Architects Declare further damaged as ZHA withdraws

3 December 2020

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has withdrawn from the Architects Declare climate coalition, claiming that its leaders have sabotaged the movement by deciding on a “precise and absolute” interpretation of its aims.

ZHA was a founding signatory to the group, and its exit follows hard on the heels of that of Foster + Partners. The rapid departures will raise questions over the efficacy of the coalition, as well as the seriousness of the commitment of big-name architecture practices to addressing climate change.

A spokesperson for ZHA said that that while climate change remained “a defining challenge of our generation”, the company had “a significant difference of opinion with the Architects Declare steering group on how positive change can be delivered”.

“Architects Declare’s steering group has unilaterally decided on its own precise and absolute interpretation of the coalition’s commitments,” ZHA said in a statement.

“By doing so, we believe they are setting the profession up for failure. Redefining these commitments without engagement undermines the coalition and trust.

“We saw Architects Declare as a broad church to raise consciousness on the issues; enabling architectural practices of all sizes to build a coalition for change and help each other find solutions. We need to be progressive, but we see no advantage in positioning the profession to fail. In fact, it would be a historic mistake.”

The departure of ZHA was always likely after principal Schumacher was censured by Architects Declare for publicly declaring that “prosperity and growth” was needed to “bring the resources to overcome [the climate crisis] through investment in science and new technologies”. Schumacher said that “continuous growth” was needed to prevent climate collapse.

In response, Architects Declare said that Schumacher's claims “fundamentally in conflict” with the group's aims, as well as being “scientifically flawed and decades out of date in terms of informed intellectual thought”.

The departure of Foster and ZHA is a heavy blow to Architects Declare. The practices were its two most prominent co-founders. The group has previously spoken of the need for signatories to not simply continue “with business as normal” – Foster and ZHA would seem to disagree.

In a statement, ZHA said: “We embed sustainability into the design, procurement, construction and operations of the projects we are delivering, and we work hard to build integrated client/contractor/design team relationships that can maximise opportunities to improve systems which prioritize environmental issues and ensure cost-effective sustainability.”