You report that the education sector may be about to embrace an “NHS Procure21-style” strategy for the procurement of its buildings (6 May, page 11).
I have a number of reservations to the Procure21 approach, which I base partly on intuition and partly on experience.
Procure21 is geared almost entirely to the large (massive) consultants and contractors and seems to deliberately exclude the smaller practitioners. If this was a proven means of generating quality and cost benefit, that might be acceptable. In practice, the opposite is usually the case.
What is generated by these heavyweight systems is a huge volume of information flow, form filling, box ticking and backside covering. The process is carried out in a moral vacuum in which the real purpose of architecture (the art of building) is forgotten.
Just as the purpose of teaching is eroded by the increasing straitjacket of the national curriculum, the reports, the statistics and the self-serving league tables, so the purpose of architecture is in danger of disappearing into a jungle of audits, box ticking, performance indicators and value engineering.
Good-quality design is alluded to, but barely understood. The “design champion” is the Prince of Wales, which is rather like getting Val Doonican to champion the cause of good music.
The final irony, of course, is that the dinosaurs that are created to deliver the serial projects, and that are expected to last “forever”, are far more likely to disappear into the ether at the whim of the politician or the market (like Jarvis or NHS Estates) than the established practitioners who are dedicated to the quality of their product.
Charles Thomson, Rivington Street Studio