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Lord Inglewood rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to improve the standard of architecture and design in public buildings and buildings which are wholly or partly paid for by public funds.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, my remarks tonight are intended to be positive and I hope that they will be received as such. However, I hope that at the beginning I shall be forgiven for being a little negative on a number of points although I do not wish to go into detail.
We are told that this is the season of good will. I do not want party politics to intrude into the debate. Philistines crop up in the most unexpected places in the political spectrum and I see no correlation between political opinion and an interest and concern in architecture. One may disagree about whether a
I do not want to spend much time talking about the Millennium Exhibition. For a couple of years I was a Minister in the Department of National Heritage. When responsibility for the exhibition was passed to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, my noble friend Lord Freeman, I was charged to speak in this House on behalf of his office. I am prepared to concede that initially I was sceptical about the project, but I was won over.
I wish to make two points. First, the exhibition is not only about the Dome. Sir Norman Foster is designing the bus station arrangements while Alsop & Stormer are designing the new Underground station. In addition, there is to be major regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula. I can see no reason why it should not be a great success in the tradition of the Great Exhibition and the Festival of Britain, but I believe that a necessary pre-condition is that the project is professionally organised and managed and does not focus on the meretricious. If it were to be a flop--and I hope that it will not be--I believe that that will be the reason.
After reading the Sunday papers, I understand that there is tension in the air. A certain amount can be good for creativity, but I suspect that, like good claret, too much has the opposite effect. Equally, I do not wish to concentrate on what might be described as "swagger projects", although I shall deal with the Scottish parliament later in my remarks. We are considering the less glamorous projects for which the Government are responsible; that is, housing, schools, offices, perhaps warehouses, hospitals, doctors' surgeries, Underground stations, citizens advice bureaux and public lavatories.
Directly and indirectly, the Government are the largest patron of building in this country. Before the establishment of the National Lottery, they were spending approximately £4 billion a year. The lottery is a wonderful instrument of patronage and can provide opportunities for the best of our architects to be admired around the globe. Furthermore, the Government, of all patrons, have perhaps the greatest moral obligation to provide the bench mark for the rest of society. When I recently spoke to Dicken Robinson of the Peabody Trust I was interested to hear that he believed that businesses should contribute to the wider community. The trust believed that building good buildings was what it could do most effectively.
Let us be clear that the Government commission good buildings; for instance, the Inland Revenue building in Nottingham and the Crown Court at Truro. There are many such examples, but there are some poor ones. For example, when from time to time I visit the local social security office where I live in the north of England I do not find it to be a good building. Many are much worse.
A building cannot be good unless it works properly. It cannot be built on the cheap, but at the same time it need not be self-indulgently lavish. Good buildings matter because as a society they inform the wider world about our country's attitudes and values. By extension, they inform us how we value our fellow citizens
Government, as patron, operate within a framework. In general, modern governments in the western world have properly developed elaborate systems about the custodianship of public money. One is sometimes tempted to believe that from time to time the rules get in the way of doing good. A more recent development is the mechanism for consumer protection and redress for the public in respect of services provided by the state. I refer to the developments arising from the former Prime Minister's initiatives via the citizen's charters. For example, if the train arrives late you get some of your money back and if you write letters to government departments you have a right to expect a reply within a certain period.
How does that framework relate to buildings? We must admit that as regard building projects that facet is least satisfactory. We are developing techniques of full life costing, but they depend on valuation. As regards redress for a bad building, the only long-term redress is that if it is sufficiently unsatisfactory, demolish it. That is drastic and expensive. As regards political responsibility, neither I nor anyone I have spoken to can think of an example of a politician being sacked or voted out of office for erecting a bad structure.
I return to the custodianship of public money. I speak as a chartered surveyor who has never professionally valued anything. But valuation and evaluation are subjective activities. The longer the life of the asset one is considering the more difficult it becomes. That is exacerbated by high interest rates. I do not believe that any valuer or accountant has found a sensible way of valuing the worth over time of good design and good concepts. That is important. The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, who is sorry he cannot be here tonight, commented from his experience of a building erected for the British Embassy in Germany, which was frequently upstaged by the local Mercedes dealership. He went on to say that he was pleased that the proposals for the new embassy in Berlin are more satisfactory. But when I was in Berlin I was told that it was intended that the main reception room should be available to the adjacent hotel as a function room. That does not sound right at all. I suspect that valuing buildings is most akin to valuing works of art. One does not value them by colour, size or the amount of wallpaper that it is not necessary to provide. It is an art.
