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Jim Eyre: No Modernist conspiracy in architecture

Design Council CABE trustee and Wilkinson Eyre director Jim Eyre has hit out at claims there is a Modernist conspiracy in the design review process

Writing in today’s Guardian (5 August), Eyre (pictured) said it would be ‘extraordinarily counterproductive’ if the Traditional Architecture Group’s (TAG) request for councils to ignore design review advice was implemented.

Last week, TAG  wrote to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt last week demanding Design Council CABE chair Paul Finch apologise for comments he made in this magazine celebrating the selection of Modernist architects to design London 2012 Olympic buildings (AJ 14.07.10). TAG also asked communities secretary Eric Pickles to instruct local authorities to ignore design review advice ‘on the grounds of clear and unacceptable bias’.

Eyre insisted there was no ‘conspiracy-peddling modernist dogma’ and that there should be no fears that traditionalist architects would be treated unfairly by Design Council CABE.

He added: ‘What we all want is better-quality architecture, and the focus of Finch’s article decries the problems brought on by a clumsy procurement process, making good architecture – of whatever style – a rarity.’

This week Finch said he was ‘disappointed’ that TAG failed to acknowledge ‘you leave your stylistic preferences at the door’ when undertaking design review.

In a letter addressed to TAG chair Alireza Sagharchi, Design Council chair Martin Temple said design review panellists acted ‘independently’ and the body advocated no ‘single style or aesthetic.’

Temple said that comments made by Finch did not represent the official views of the government sponsored design watchdog.  

In a written response to Temple’s letter, Sagharchi said his organisation experienced a ‘distinct lack of correlation between aspiration of policy and the stylistic prejudices in the makeup of the Panels that implement it’.

He added: ‘Finch’s views on Architecture cannot be deemed to be private whilst he is the Deputy Chair and has access to a public forum such as the Architects Journal, particularly when major and nationally significant projects, such as the Olympics, with large architectural commissions are concerned.’



Readers' comments (3)

  • Reproduction architecture has it's place - like reproduction furniture - but how on earth do you apply 'traditionalism' to Olympic venues? All I can think of is giant Roman amphitheatres, and I wonder if this is what TAG would like to see, or is it just that the athletes' village should be another Poundbury?

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  • John Kellett

    "Good design" can be in any style. The trouble with Design Review Panels is that they are usually only looking at large schemes by architects, that are generally not "bad design" in the first place.
    If the government is serious about the promotion of good design it should be requiring all buildings to be designed by persons trained and qualified to design them. Which leads to the other problem, are all panellists trained and qualified to judge "good design"?
    Most badly designed buildings (large and small), don't currently come under the scrutiny of DRPs. DRPs are the wrong solution unless used for all planning applications. To use a DRP to judge major developments by internationally known architects (or indeed any architect) is insulting. To use DRPs as a constructive design review with the client and / or fellow architects prior to making a planning application is however very useful.
    Let me pose another two questions:
    1] does anyone know of a scheme considered by a DRP that was not designed by an architect / architect's practice?
    2] What is the success rate of DRPs in getting bad design (not just indifferent or the wrong style) changed?

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  • For John Kellett's benefit, I can assure him, as Chairman of the MADE West Midlands Regional Panel affiliated to CABE, that we have certainly reviewed schemes that have not been designed by an architect. Some of them have been quite dreadful. We regularly secure improvements to poor schemes, including many designed by architects seeking to satisfy an unreasonable or greedy client. Far from feeling insulted, most of the architects, whose schemes we review, enjoy the dialogue with a well-qualified Panel and acknowledge the benefits.

    Our Panel always includes a range of professions (architects, planners, engineers, landscape architects) with wide experience and our discussions usually include the client and the local authority planning a officer.

    I would agree with John Kellett that the most beneficial reviews take place well ahead of the planning application when designs are at a formative stage. It always pays to involve the client in the review.

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