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Editorial - Is Lend Lease really after good design, or just branding?

The risk-averse nature of Olympic clients is hardly surprising, but when they pretend to be otherwise it really rankles.

The Olympic Delivery Authority trumpeted its list of architects for the Athletes’ Village, and we took it as the major opportunity for diverse designers to build near the Olympics.

But that looks to be unravelling now, with major practices mysteriously too busy to take on the work (see page 5). Of the six formally commissioned, all have worked with developer Lend Lease before. This is a framework agreement within a framework agreement, a bureaucracy that teases practices with work but delivers nothing for British architecture.

It is not Lend Lease’s responsibility to support British architecture, I suppose, but its record in this process has been of projecting an image of a patron of design, but going with who they would have chosen anyway.

One shortlisted architect told me last week that Lend Lease had implied to them that internal layouts of housing buildings could be designed in-house, with the architects left to skin the buildings. If true, the role of architecture at the Athletes’ Village has been relegated to the level of branding.

We have a family of new columnists on the AJ, and it is time we introduced them. Firstly, there’s Patrick Lynch. Patrick studied at Liverpool, Lyon and Cambridge; has run his own practice, Lynch Architects, since 1995; and has taught in architecture schools including the AA, Kingston and London Metropolitan University. His weekly column will look at contemporary debates in British architecture, and future columns will examine the meaning of issues as diverse as conservation, education, starchitecture and air-conditioning. This week he opens with a stab, via Kenneth Frampton, at what good architectural design might actually consist of. Turn the page to see if you agree.

Also worth checking out is Big Fish Little Fish on page 41, with two rotating columnists: Big Fish John Prevc of Make and Little Fish Jonathan Hendry of Jonathan Hendry Architects. The two of them will give very personal and contrasting views of life in large and small practices.

Finally we have the third instalment of the fortnightly Back Issues by Steve Parnell on page 49. This is a wry look at old journals, with articles that seem eerily prescient today. Each column looks at one particular issue of a magazine (this week, a RIBA Journal from 1934), showing there’s nothing new under the sun…

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