Culture Secretary Chris Smith this week challenged architects to open up the profession to the wider public, and particularly to ethnic minorities.

Speaking at the launch of Architecture Week 1999 on Tuesday, Chris Smith said one of his personal objectives as culture minister was "to challenge, and, where possible, break down the exclusiveness that sometimes surrounds creative activity".

He added: "Architecture is no exception to this and events like Architecture Week are a splendid way of bringing architecture to the people. More importantly, it also allows the public to get their views across." Smith launched the programme of 300 events for the week, which runs from 5-14 November. Architect in the House returns, in which architects offer a home visit and consultation for £10, which is donated to Shelter. New ideas include:

  • Love Architecture – a national poll on contemporary architecture conducted through a poster campaign and electronic voting machines across the country.
  • Guardian Unlimited architectural tea party – an on-line debate hosted by The Guardian newspaper featuring architects including Piers Gough and Erik Van Egeraat.
  • Starchitect talks – in which architectural "stars", including Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, Ken Yeang and Nicholas Grimshaw, will give talks at one of their recently completed buildings around the country.
Arts Council chairman Gerry Robinson announced a £20 000 grant for the Love Architecture campaign from the council's £5m New Audiences programme. The programme is a one-off fund launched by the culture secretary in 1998 to build new audiences for the arts.

Robinson also announced that the Arts Council's new Fellowship Programme for black and Asian arts managers had assisted Chris Nasah of the Society of Black Architects to join the RIBA architecture gallery staff for a year.