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EH is 'Taliban of architecture', Livingstone tells schoolkids

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London mayor Ken Livingstone has branded English Heritage the 'Taliban of British architecture' in a speech at the RIBA intended to inspire schoolchildren to consider a career in the profession.

Addressing students from 17 London schools last week, Livingstone said half the architectural schemes that land on his desk were 'bog standard' and that he was looking for architecture which was more creative: 'I want architects to think more radically, more boldly and out of the box.'

But Livingstone reserved the bulk of his criticism for English Heritage, which angered him last week by rejecting Renzo Piano's proposal for a 306m tower at London Bridge (AJ 28.6.01). Livingstone said that he would champion the scheme - and support tall buildings as the only way to increase density while preserving green spaces.

He added that towers were more likely to be well designed in the light of the attention they were subjected to. 'Developers know there's going to be such scrutiny that they've got to get the best architect they can find, ' he said. 'Unless it is a beautiful building, they know they've got no chance.'

Livingstone was at the RIBA to present the awards for the 'Designs on London' scheme, a project run by the institute and ArtsInform to pair schools with leading architectural practices and solve local problems (AJ 7.6.01). Students were asked to generate designs for the capital in answer to the question: 'What isn't there that should be?'

The best proposal was won by Wembley High School, which was paired with the Richard Rogers Partnership, for its ideas on spaces for people of all cultures. And the John Ruskin School in south Croydon, which had teamed up with Rick Mather Architects, took the Stephen Lawrence Trust Award for identifying the borough's problem areas.

The event represented Marco Goldschmied's last official duty as president of the RIBA. He said the institute would now work on turning the scheme into a national programme.

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