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Architecture centres ‘abandoned’ as umbrella organisation shuts down

The government has been labelled ‘short-sighted’ for allowing the Architecture Centre Network (ACN) to close following its promotion of the Localism agenda

RIBA president Angela Brady said the 20 architecture centres, many of which are struggling financially, were ‘best placed’ to help bring about Localism, and blasted policy-makers for the ACN’s closure.

‘For the government to abandon architecture centres and then introduce Localism without the facilities to deliver their message, shows a great lack of understanding of how they can be used to best effect.’

The ACN will shut down in late June, 11 years after it was set up to provide a national voice for UK architecture centres. Meanwhile, centres have resorted to ‘considerably reduced activity’ and have been forced to adopt commercial business models to survive, it has emerged.

In a statement, ACN chief executive Bridget Sawyers said the umbrella organisation – which employs just two people – was ‘unable to secure any additional funding’, but hoped architecture centres would ‘continue to share knowledge and information’.

She told the AJ: ‘In part it was a decision by the Arts Council. We have all been made redundant. It’s the nature of our organisation more than anything else – we are very difficult to fund.’

Arts Council England withdrew the network’s £120,000-a-year core funding 12 months ago. ACN board member and Open-City director Victoria Thornton said funding cuts made it ‘impossible to keep an umbrella association going’.

‘A discussion needs to be had to see how we as architecture centres can collectively continue to lobby the government and support each other,’ she said.

Nicole Crockett, chief executive of Hackney-based centre The Building Exploratory, described the closure as a ‘huge blow’.

Her centre – which also lost its Arts Council core funding – has halved its workforce and started charging for services.

An Arts Council spokesperson said: ‘It is with regret that we could not fund the ACN. Due to the substantial reduction in our funding, we needed to prioritise those organisations that were directly producing art and that could best deliver against our 10-year strategic framework.’


Architecture centres update

Manchester’s CUBE is set to officially close at the end of this month, but a potential RIBA-backed rescue plan is currently under discussion

The Architecture Centre, Bristol will receive its £54,250 per annum Arts Council core funding for the next three years. Redundancies followed the shop closure and gallery relocation last summer

Urban Vision North Staffordshire lost £250,000 core funding last summer leaving all six of its staff redundant. The organisation has since launched Urban Vision Enterprise CIC to support the charity

The Building Exploratory, London has lost its £70,000 per annum core funding. Staff numbers went from eight to four in the past 18 months, with capacity ‘significantly reduced’

Northern Architecture will receive £50,000 per year core funding for the next three years. Additional funding is drawn from charitable donations and income from design advice



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