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Why Architecture Is Too Important to Leave to Architects

Festival of the Future City

Watershed  |  £5 – £10

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Architect Reinier de Graaf believes that architecture has become too important to leave to architects. No longer is it enough to judge a building solely by its appearance: it must be measured, and certified. How do we measure a ‘green building’ and who gets to decide what these measurements should be?

When architects talk about ‘Excellence’, ‘Sustainability’, ‘Wellbeing’, ‘Liveability’, ‘Placemaking’, ‘Creativity’, ‘Beauty’ and ‘Innovation’, what do they mean?

These are the questions Reinier de Graaf will be discussing in his conversation at this year’s Festival of the Future City. Why is Vancouver more ‘liveable’ than Vienna? How do developers get away with advertising their buildings as promoting ‘wellbeing’? Why did Silicon Valley become so obsessed with devising ‘creative’ spaces or developing code that replaces architects? How much revenue can be attributed to the design of public space? Who gets to decide what these measurements should be? And what does it mean for the future of our homes, cities and planet? In this session, de Graaf looks at architecture and the future of cities. An interview with David Rudlin is followed by responses from architects Marwa Al-Sabouni and George Ferguson.

Reinier de Graaf is a Dutch architect, architectural theorist, urbanist and writer. He is the author of Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession and architect. verb: The New Language of Building.

David Rudlin is Urban Design Director of BDP. He is one of the leading urban designers in the UK. He is past chair of the Academy of Urbanism, winner of the 2014 Wolfson Economic’s Prize and principal author of the Government’s National Model Design Code.

Marwa al-Sabouni is a Syrian architect and author of Building for Hope: Towards an Architecture of Belonging. She is an urban thinker who believes that architects have a duty to stimulate social cohesion. When war enveloped her city, Homs, she refused to leave and remained a virtual prisoner in her home for two years. In her autobiography, The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria, al-Sabouni analyses how architecture and city planning have played a role in fuelling violence and civil conflict by distorting community relationships and fragmenting societies.

George Ferguson

George Ferguson was President of the Royal Institute of British Architects 2003-2005 and the directly elected mayor of Bristol 2012-2016. His work can be seen at

Pay What You Feel

This event is part of our new ticket pricing structure where we ask people to pay what they feel they can afford in accordance with their means. Read more about it here. Read on for the ticket prices for this event.

One free carer ticket can be booked at the same time for a paying disabled visitor. If you need to book more than one, please contact us before booking to arrange.

Pay It Forward

The Pay It Forward option enables you to book a ticket above the standard price, and will help to subsidise a ticket for someone who requires the Pay What You Can option. This option is aimed at people who are able to meet their basic needs and would like to help somebody else with the cost of their ticket.

  • Is this for me? – I have access to a regular and stable income and I have the means and desire to contribute towards making the event affordable for others and supporting Bristol Ideas.


This recommended price is based on what we’d traditionally charge for a similar event. It helps us make sure that basic costs are covered. This price is aimed at people who are able to meet their basic needs and have enough to live on.

  • Is this for me? – I have access to a regular and disposable income, and I can comfortably afford the recommended ticket price.


This option is lower than the recommended price. It is subsidised by Bristol Ideas and fellow audience members who have booked at the Pay It Forward rate. This price is aimed at people who could do with support to get by.

  • Is this for me? – My access to income is low and unstable and I worry about meeting my basic needs. I would select a concession rate due to my personal circumstances.

No one will be turned away due to lack of funds, so please contact us if you have any queries.

Booking Information

Ticket booking is via Eventbrite. Please review Eventbrite’s terms and conditions and Privacy Policy as Bristol Ideas do not accept any responsibility or liability for the policies. You can read Bristol Ideas’ Privacy policy here.

Please note we only refund tickets if the event is cancelled. Events start punctually and, out of consideration to other audience members and speakers, our policy is not to admit or issue refunds to latecomers. Full Terms and Conditions here.


  • Watershed’s main entrance and Box Office are both on the ground floor which is accessible via a ramped, electronically assisted entrance door.
  • There are two Blue Badge parking spaces to the rear of Watershed on Canons Road.
  • Guide dogs and hearing dogs are very welcome.
  • The first floor of Watershed is accessible via lift from the main entrance and includes level access to all areas, including the cinemas and event spaces.
  • The cinemas and event spaces have induction loops.
  • There is an accessible toilet (with baby changing facilities) near Cinema 1. Follow the signs for the Cinemas and the accessible toilet is just on your left through the double doors before Cinema 1.
  • There are gender neutral toilets in the cinema corridor on the first floor.

Visit Watershed’s Access page for more information.

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