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General consensus says upturn is three years away

It’s probably a very good time to be going to architecture school. If you were 18 now and starting your undergraduate degree, you will probably be facing three great years of being taught by very good architects (who suddenly have the time to teach), and the prospect of emerging just as the downturn ends.

Industry experts are now predicting three years of pain for the commercial sector. Michael Slade, chief executive of developer Helical Bar, said this week that 2011 will be when people begin to dip their toes back in the development industry. The Construction Products Association says that while the housing sector might recover sooner (it has suffered longer), the construction industry won’t reach 2008 output levels again until 2012, but will begin to grow a year earlier.

There are two sectors that remain hopeful. Health projects have jumped in importance in the last year and education, too, remains vital, with the government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project picking up speed. And it’s not just BSF. For those lucky enough to have a piece of the framework agreement pie there’s huge investment in higher education colleges, and still some university work.

But all this depends on public spending remaining high. That’s a given now, but you only have to look to Ireland, the one European country officially in recession, to see how long that can last – all spending has been cut for public projects not yet gone to tender. Let’s hope the well doesn’t also run dry in the UK.

A BAD SPORT

With the award of the Stirling Prize just over a week away, the true byzantine nature of the prize became clear with a strange episode this week. The former editor of an academic journal emailed the chair of the jury, Gordon Murray, to influence him away from a shortlisted project. Maybe this kind of lobbying goes on all the time in juries, but this transparent attempt to undercut the process is thoroughly depressing and doesn’t help the atmosphere of the old boys’ club that the RIBA claims it is trying to shake off.

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