When I was in government it was a subject for which I had responsibility and one which interested me. I took a few small initiatives, as had other Ministers previously, and I believe that that will happen again in the future. Two issues come clearly to mind which are prerequisites of getting things right. First, I believe that the person in charge of any building project, and those involved in it, need to know and care about the building. One cannot have a good building without a client who
Furthermore, time is important. One cannot expect something excellent to emerge instantly. I am not saying that we should expect all projects to take as long to come to fruition as the British Library, but one must allow enough time for the project to develop to a satisfactory form. If the rules on the availability of public money militate against that, something is wrong.
At the end of last week I heard on the radio the proposals for the new parliament building in Edinburgh. I am an Englishman from Cumbria, which historically has had an antipathy towards, and a suspicion of, the Scots. I enjoy Edinburgh as a great city, even though I do not know the site of the proposed building. As an Englishman and a Cumbrian, I do not take too much of a detailed interest in Scottish affairs. I understand that we on these Benches were opposed to the policy which involves the construction of a new parliament building but we lost the argument. Now that project is going ahead--and I come back to an earlier remark--let us make sure that it is as good as possible. Because we are all British and because of my "Britishness" I feel that the project affects me.
An interesting parallel is the reconstruction of the Reichstag in Berlin under the direction of Sir Norman Foster. I visited it just over a year ago. I could not help thinking how extraordinary it was that in 1945 hundreds of thousands of people had been killed capturing the building while in 1996 the contract to revamp it was captured by an English architect, not using a gun but through the European Communities public procurement directive.
I very much hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that the Government will be seeking the best possible design for the building which will house the Scottish parliament, even if it means that a German or--dare I say it?--an English architect will take the project forward. After all, it seems to me that the Scots and the British deserve the best, just as much as the Germans do.
I do not expect that the Minister will be able to tell us that everything is absolutely right and never again will the Government allow any public money to be involved in the creation of a poor building. I do not believe that the world is like that. Indeed, I do not believe that even new Labour could claim to have built the new Jerusalem in just over six months.
I know that in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport there are Ministers and officials who feel as strongly about this issue as I do, as do others who are to speak in the debate. That is so not only in the department but right across government. If we in this House raise the topic from time to time at decent intervals we shall be able to help them in their endeavours to try and make things better. If we can get on their backs, they will get on the backs of other Ministers who will get on the backs of other officials who actually get things done.
I am sure that I shall not be the only person to raise this topic. If I am to believe what I read in the newspapers--I am an hereditary Peer--I see that I am probably about to be served with a notice of demolition, which will take effect in about two years' time. I shall be replaced by some post-modernist creation constructed on different principles, presuming, I understand, to replace wood by high technology. The Government may or may not find that they have created a similar building but I hope that the House as a whole will take forward this aspect of public policy because it is important to everybody. I believe that we in this House can serve the nation by taking it forward and drawing it to the Government's attention.
I would argue that we have the means, both financial and human, to create public buildings and spaces of the highest quality. Therefore, if this debate is taking place at all, it is because we have not had the political will to introduce policies which ensure that public architecture is of the highest quality. That must change.
Good public buildings directly benefit society as a whole. One in five of us lives in public housing; one in five of our workforce works in public buildings; and almost 10 million of us go to state schools and universities. We all use our hospitals, town halls, public libraries, public parks and squares. The quality of these buildings and spaces therefore directly impacts on our daily lives and in more ways than we may imagine, because, over and above any functional contribution, buildings can create what I will call social capital.
Pugin was only 23 and Barry 40, a youthfulness that reflects the confidence of the period. The Palace is now recognised as a symbol of democracy throughout the world, an object of national identity and of pride.
Let us now take the example of our schools. Too few even satisfy the teaching methods that we are trying to promote. But, beyond meeting the specific functional requirements of the children and their lessons, a building of real architectural quality can focus the community, inspire the student and provide pride and status to the teachers. Imagine schools as the hub of the community and the playground as the local square. In that scenario, the parents become directly involved with the school and education and citizenship fuse into one.
