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GLA should welcome Foster's building with good grace

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What does the Greater London Authority (GLA) think it is playing at? The public is eagerly waiting to find out what its priorities will be, and its environment committee chooses to channel its energies into criticising its own headquarters.

The open-plan layout is deemed inappropriate for an organisation which includes different political groups. It is a curious complaint. You would have thought the GLA would have welcomed the political kudos of occupying a building designed to encourage openness and cooperation rather than pandering to the needs of partisan cliques. Open-plan space has long been recognised as an efficient and pleasant work environment - a wholly appropriate model for an office which has been designed primarily for the 400 staff who are due to work there, and not for the politicians who plan to meet once a month. As with most modern institutions, there are plenty of private meeting rooms if confidential matters need to be discussed.

Another concern is that Foster and Partners'building is not acceptable in environmental terms. Yet this is a building which makes use of - and improves upon - the energy strategies which were used at the Reichstag.

There are few criticisms of the Reichstag's green credentials, and the GLA building itself looks set to be one of the most environmentally friendly office buildings in the UK.

The only credible concern is that the building may prove too small, and that the expense of taking space in the area may offset savings made by the low rent of the GLA building itself. But it is difficult to believe that this would prove costly compared with the resources and energy involved in finding and adapting new premises.

There are many problems which the authority is expected to solve, but the issue of where it should be housed is not one of them. It is a 'problem' of its own making. The GLAwould be well advised to accept the fact that it has a world-class building at a knock-down rate with good grace, and convince us that it is the outward-looking institution which it ought to be, as opposed to an organisation obsessed with its own internal concerns.

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