecture as a profession is adapting to new demands and issues. This theme represented alignment with the work of the Regeneration Unit and the development of the ‘places of work’ programme, which is seeking to understand and address some of the challenges facing the provision of affordable workspace in London. Over 200 organisations or practices participated in 2015. The GLA Regeneration Unit hosted 7 very well attended ‘Places of Work’ guided walks, exploring areas home to a variety of workspaces and manufacturing.

Objectives and expected outcomes

2.1    The key objectives of the festival are as follows:

Contribute to London’s economy and image by:

•    raising London’s profile as a centre for creative industries by promoting the talent, output and success of its architectural sector; 
•    showcasing the innovation and cross-fertilisation of London’s cultural sector through LFA’s partner programme, which includes many of London’s leading cultural institutions;
•    showcasing professional services in London that help to enable constant innovation in our built environment;
•    showcasing London’s higher education sector through its architectural education; and;
•    increasing the GDP of the UK and London through growing opportunities for the sector to win business – from both domestic and overseas clients.

Helping to shape London by:

•    creating debate and engagement on issues facing London now – including housing ambitions, public realm, tall buildings and the densification needed to accommodate growth;
•    using collaborations to test ideas and experimentation – through cross sector debate and calls for ideas and interventions;
•    bringing life to some of London’s lost spaces – through temporary interventions and public engagement in design activity;
•    engaging communities in new ways to shape their local environments; 
•    supporting the GLA Regeneration team in its objectives by exploring opportunities impacting on GLA Regeneration project and programme areas through, for example, crowdfunding, development and intensification.

2.2     In line with these objectives, the key activities of the project are as follows: 

    Promote London as an architecture destination in the month of June
•    Undertake a dedicated media promotion strategy, raising the profile of the LFA and London’s architecture sector to domestic and international media.
•    Citywide programming 

Showcase the widest possible range of architecture talent in the city
•    Core LFA exhibitions and installations: high quality public projects in a mixture of locations across the city.
•    Over 200 events across London, all of which will be open to the public.
•    Deliver a full programme of events and activities across London with the initiating partners and the c.70 invited Festival Partner and associated project partners, and include the GLA (Mayor of London) as a partner, supporter and sponsor in all relevant LFA related publicity.
•    Work with key sector organisations including the GLA to facilitate high quality architecture events in key institutions across the capital. GLA representatives were in attendance at monthly Festival Partner meetings. 
•    Deliver an international architecture programme in collaboration with embassies and cultural institutes to enhance the international nature of the Festival.
•    Provide communication and promotional support for GLA Regeneration team events that showcase Mayoral investment in projects across the city that relate to the theme: Community

Project Outcomes

2.3    The funding agreement with LFA sets out outputs, milestones and payment and performance monitoring arrangements. The GLA will pay the contribution in arrears upon receipt of satisfactory reports providing evidence against the deliverables.

2.4    As a result of achieving objectives above, the following outcomes are expected in the final report:
•    To have over 200 individual events across the capital
•    Deliver a dedicated LFA panel debate tackling crowdfunding in urban regeneration, with speakers of international interest including a GLA nominee.
•    Broad online and print coverage, in the UK and internationally, to include at least 3 major UK media titles
•    Engage a wide range of leading cultural and academic institutions (including the V&A, Design Museum, Serpentine Galleries, New London Architecture, the Architecture Foundation, RIBA, the Landscape Institute, CIAT and London Transport Museum) alongside associated projects by practices and individuals.

2.5    In previous years, we have achieved similar or fewer outcomes for £25,000 in core support. This demonstrates the growing strength of the festival, its ability to better leverage private sponsorship and deliver an expanded programme with less reliance on the GLA. This represents greater value for money in activity this year.  

2.6    A commitment to contribute to the festival for a four year period will give the GLA the opportunity to help inform and influence the thematic focus of each year’s programme. The yearly contribution will be reviewed after the festival each year and a robust evaluation carried out to assess success against stated objectives. These objectives would be reviewed year on year in collaboration with the event programmers.