On even the tiniest scale, good public architecture makes a difference. A public convenience and flower stall hardly seem relevant to this learned debate, but, when a young, talented practice, CZWG, took on precisely this public brief in Westbourne Grove near Portobello Market, the impact on the neighbourhood was startling. Previously a dead and littered space, the stunning light green tiled building with its beautiful curving supple forms, its elegant glazed flower stall, its glass canopy to protect those sitting on its benches and its large public clock has turned what was a desert into a pleasant and secure neighbourhood centre, and the WCs seem to work well!
How can we secure better quality of design? We need good public clients who use good architects. Sadly, in recent years and perhaps decades, the Government have had a poor record of patronage. It is therefore imperative to appoint knowledgeable selection groups to help carry out public procurement policies aimed at improving the choice and proper briefing of good architects.
Ironically, Britain is universally recognised as having some of the world's best architects, both young and less young, though to find their major work one usually has to go abroad. In all cases those architects have won their commissions through public design competitions.
The national lottery regulations have changed that situation for lottery projects, by insisting on a design competition procedure and a thorough assessment of a project's long-term value. This is helping to reverse the recent public procurement strategy based on fee bidding and lowest capital cost. A tendency that is supported by research in the private sector proves that buildings of higher architectural quality offer landlords better long-term value, higher returns and lower maintenance.
The competition system is a proven procedure. It can take a wide range of forms, from the international design competition open to all architects to local competitions open to young architects, and from competitions which ask for detail design and costing, to competitions by selection of the best architect by CV and interview. Each is tailored to satisfy the individual needs of the client.
The International Union of Architects, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Department of the Environment and Culture, Media and Sport have all produced guidelines recommending more or less the same strategy. The process of using design competition to improve the standards in public buildings is recommended by the EC, and most of Western Europe has been using this system for the past 25 years. In those countries it has produced a new generation of talented architects (some of whom are British) and a plethora of good buildings.
To maximise the chances of creating a good public building or for that matter a good public space, the Government need a coherent strategy and appropriate advisers. It should not be, I must add, a heavyweight bureaucratic structure, another layer in an already overburdened system. The system must be flexible, lightweight and capable of responding to local issues and of creating diversity. Procurement is a complex issue and it is my strong recommendation that it be the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport.
Mark Fisher, the Minister for the Arts, has been working up proposals for some time but has been unable to convince the different departments to adopt this coherent approach. That is a shame because, if we are to improve the standards of our buildings, we need a robust policy that crosses departmental boundaries. I ask the Government to do this by backing the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and by setting up a small committee which would ensure that the £4 billion of public money, and more, currently spent annually on our public buildings achieves the best results. If that money were to be used on buildings of high quality, let us just imagine the cumulative effect on the quality of our cities and of our citizens' lives.
Lord Palumbo: My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Inglewood for promoting tonight's important debate. It would be difficult to imagine any more ideal setting for it than your Lordships' House--a felicitous collaboration between Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. It also represents a benchmark of what a government are able to achieve by way of public commission, and--dare I say it?--a grand projet on the grandest of scales, when they set their mind to it. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for stating the obvious when I say that government have no money; what they have is access to the use of taxpayers' money. That means that they have an overriding responsibility to use that money wisely and to account for it fully and properly.
It also means that such money should never be used to celebrate the second rate. Government patronage of the built environment, both central and local, is by far and away the largest in the land. It involves billions of pounds every year and yet the record of the commissioning by government of public buildings is, on the whole, woefully mediocre. One notable exception, in my opinion, is the magnificent new British Library, designed by Sir Colin St. John Wilson. I hope that those noble Lords who have not already done so will take an early opportunity to visit that largest and most important public commission in Britain during the 20th century.
What, then, can be done to ensure that taxpayers' money, wisely spent by an enlightened government, can be harnessed to the creative genius of architects and designers throughout the British Isles in a way which is unparalleled anywhere else in the world? I believe that the answer lies fairly and squarely in the competition system, carefully and meticulously administered so that every public commission is subjected to that process. That process has been used to great effect in Finland, where the standard of public buildings is higher than in any other country in Europe. It involves the preparation of a comprehensive and an unambiguous brief in which the function of the building is made abundantly clear, but more of that anon.
