Vaizey has asked architects what they want – so tell him
The architecture minister’s request for a dialogue with the profession is a welcome change from the rest of the government’s approach
Coming from a member of a government that has not previously shown any interest in maintaining a line of dialogue with architects, Ed Vaizey’s request that the profession tell him what he should focus on as architecture minister is as surprising as it is welcome. We should take him at his word. If you have a question or a plea you would like conveyed, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put it to him.
To judge by David Adjaye’s comments on working outside the UK, he certainly should have some useful words of advice for the minister. As encouraging as it is that a British architect should be in demand overseas, Adjaye’s assessment of the opportunities at home makes for bleak reading. He bemoans the UK’s failure to maintain investment in the public sector — something the US has continued to do.
He is not wrong. Consider the secondary education sector: having scrapped the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future programme two years ago, the coalition government has singularly failed to put its very much more modest replacement in place. The £2 billion Priority Schools Programme was to be launched at the start of this year but is mired in a government-wide review of PFI. It now looks set to launch next April at the earliest.
During this hiatus, businesses are suffering terribly while the professionals tasked with the care of our school estate find themselves notably underemployed. The waste of resources, let alone the impact on pupils’ education, is baleful.
In the meantime, ministers have trumpeted the relaxation of planning legislation for house extensions as a means of boosting the economy. Such gestures grab headlines but their effectiveness in stimulating growth is doubtful in the extreme. If Vaizey takes one message back to government it should be that the public sector needs to start building again urgently.