Move on Up: Neil Pinder – the Power of Language

Lucy Bullivant
Groundbreaking educationalist Neil Pinder, in his talk for Temple Bar Trust (6 October 2021) argues for the need for architects and all built environment professionals to adapt their use of language to relate closely to the context of the audience.
The power of words, phrases, the spoken word – summed up as language – is immense. Language has the power to evoke great emotions and elicit an equally powerful sense of alienation. Why is it then that architects, who are by definition hyper-sensitive to the composition of bricks, blocks and buildings, seem somewhat desensitised to the use of language? Taking the medical profession as an example, when two medical doctors discuss an aspect of a metabolic process, they rightfully dive into a language of exactitude. However, when discussing the cause of the cancerous growth with the patient concerned, they adapt a relatable, sincere and empathetic language. Surely, Pinder argues, if architects are designing for the ‘people’, the ‘people’ should be able to understand every sentence and be part of this exploratory journey. The language used should one that engages those who will ultimately using these spaces where they will live, work and play.
Pinder looks at the language used by the modern day and the more traditional architect. ‘As a builder who has been in the industry for over 20 years, I understand what I’m doing and consider myself intelligent enough to grasp relatively complex concepts in construction. However, I have a running list of the ridiculous words and phrases that the architects we work with are using. I spend a portion of each day stripping away the fluff and overly complicated explanations and descriptions for simple ideas. It is the biggest waste of time and ego. Sell that stuff to the client but give me the design and plans in the most direct and correct manner. I can work faster and make fewer changes.’ Greg Hudspeth via Facebook. Pinder believes that while it is important that architects continue their dialogue, their “code”, their language, it is equally important, however, to be aware of who they are speaking with and be sure that the language reflects, and is appropriate in the context of the audience.
Pinder is a groundbreaking educationalist who has taught architecture and design in a number of inner-city schools for over 25 years, working with London Open House for much of that time. He has been a Trustee of Blue Print, formerly the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust for the past 15 years. He is currently Head of Product Design and Architecture at Graveney School in south London, where he introduced architecture to the curriculum, winning various Open House competitions and being honoured as Open House Teacher of the Year. In 2020-1 Pinder was awarded the NLA (New London Architecture) Hidden Hero award and A ‘Lifetime Award’ by Sound Advice. Celebrating Architecture, one of Pinder’s initiatives for which he has received national recognition, he started up to recognise the work of young talented non-traditional and traditional students at Graveney School. Guest speakers have included Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Professor Chris Wise and Wayne Hemingway, alongside some of the most prestigious national and international architectural practices, for example, HOK and Populus.
Celebrating Architecture/Homegrown Plus is also a member of the Meridian Four Architect consortium, selected for the latest stage of the Meridian Water development led by Enfield Council, committed to advancing public sector procurement through diversifying the architecture and built environment pool. It is in tandem working on the Meridian Water educational programme to broaden access to architecture, engineering and built environment professions within Enfield.
He has been a guest speaker at RIBA events encouraging teachers to deliver architecture in the classroom, and is an Arkwright interviewer for a prestigious engineering scholarship at Imperial College and Cambridge University. He organised and coordinated a Brutalist photography exhibition in collaboration with the London Festival of Architecture and led architectural workshops at the RCA in collaboration with the Architectural Foundation, supported by the Mayor of London. Last summer during the pandemic he developed and implemented a successful initiative called GLAM GUCCI, LOUIS VUITTON, ARCHITECTURE & ME.
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