It involves too the preparation of rigorous technical specifications and the widest possible public consultation. It also involves a judging panel of international standing, and monetary controls to ensure that the building contract is brought in on time and within budget. It is no pie in the sky formula; it is a
Mention of the millennium leads me to the Millennium Dome in Greenwich. I suppose that there are historical precedents where a government have commissioned a great architect to design a structure without informing him of what precise function the structure is to accommodate, but I do not know of any. No less than three-quarters of a billion pounds of taxpayers' money is to be allocated for the exercise. It is an exercise in pure political caprice--a game of Russian roulette played with huge sums of taxpayers' money. It is also a political time bomb waiting to explode which no amount of spin-doctoring will be able to defuse. It would be ironic but perhaps, in a way, appropriate if the significance and the symbolism of the Millennium Dome were to reside in its architecture alone and in its surroundings; and, indeed, in the technological wonder that it undoubtedly represents.
With the greatest respect to my noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside, the name of a single architect most likely to spring to the lips of the man on the Clapham omnibus would be that of Sir Christopher Wren. It was he who said that the aim of architecture is eternity. That is what we should surely strive to achieve. We certainly have the talent and technology to do so. However, we need to raise our eyes and expand our horizons and have the courage of our convictions as the Victorians and the Georgians had before us. Above all, they were confident societies whose confidence was expressed in the monuments that they left behind. After all, it is by the monuments that we leave behind us that we shall be judged when our history comes to be written. I believe that it is the competition system, properly administered, and an appreciation of art and design fostered from an early age in the National Curriculum which will enable the Government to lay claim to the respect of posterity.
Lord Hankey: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for initiating tonight's debate. I was also glad to hear his reference to the importance of values of the built asset. As we have just founded the All-Party Group on Architecture and Planning, where perhaps we can generate better synergies between government and the professions, I propose to base some of my remarks on one or two perspectives generated from those professions.
My first point is that architecture should be created by architects and not by professions untrained in design and in the science of construction. The Royal Institute of British Architects, since its charter of 1837, retains its objectives as a learned society to extend the body of knowledge upon which the practice and appreciation of architecture are based. In my professional opinion, most architects are concerned with the quality of the physical and built environment and the social and environmental impact of development. They are concerned with
Architects must essentially be able to look at the total context of a design problem if the right answers are to be arrived at. The process of design requires special training and can involve many skills and diverse aspects of the design process. All must be taken into account at the early stages of design if problems are not to appear later and require revisions and consequential loss of time and additional costs.
Most projects require a special solution to suit the context of the site, its access, its orientation, the functions of a building and its structures and the financial constraints of a client. The built environment is special and getting the right solution is always a question of skilled teamwork--often between diverse professional and contracting skills--and essentially teamwork with a client. Both architects and planners and the project sponsors carry great responsibility for the integration of all the personal and community interests and all the specialist skills needed to arrive at the best possible outcome, and in such a manner as to carry the convictions and interests of the final user, the investors and the markets.
The achievement of the appropriate standards of architecture and design of public buildings sponsored by public clients can be threatened by failure to enable any one of the processes of procurement, production, operation, maintenance and management. Project sponsorship is itself, as the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, stated, a skilled task and may require well trained, professional architects and planners to help in the process of project development. The RIBA has recently issued a useful document entitled A Decent Standard: procuring Good Public Architecture. It is worth considering and gives an idea of the perspectives on this problem from one of the main professional bodies.
The Government have been effective in issuing advisory documentation such as the series of planning and policy guidelines. Ministers of this Government and previous governments are committed to the improvement of standards of design and architecture. Those in individual departments of the Government have themselves developed useful standards and guidelines to permit the innovation and experience of the private sector to design within the context of the particular public client.
There is a great need for skilled procurement of services, for the selection procedure to assess design quality as well as price as the criterion of selection. The RIBA is particularly critical of the effectiveness of compulsory competitive tendering where the criteria of cost do not always achieve the most appropriate results. Certainly the advent of CCT can seriously reduce the incentive of the professional to look for the benefit of the client and the quality of the building. With CCT the client and building owner hope that the professional will give quality where it may not always be included in the budget. But, alas, is that a reasonable view of human nature? Is that a responsible attitude of project sponsors?
The benefits of good design have been recognised increasingly by the private sector because of its investment structures which depend upon market perceptions and changing needs, user satisfaction and the retention or enhancement of asset values. I believe public buildings come under the same series of assessment criteria. The public building programmes may often be limited, however, by economic and revenue considerations, but it is just these limitations that should be offset by the quality of design, which does not necessarily mean higher capital costs.
