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Architecture needs advocates

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These are tough times for Architecture Centres - but their work championing the profession is vital, says Nick Barley of The Lighthouse

Never mind the credit crunch: for at least the past two or three years the going has been tough for Britain’s Architecture Centres. Not so long ago some critics were asking who needed these organisations when architects were riding on the crest of a wave. One magazine editor even suggested that the regional centres had been reduced to ‘feeble forms of community consultation’.

Architecture and design centres certainly seem to have been built on shifting sands, and the single biggest challenge is getting activities funded. Take The Lighthouse. Core funding of £110,000 per year represents less than 5 per cent of our £3 million turnover, with over £1.2 million coming from commercial activities.

Consequently, as the downturn set in, we needed to act quickly to protect our existing commercial income and to operate effectively through the recession. The vision of The Lighthouse Board in addressing the challenges of the times through the development of a new, robust business model has now secured a funding package, which allows us a little more headroom.

This is good news not only for my cardio-vascular health, but because The Lighthouse is vitally important for the health of architecture and design in Scotland. There are very few mechanisms for publicly celebrating the achievements of architects, and hence our recent Scottish pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale was a rare moment when a good news architecture story made the front page of the Scottish press.

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