But if it is a subset, as opposed to a vital ingredient, why can’t Peter Hansford take architecture under his wing as chief construction adviser?Of course an architectural adviser could give useful design guidance to those departments responsible for everything from schools to prisons to embassies to hospitals. It would certainly need the Department of Communities and Local Government to acknowledge the potential usefulness of the role in the world of planning, regulations and regeneration. But in its broadest sense it always makes an appearance because it concerns what we want the country, from a physical and environmental viewpoint, to be like. If elected, it would be much easier for a party to implement an architecture policy (covering planning, housebuilding, procurement and so on) across government on the basis that it had a democratic mandate.Whether any of the parties would recognise the potential attractions of such a policy is open to question. Where might architecture feature in all this?On the face of it, the present government can claim to have architecture on its mind – via the Farrell Review commissioned by culture minister Ed Vaizey. But for government departments to welcome such an initiative might suggest that current arrangements left something to be desired. In short, if Vaizey wants to make himself a political target, all he has to do is march up and down Whitehall, telling departments they are not up to snuff on the design front. The review makes a series of recommendations that could be adopted tomorrow by any of the political parties, but the Conservatives have made the running.The only problem lies in the fact that the government will apparently make no formal response to the review, even though it is said to be looking at specific recommendations. That is indeed the case, but who wants to admit it? Vaizey already serves that role. There is, however, nothing to stop any of the parties, in the independent language of an election manifesto, adopting Farrell Review recommendations, or alternatives. The point of having such a person in office is not to have a cheerleader for architecture in the Department of Culture. If Ed Vaizey wants to make himself a target, he can march up and down Whitehall telling departments they’re not up to snuff, writes Paul Finch
Civil servants are starting to think about the timing of new government policies, bearing in mind the forthcoming general election and the ‘purdah’ which precedes it. The wheel can’t be reinvented, but it would be possible for the aspirations behind that initiative, supported by Terry Farrell and indeed by Ed Vaizey, to be restated loud and clear in the run-up to next spring.Voters are interested in housing, place, infrastructure, landscape and public space; they like well-designed schools, hospitals, railway stations and the buildings in which they work. Have your say
You must sign in to make a comment. Will we yet see a decision to appoint a government ‘chief architect’ or similar, a successor to the good and wise Bryan Jefferson (RIP), the last person to hold such a post?