Fine public architecture adds value. It aids the delivery of efficient public services and in the urban planning context it often plays a critical part in the perceived quality of the environment. It contributes significantly to the quality of life, as the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, has said, and as he said most eloquently in his Reith lectures. I believe it also contributes to the cultural attachment to a place. The RIBA states, and I agree,
In supporting the Government's policies on best value, whereby both property and services are responsive to changing needs, where they are subject to continuous improvement, where they are sustainable and achieve the best value for money, the RIBA recognises that the community for whom the whole service is developed must also be the principal driver of the best value process. The whole idea of community involvement and "ownership" relates to the same social and democratic principles that in my opinion must be the driver and judge of the policies of devolution. It is the public who must be the participants in the policies for the regional development agencies and the effective creators of the future government for London.
Market testing of services is important, but I believe the futile regulations which at times demand retendering in mid-project, as for the Great Court of the British Museum, lead to redundant effort and must bring the system into disrepute. The cost and effectiveness of PFI and the hidden consumption of financial resource among the competitors is also a serious problem that is, one hopes, being adequately addressed. The recession in the building industry in recent years and the cost of PFI has not been a good combination. The Bates review identified the need to improve the PFI process and to reduce bidding costs, making an important series of recommendations. But the RIBA believes that there are further beneficial methods of reducing the time and cost of arriving at the preferred bidder. Having myself acted for procurers in the development of bid documentation and in the private sector in the assessment of bid documentation, I agree with the suggestions that architects should be given a greater responsibility in the development and assessment roles of the PFI process.
I mention another of the problems of maintaining the public estate. So often the redundant buildings are not assessed for their reusability early enough in relation to the markets and property managers are not aware of their asset value and the need to sustain this value. The delay of capital spending for maintenance contributes greatly to the degradation of the urban environment and to the burdens on government employees. The existing built asset is also of great value. In years past the responsible attitude to utility properties and their maintenance has been poor and has contributed to the negative perceptions of our environment.
The RIBA is keen to be of assistance to government in considering these issues and many others issues written up in its new publication. The institute undoubtedly has essential experience and would wish to be closely involved in the development of policy and roles and relationships between government and the professions. There are in my experience some excellent clients emerging in the role of sponsor for public projects. I believe that the process of improvement is well under way but the lessons of the past must be learned and remembered.
So my third point is that the process of developing synergies with the primary stakeholder (the voter) and the users of the built environment and synergies between the project sponsors and the members of the design teams is of critical importance to the outcome and the quality of the product.
The spreading awareness among the public of the factors contributing to the sustainability and enjoyment of our environment is a most encouraging factor. I believe strongly that the heightened awareness through the influence of the media offers us the opportunity to incorporate a much wider range of people into the body responsible for the quality of our environment and the planning of our future facilities and political structures. But our present political structures and the historical and often unplanned nature of our environments lead to alienation and social problems, inefficiency of urban systems and costly regeneration and renewal. We have to improve the standards of public architecture planning and design for the well-being of the population in order
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I apologise to the House for leaping into the gap during the interesting debate introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. I shall not speak long enough to make a splash but a mere ripple.
I wish to underline one key point made in the very practical speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. We are discussing the possibilities of improving the standard of architecture and design in public buildings. From my recollection of debates on such matters in recent years in this House, the most severe blow to improving those standards was the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering upon which the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, commented. That policy was a great error. In those days--it was from the other side of the House--some of us, with the assistance of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, opposed CCT as actively as we could. We were defeated. CCT was not the fault of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood; I do not think he was to blame in any way. I absolve him totally from that policy.
However, I wish to suggest that my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey, pays particular attention to that part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. I do not ask my noble friend to promise the immediate repeal of CCT; I ask only that he ponders the matter, and in the fullness of time I dare say that it will move away. That one single act would lead to the improvement in standards we are discussing tonight.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I ask the forgiveness of the House for being perhaps the least qualified speaker in the debate. Without offending the Benches opposite, perhaps I may class myself today as the people's speaker.
On a very pleasant afternoon today as I crossed St. James's Park pondering what I should say in the debate, it occurred to me how typical that park is of what appeals to an Englishman. One has the combination of landscape, buildings of a most attractive and pleasing scale, and water. When considering my travels around the country--I have perhaps more of a visual sense than any other--it is that aspect which impresses me about England rather than the United Kingdom, although it probably applies also to buildings in Scotland. As one travels the length and breadth of the country, one is impressed by the buildings and their surroundings which have been passed down to us by our forefathers. There is the noted absence of what one might call monumental architecture. That makes us somewhat different from other countries in Europe.
