Architects accuse ministers of failing to translate words into policies
Architects have laid into the coalition’s record on design, accusing it of failing to translate fine words into action.
As the Conservative-Lib Dem government approaches its half-way point in office, leading members of the profession have compared its record unfavourably with the previous administration.
Taken seriously, design could play a powerful part in rescuing Britain from its economic woes, they argued at the Design Summit at City Hall on Tuesday.
Former RIBA president Sun-and Prasad described the “change in atmosphere” between the two governments as very startling.
“Whatever criticism we had of the previous government, there were some strong policies on design,” he said.
“The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has very good words about design in it, but what we really want to know is whether that translates into action. That’s the critical thing. It’s actual policy that matters.”
Robin Nicholson, a director at Edward Cullinan Architects, added: “At the moment it’s words and not actions. There’s no public sector investment at all so there’s nothing to design.”
Giving the keynote speech at the Design Council event, subtitled Design for Growth: Who Do We Think We Are?, business secretary Vince Cable spoke of the importance of good design.
Prasad said ministers’ en-dorsement was “always valuable” but that it was left to others, including the economist John Kay, to make the most powerful case for design.
He said the sector, which currently contributes 6% of UK GDP, could play a bigger role in rebalancing the economy. The summit heard from Manchester council leader Howard Bernstein and Argent chief Roger Madelin about the regeneration of Manchester and King’s Cross
Design Council director David Kester said Britain should learn from German pride.
“To edge ahead at the top of the pack means competing on added value and innovation. That’s where design comes in, turning our ideas into brands, products and services that people need and want,” he said.
Prasad warned that if architects did not radically rethink, Britain risked losing its advantage.
“The very thing that has given British architecture such traction around the world is its ability to look at the whole problem, deal with uncertainty and synthesise diverse considerations. That’s potentially under threat unless we learn new forms of interdisciplinary working,” he said.
18 October 2012
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