Hey, guys! You do realise that this is the AJ website and not Infowars, yeah?
Well, the previous scheme won a Housing Design Award last year and this new iteration is an improvement. So let's see, shall we?
Paul Finch is mistaken. Nobody is suggesting that Foster's bridge would be anything other than exceptional - but how do we know that the others' designs might not be just as good? The principle complaint with this process was that the playing field was far from level.
A more robust process would have removed the fee component entirely (after all, it's a microscopic sum in the scale of the overall project cost) and for the entries to be judged entirely on design quality. And why not an anonymous competition? The two-stage process ensured that all qualifying teams met the minimum levels of competency, so there was no reason why judges couldn't have assessed the shortlisted schemes on their relative merits without knowing who the designer was.
No-one wants the process to be reduced to myopic "bean-counting", but just for it to be fair. It appears that this was not.
It should be a condition of RIBA Chartered Practice Membership that firms commit to these things - equal pay, reasonable hours, banning "internships", etc. Not only do these things result in inequality, they also suppress fees.
An anonymous "hotline" should be provided by the RIBA to report miscreants, and the threat of removal of Chartered Practice Status should be a genuine one.
So why become a Chartered Practice?
Entry to the RIBA Awards, eligibility for public tenders and so on should be open only to those practices which have earned this status. This would require reform both of the Chartered Practice programme and public procurement generally, but both are achievable.
Standards need to be raised.
Although admirable, an intention to use "SMEs" is pretty meaningless when it comes to architects, as this definition includes something like 97% of practices - a fact that is misunderstood by many outside the profession.
A commitment to employ smaller practices should really mean a commitment to selection criteria that favours quality over size. This is achieved through a more intelligent use of procurement rather than a vague desire to promote smaller practices (which usually means big practices by any reasonable definition); reducing barriers to entry and providing a level playing field so that architects are chosen according to their talent rather than their turnover.
If the point of the garden bridge is to provide a new public space raised above the Thames with dramatic views of the river, then it seems counter-intuitive to fill the thing with trees. Why not just create an inhabited platform without the greenery and provide unobstructed views of the river frontage?
Given that Ordnance Survey is a government-owned body, and the maps are therefore produced using taxpayers' money, there's an argument that all Ordnance Survey information should be made freely available to the public rather than licensed for profit. The argument that the use of "unlicensed maps" is wrong may be legally correct, but not morally.
It looks a lot nicer in the drawings than it does in the photos.
But the planning system has evidently not delivered better buildings, has it? Our landscape is littered with examples of poor quality schemes and mediocre design, where developers have taken the path of least resistance, knowing that to provide something exceptional will likely be stuck in the planning / appeal process for many months or years.
The cost of applying for planning permission has spiralled; there is more uncertainty about the outcome, and delays in assessing applications - in some cases for a very long time - has had a draining effect on the economy.
And as for major schemes, this doesn't make pleasant reading, either:
Instead of this nonsense, The Government would do better to provide a more streamlined, predictable and accountable planning system in order to unleash more significant projects held up by bureaucratic, risk-averse and under-resourced LPAs.