I admired the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. It was a speech such as one normally expects from the noble Lord. It was most interesting and passionate. The issue inevitably leads on to the plans for the millennium. Again, perhaps I express a people's view here. I have no great taste for the millennium. I enjoy the satirists on television who poke fun at it. I particularly enjoy the row that is taking place now about the dome. I am not too much concerned about the money. I am not too much concerned about the fact that the dome will apparently last only 20 years; I believe that that may be a plus point. However, as regards the Millennium Dome at Greenwich, I am concerned at the extraordinary unwillingness to let us know what it is all about. If no one knows what it is all about and we have to wait for Mr. Mandelson to come back from Disneyland to tell us, why does someone not say, "We're not sure but it's a jolly attractive and technologically advanced piece of building, and we'll get something to put in it or leave it empty"?
I believe that the noble Lord mentioned the exhibition of 1851. That exhibition had the clear purpose of presenting to the world our inventiveness and our products, since we were in the vanguard of the industrial revolution. The success of that exhibition was built upon 11 years later--it was late as British buildings often are; it was not 10 years later as intended--by an even greater exhibition in South Kensington. Although the buildings no longer now stand, I believe that the impetus the exhibitions gave to British inventiveness and production has lasted. Even now scholarships are awarded as a result of moneys made out of the 1851 exhibition. What will be the lasting results of the Greenwich Millennium Dome? If it is to be empty, we know that there will be none. If it is to be a theme park, that may well suit the present mood. It will offer instantaneous satisfaction of some kind, and then we shall all forget about it. Surely our aim ought to be to create, if not a permanent structure or even something permanent inside, at least an effect which will endure, so that in a hundred years' time people will say, "That was a very curious promontory into the Thames, but the ideas were extraordinary. Look how ahead of its time and how stimulating it was". The noble Lord may be able to give the House a clue as to how we are to be stimulated.
I read in today's Guardian a most interesting and amusing article by Mark Lawson, tongue in cheek, comparing our attempts at creating a "Millennium Experience", as it is now called, with that in France. In France they display great style and imagination in these matters. Apparently they plan to pour a lot of scent into the River Seine, and there is to be the enormous hatching of an egg under the Eiffel Tower, which will then transform itself (I do not know quite how) into a huge area of screens and so on. Mr. Lawson thinks this will probably frighten Mr. Mandelson into trying to follow along the same lines. We await his announcements with trepidation.
The Minister is an amiable, understanding and patient man. He will know that I am not being unkind but am saying in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way that it is essential that the purposes, when they are revealed--I believe an announcement is expected next month--of this "Millennium Experience" (in the horrible term that is now used) will lead to something lasting. The buildings will not last--it has been clearly stated that they are built to last 20 years--and I doubt whether whatever is inside will last either.
The monumental architecture of the British Library has gone way over budget and way over delivery, as they say in the shipping world, but it has one advantage over the French national library. The British, being pragmatists, have put our people upstairs and our books below. I believe that in the French national library the opposite has been done. I hope that English pragmatism will always be brought to bear on British architecture.
My interest as regards visual matters is mainly in cinema. Architecture is very close to cinema. Indeed, some of the directors whom I most admire started their careers in architecture. Architecture is very important to us in relating to our history and the scale of the world in which we live--both the immediate scale and the larger one. This is a very important subject. It was extremely kind of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, to start us off after the Christmas Recess with a debate that is so topical and important.
Finally, I reiterate that in this country we have all the skills of innovation in so many fields, exactly as we did in 1851. We have people who are highly qualified in all kinds of creative and technical fields. We can, as is proved by the success of our architects all round the world, produce buildings which are second to none. I rather like much of the modern architecture in the City. What has been done is extremely impressive. The buildings in what used to be the terrible, fish-smelling area around Lower Thames Street have been done beautifully and look as though they have been made to last. I am not pessimistic, as a man in the street, about the state of English architecture; I am concerned about letting people run free with ideas which are fanciful, such as the millennium idea, and which contain no long-term benefit for our successors. Taking the country as a whole, by and large what was done by our predecessors was extremely impressive and extremely appropriate for the country in which we live and to our moods and traditions. I hope that that approach will not change. I look forward to the noble Lord being able to give the House some encouragement, and perhaps some
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I too offer my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for introducing the debate. It has been both fascinating and constructive--quality rather than quantity--with most distinguished speakers. There are just a few points that I wish to add at this late stage.
First, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not forget to promote the better use of their fine stock of existing historic buildings, of which there are many examples around the country. One such example is the naval dockyards at Plymouth. These buildings are our heritage. I do not mean simply that they should be conserved but that they should be properly used--enjoyed and cherished rather than left to rot. Such buildings were often the centre and catalysts of community activity when they were first built. Now, with sensitive adaptations, there is no reason why they should not become the same once again. We owe a great debt to the Prince of Wales not only for championing this very important cause but for making possible all the work that is done by his successful Phoenix Trust and his Architectural School.
It is also vitally important that the higher education proposals from Sir Ron Dearing, now the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, regarding the training of architects are taken seriously. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, rightly stressed the importance of training. Sadly, the experience of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the excessive emphasis on project management considerations, has led many in this country to be reluctant to take risks in architecture. As a result, architects with commercially established practices have a great advantage over the imaginative architects with small practices when it comes to winning commissions. That attitude sits uncomfortably with the dynamism, creativity and entrepreneurship of the country as a whole.
British architecture is in fact more appreciated abroad than it is at home. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, the distinguished architect, who spoke so eloquently on the importance of good public architecture. Yet our David Chipperfield has been selected for the reconstruction of the Neues Museum by Stuler next to Shinkel's Altes Museum at the heart of historic Berlin--the most important and prestigious project in the whole country. But, here in the UK, in the provincial museum and gallery sector he won in the past only smaller commissions.
Rick Mather has produced elegant and simple solutions to the space problems of the Wallace Collection and the Dulwich Gallery which are ideal for historic buildings. Where, however, are buildings such as the Museum of Modern Art of Frankfurt by Hans Hollein or the Guggenheim of Bilbao by Frank Gehry?
If new Britain is not simply to be a PR gimmick, this Government should encourage change of the widespread attitude towards architecture. For example, they should throw their weight behind the ground-breaking and wonderful project by Daniel Libeskind for the Spiral in the new V&A. We need to preserve the best of the past and ensure that we create new buildings that will be worth preserving.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I understand that this is the first debate on architecture that has taken place in either House since the last election. For that reason, if for no other, we must be especially grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for drawing our attention to it and for assembling a cast--if I may put it that way--of distinguished speakers this evening. I acknowledge his initiative in doing that and the impetus behind it which, as he rightly says, is not in any way party political but is concerned with a matter with which we are all concerned: the improvement of the quality of public buildings in this country.
My noble friend Lord Rogers pointed out the importance of public buildings, and I am again glad that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, expressed his Question so widely as to cover buildings which are not necessarily built entirely with public money but have a public use. That is the important consideration. My noble friend gave statistics concerning the extent to which we are all involved in public buildings. I acknowledge our responsibility, which was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, to ensure that this vital part of our future heritage is of the highest possible quality.
Of course, it is common ground that our past architectural heritage has been of enormous distinction over the centuries. We may look at the variety of styles of architecture in this country over the past millennium and the way in which English architects and architects from other parts of the British Isles have played their part in European and world architecture in that period. If we consider that, then the responsibility we have to enter the new millennium at the highest possible peak of architectural quality is all the more onerous on us.
Fortunately, our architectural heritage is well sustained by the generations of architects now in practice in this country, even though--as noble Lords said--some of the best of them have been doing their best work abroad.
Before I leave that point, my noble friend Lord Rogers referred to the contribution of young and, I believe he said, not so young architects. I wish to pay tribute to him in his chairmanship of the Architecture Foundation. I have had the opportunity of looking at the
It has to be said that, despite our architectural heritage, recent performance in the public sector has been variable or patchy. The noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, calls it "woefully inadequate". That is a little sweeping. It is quite true that for every Truro courts or Inland Revenue building in Nottingham there are probably several examples more like Marsham Street or the local social security office of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, than we would wish to see.
There is a great mixture of good and bad in public architecture in this country. We do not aspire to the same consistently high standard or perhaps the consistently high-based standard which the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, rightly mentioned as characterising public architecture in Finland.
Why is it that despite our inheritance there is such a patchy performance? It is apparent from the speeches this evening that it is because we have lacked a coherent approach to design procurement. In other words, we have not thought enough or clearly enough about the role of the Government as client. I say that in full recognition of the work which the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, did in his position in the Department of National Heritage as it then was. Behind him, I wish to pay tribute to the work of Mr. John Gummer, who was particularly keen on the quality of design procurement.
