Michael Gove has singled out Richard Rogers in his latest unprovoked outburst against the profession
Having twice already claimed architects working on the BSF programme represented a waste of taxpayers’ money, the education secretary has again targeted the profession in relation to profiteering from schools building. Gove also took a swipe at other ‘award-winning architects’ and vowed to deny them them any role in the growing, government-backed Free School movement.
Taking informal questions at a Free Schools conference on the weekend he said: ‘And we won’t be getting Richard Rogers to design your school, we won’t be getting any award-winning architects to design it, because no-one in this room is here to make architects richer.’
Chris Romer-Lee of Studio Octopi, who has designed a scheme for the Bolingbroke free school (pictured) which is planned for a former hospital site in south London and who has also won an AJ Small Projects award, said: ‘His comments suggest that he may not fully understand our industry. More frightening is the fact that he appears to not even be prepared to engage with architects that have been building schools over the last ten years. It’s tragic that this award winning expertise is simply cast aside.’
He added: ‘These are complex projects. We hope the government can find a balance where realistic fees are paid in return for good urban design and architecture’.
Pascale Scheurer, director at Surface-to-Air Architects, attended the conference. She asked: ‘Why is he singling out architects?
‘I would be very happy to join [Michael Gove] in a private discussion or public debate about it. I’ve been involved with BSF since 2003 [and] have publicly denounced the waste in the programme, even prior to the Election.’
Shortly before taking office Gove said architects were ‘creaming off cash’ under the £55 billion BSF programme and in June last year he said schools money should be spent more efficiently on ‘front-line services’ and ‘not on consultants, architects or bureaucracy’.
The RIBA previously issued a stinging reply to his comments, with Ruth Reed claiming the education secretary was ‘purporting a myth’.
She said: ‘It is the system that created waste, not those that delivered to it.’
Richard Rogers was unavailable to comment.
A Department for Education spokesperson was unable to comment on Gove’s response, but said: ‘The Building Schools for the Future programme was wasteful, needlessly bureaucratic and behind schedule. It would have been inexcusable to have continued with the programme.
‘Ministers have been clear that the end of BSF is not the end of school rebuilding – that is why the Government has launched a comprehensive review of all capital spending in schools so that investment is focused on areas in the greatest need – those schools in most disrepair and to deal with the urgent demand for primary school places from rising birth rates - a problem we cannot afford to ignore.’