The Department of Culture, Media and Sport was adamant this week that the new Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment will still have the 'powers' to call in architects and their high-profile projects for design review when it takes over from the Royal Fine Art Commission this September. But champion of architecture Stuart Lipton is aiming to put in place a more 'strategic' system for cabe to choose projects than its predecessor had.
Last week the dcms said cabe will initially be a private company limited by guarantee because it was 'the quickest way of getting it up and running', with culture secretary Chris Smith as its sole shareholder. However, it will ultimately require primary legislation through a Culture Bill, which could take three years. Some insiders at the rfac had believed that the new company's status would mean it could not be independent or have the same powers to summons architects. 'The government wants to reform tomorrow so they've come up with this disingenuous way of doing it', said one. The dcms said, however, that the rfac powers had never been tested by law and cabe champion Stuart Lipton wants to continue design review but use a 'more strategic' methodology of project selection. His approach is likely, said the department, to mean that projects with a 'wider strategic significance' - the Millennium Village was given as an example - are examined. The department hopes that cabe will also become a charity to act as a grant-giving organisation.
Lipton is working out how many and what kind of people he wants as commissioners, but is likely to choose around 10 to 12, to be announced later this Summer. More 'positive' details will emerge following rfac chairman Lord St John of Fawsley's final commission dinner on 22 June. cabe has set a 'working' start date of 1 September.
cabe is to seek commissioners to work around 20 days per year on four- year contracts - but they won't necessarily be from the construction industry. They will advise on education, regional and community activities and some will chair committees. The department is looking for 'an enthusiasm for the built environment' as an 'obvious prerequisite ... Architects and practitioners of allied disciplines will give the commission credibility' said the dcms, 'but there is also a need for wider experience.' Commissioners are also expected have the experience and profile to command respect, and to show teamwork and the ability to handle the media 'in this high profile role.'