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Architecture centres - relevant and popular

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The current discussion of the role of architecture centres is welcome although, as yet, based on limited knowledge of what is actually happening. The current pattern of cities and regions developing their own centres in response to locally perceived needs is, I suggest, healthy and appropriate.We will all learn from our experiences, and the architecture centre network and the welcome interest of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the Arts Council will help to ensure the sharing of good practice.

Funding remains a restriction on activity but both public and private funding will support bodies that are seen to be relevant, effective and popular. Architecture centres have the potential to be all of these.

The architecture centre in Bristol has been open for four years. We attract more than 30,000 'drop in'visitors a year and entice a further 3,000 or so in for talks, discussions and visits to new buildings all over the country.We offer a continuous and varied programme of exhibitions and run educational and community outreach programmes. For all this we rely on our small, dedicated and enthusiastic staff.

It is already clear that there is much more informed debate about what might be possible and that the centre is raising public awareness and, we hope, thereby public expectations.

Just as architecture needs more informed debate so does the future of architecture centres.Perhaps a start could be made by inviting the directors of existing centres around the country to write a regular column in the AJ about current activities and issues.

David Mellor, chairman of trustees, Architecture Centre Bristol

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