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Katherine Shonfield

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In Britain it seems that even when forced (through a belated sense of protocol) to appear to open up an architectural opportunity, we then seek every possible means to hem it in.

A case in point is the increasing use of 'expressions of interest': witness the Royal Parks Agency's call for interest in the design of a new playground dedicated to Princess Diana. The advert demanded, among much else, 'evidence of financial standing', 'description of quality management system', 'the structures, resources, organisation and location of the office', and 'details of parent company and other group companies'.

Bizarrely, it juxtaposed an opportunity ideally suited to a newly qualified designer - 'an outstanding innovative play environment' for disabled and able children to play together - with a request for evidence of 'commissions of a comparable size, complexity and nature'. Isn't the point of the project that it has never been done before?

Doesn't that mean it would be a good thing to give someone new at least a chance to come up with some ideas? Wouldn't it be sensible to open this up to people who do not have 'previous experience in working for uk departments', ie architects who might be (shock, horror) foreign - and therefore actually may have thought of something that we, in our island majesty, have overlooked.

Surely in no other country would this happen. An agency acting in memory of Diana - someone who possessed not one official 'qualification' and who dedicated much of her short life to opening up opportunity and encouraging new thinking - is effectively blocking the possibility of this memorial being established in anything approaching her liberating spirit.

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