The foundations of our future
Failing an act of god—or an unholy (and unlikely) alliance between Michael Heseltine and Tony Blair—it’s safe to say that Britain will leave the EU in the next few years and the time will come to have a long, hard think about how, as a newly autonomous trading nation, we set out our stall. When, in very different circumstances, a younger and newly elected Mr Blair set out to buff up our profile, he decided that our future lay in championing our creativity, in particular that of Young British artists and musicians such as Blur and Oasis.
The current government’s more complex challenge will require a good deal more than chummying up to rock stars and conceptual artists. What image will Britain now project? a powerhouse of financial services? a leader in technical innovation? Or will we revive the glories of our manufacturing past?
Moreover, how much will we play on our heritage? This might have been an uncool word in the heady days of Cool Britannia, but, two decades on, those in the design industry have come to recognise that it’s an essential ingredient of our Dna. it’s also something that’s increasingly seen in a new light; heritage provides lessons from the past that do a huge amount to inform our understanding of the future.
in this week’s issue, we explore the wealth of talent that Britain has in architecture, building, interior design and garden design (page 59). The characteristic shared by those featured is not just creativity, but also an accumulated understanding of how buildings, interiors and gardens have evolved, as well as the materials and craftsmanship that make them the way they are.
although most of the 100 practitioners included on the list employ relatively small teams, the patronage they bestow on craftspeople and contractors with highly specialised skills should never be underestimated: joiners, plasterers upholsterers, carvers and weavers, who employ techniques that stretch back centuries, yet are relevant to modern architecture and design.
Then there are the British manufacturers using locally sourced materials to make furniture, flooring, lighting, wallpaper and textiles that don’t just furnish projects on our home turf, but also all over the world.
However, their benefit to a new, autonomous Britain isn’t just commercial —these highly evolved skills are what marketeers call a unique selling point (and the rest of us call a distinguishing characteristic). it plays to our strengths in a way that no end of writing code on London’s Silicon Roundabout ever will.
Those same marketeers might also say that they reflect well on our brand— and they would be right, because, in a virtual world where so much is without substance, there is nothing that is more substantial than a beautifully designed, furnished and constructed house set in a breathtaking garden.
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