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Profession needs a wakeup call over PFI problems

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It was with qualified amusement that I read two items face to face on news pages 4 and 5 (AJ 24.6.04).

On the left-hand side, the design director of Percy Thomas Architects stated that the policy of packaging up projects to make PFI work was 'putting such projects out of the reach of many offices'. Small to medium-sized practitioners have been saying this for years. It is rather sad that a large practice has to go to the wall to realise this - if it had helped in the RIBA's efforts to make the government change its methods to redress this imbalance, perhaps it would not have been swallowed up by Crapita (copyright Private Eye magazine).

On the right-hand side was an article concerning the conviction of an architect by the HSE, because the contractor had chosen to use blocks that were too heavy for the bricklayers to handle on one of his projects.

The contractor was apparently not open to prosecution.

Put the two together and we will find that architects (in the mega practices that survive) will now be blamed for all the faults occurring in PFI jobs - over which they, in fact, have very little control as it is the contractor/investor who takes the decisions.

Some of us will remember how architects were blamed for all the faults and failures - both physical and social - of buildings in the '60s. We are about to see this repeated. In 30 years' time, when our grandchildren finish paying for the PFI projects now being constructed at inflated prices, it will long have been forgotten that we as a profession had virtually no control over what was built.

It's about time the profession woke up and looked after itself.

Tim Drewitt, via email

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