There are a lot of talented designers who could create a covid memorial

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The news that ministers asked Heatherwick for ideas is yet another No 10 misjudgement, writes public art consultant Geoff Wood

The government is in danger of tripping over its own inept procurement practices in its efforts to hurriedly honour the victims of the covid pandemic. Yesterday Building Design reported that cabinet minister Chloe Smith has been in discussions with designer Thomas Heatherwick over a new memorial to those victims.

Prime minister Johnson has a blemished track record when it comes to commissioning Thomas Heatherwick. Readers will remember the Garden Bridge fiasco when Johnson was London mayor. There were hurried efforts to set up a design competition when it was widely rumoured that Johnson and Heatherwick had already been in discussion over a scheme for months before any other designers were given a sniff of the brief. I recall talking to one of those shortlisted competitors who had been invited to propose a design on a suspiciously tight timescale.

Heatherwick is a fine designer and it’s not his fault that Johnson sees him as the go-to guy for big projects, but there are hundreds more artists, designers and architects in the UK with talent and imagination and who could contribute ideas.

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