Equality comments

3.1    All activities in the festival programme take account of the public sector equality duty. One of the key aims of the festival is to engage with as broad and diverse public audience as possible, to promote architecture and design and critically reflect on the issues facing London’s development in an atmosphere that is inclusive and respectful. As such, the programme is designed to appeal to this broad audience. All major events are held in appropriate and accessible venues, all building and walking tours are designed to be as inclusive as possible. There is also a key ambition to bring various debates to new audiences including international visitors. The profiling of those who attend events and engaged with the festival is to be captured as part of the yearly evaluation and used as a pro-active tool to guide and develop the activities in future years.   


Other considerations

4.1    There is risk is that for some unforeseen reason the event may not be completed successfully. However it should be noted that the structure of the event mitigates against this risk significantly; as the festival programme is made up of a wide range of events delivered by partner organisations, it is extremely unlikely that more than a small number could end up cancelling or reducing the scope of their output. There are some unavoidable risks inherent to any form of event or regeneration project spending in London – for example natural disasters, fire, flooding, terrorism, major transport disruption or reduced interest due to internationally or nationally significant events dominating the news cycle. The likelihood of these risks is low in practice and all event organisers are experienced in dealing with emergencies and health and safety. At the time of writing this DD (May 5 2016), the vast majority of the festival has been arranged and announced. In addition considerable interest is evident amongst London’s built environment community, general population, and mainstream media. Therefore the risk of failing to meet the required grant objectives is especially low compared to comparable projects which receive similar funding much earlier. Subject to a final report confirming outputs have been achieved, value for money can be demonstrated to have been assured.

Links to strategies and Mayoral and corporate priorities
4.2    The goal of the festival is to make an increasing contribution to London’s cultural life and the growth in stature and impact of its architectural community. Funding from the GLA will enable the festival to continue to support the Mayor’s objectives across a broad range of activity.

4.3    By positing new ideas about the development of London, the Festival supports the Mayoral objective of making London the best Big City in the world. By showcasing the vitality of London’s creative industries it helps to deliver the Mayoral priority of promoting and supporting London’s competitiveness. By engaging directly with the everyday experiences of Londoners and championing achievements of development in London it broadens access to and engagement with the opportunities that living in a great big city offers.

Impact Assessment and Consultation
4.4    GLA support will be set out in a single Grant Agreement written and overseen by Gavin McLaughlin in the GLA Regeneration team. In addition to the Assistant Director and Director, this proposal has been discussed with the Senior Project Manager in the Culture Team.

4.5    The London Festival of Architecture is well supported by London’s Architecture and Design community; many practices use it as an opportunity to showcase their work and to take part in the wider debate about the industry in the capital. 

4.6    As such all consultees agree that this is a unique opportunity to support and promote the architecture and design industry in London. 


Financial comments

5.1    Approval is being sought to grant fund the London Festival of Architecture Ltd (LFAL) up to the value of £80,000 as a contribution towards its costs of holding the London Festival of Architecture in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 (£20,000 per financial year from 2016-17 to 2019-20), which will be governed by a funding agreement.

5.2    The annual grant contribution will equate to £20,000 and will be funded from the Development, Enterprise & Environment Directorates ‘Minor Programme’ budget, with future years’ budgets being subject to the Authority’s annual budget setting process.

5.3    Given that future years’ budgets have yet to be set, the proposed funding agreement of up to £80,000 will include the appropriate annual break clauses to ensure the GLA’s flexibility in the annual Business Planning & Budget Setting processes. 

5.4    Any changes to this proposal, including budgetary implications will be subject to further approval via the Authority’s decision-making process. All appropriate budget adjustments will be made. 

Planned delivery approach and next steps

7.1    The proposal to make a grant award to the London Festival of Architecture as set out above is based on the fact that there are no other events and awards in London, of a similar focus, scale or reputation, which could deliver equivalent return on GLA investment and this support is crucial to this unique festival being sustained to continue in future years, developing an ever more ambitious programme. An evaluation report will confirm the activities and outputs. This will be submitted to the GLA following each annual festival and funding will only be granted on condition of approval, as set out in the grant agreement.