That raises the question: what do I mean by design? Other noble Lords have referred to it, again we are not talking just about appearance. We are talking about architecture as solving problems, providing fitness for purpose in a wide variety of public buildings. That means problems in the use of the site or the space around and within the buildings, problems of the use of materials, the reduction of maintenance costs, energy efficiency and access problems, particularly for people with disabilities. Fundamentally there is the need for public buildings to provide an enhancing living, working or leisure environment. Behind all that there is the whole issue of low lifetime costs. If we neglect design at the beginning because of penny-pinching at the procurement stage, then the price that we will pay will be very high indeed. I remind your Lordships that the design fees on a building are usually less than 1 per cent. of the lifetime costs of the building.
How are we to improve the quality of design procurement? How are we to improve the performance of the Government as a client? Let me say immediately to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that I acknowledge the initiatives which the RIBA has taken. The Government are grateful to it. There are both supply and demand aspects of how to overcome the problem. From our side, the government side, the first requirement is that there should be better design briefs. As the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, rightly said, that means that there must be a more adequate timescale allocated to the
Then there are all the opportunities which exist through the use of juries and, above all, public competition. That was a theme from a number of noble Lords. We were reminded that the Palace in which we live and work was the result of open competition in the 1830s.
I rather liked the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, to open government, because the two go together. If we are to encourage--as we shall--open government in all its aspects, we must open up the architectural procurement process as widely as possible to as many people as possible. We must have exhibitions of designs, as we have had in more recent years.
Competition of itself is not an unalloyed good. Competitions are expensive to run. They can take a long time. They involve abortive costs for those who do not win them, and in order to be attractive and successful they must offer substantial prizes, including prizes for those who do not succeed. It is not a universal panacea. But clearly the enhancement of good architecture has been improved by competitions and that is an area where we need to give further thought to the guidance we produce.
Again on the aspect of improving the Government's performance as a client, I draw attention to the revised Planning Policy Guidance No. 1, particularly Annex A on design management. That was produced in February 1997 under the previous government and it is a good document which we want to support. Leading on from that, we are producing a manual on the role of good design in the planning system. We have the government construction clients panel. The Treasury has been producing procurement guidance notes, all of which may be helpful in improving the quality of the design procurement process.
But then we must consider the supply side as well. We must think about the quality of the architects who are available to undertake the work. I have already paid tribute to the quality of current work and to the work of the Architecture Foundation. I certainly acknowledge that the architectural profession has gone through a dreadful time in recent years with the decline in work available. Many architectural practices have lost partners and many architects have been driven out of business.
Having said that, there is a sense in which architects could do more to follow up the design and construction work that they do and to understand more the way in which their buildings operate. As a local councillor in the 1960s I was responsible for building up a considerable architectural department in a London borough. We had the greatest difficulty in persuading architects to go back to buildings once they had been completed, other than the minimum requirement of a six-month inspection. They would not even do what Erno Goldfinger did, which was to live in his own flat in East London, and he only did that for a week. There is scope for improvement in that regard and I hope that architects will not take my comments amiss when I have sympathised with their economic plight and praised them.
Behind all of this is the need for us to encourage a multiplicity of commissioning sources. It would not be right for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to be the universal commissar of design or to lay down the law on what should be done in public buildings. The great advance in any art is a wide variety of impulses for that art. That applies also to architecture.
The PFI could be a threat, but it need not be if we make sure that we have adequate design guidance for PFI projects. Design and build could be a threat, but there are plenty of examples of good design and build--the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester is one of them--which show that even there it is possible to obtain good results.
The availability of capital expenditure on buildings through the various lottery funds is an enormous boost to good architecture in this country, as is the Millennium. I do not have time to pursue the questions of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, in relation to the Millennium Dome, which are slightly outside the range of this debate. But I say to the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, that the dome is not without a purpose. The detail of the various activities which will take place under the dome are still to be worked out and discussed in public, but the dome itself--as I am sure my noble friend will agree--has a clear purpose whatever goes on inside.
Above all, we should avoid "monopsoly"--the economists' word for a supply cartel; for a unity of supply comparable to monopoly on the other side of the equation. It is in variety; it is in letting 100 flowers bloom that we shall see a continuing improvement in architectural quality of public buildings in this country. This Government gladly accept the challenge posed by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and other speakers this evening.
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