Racial equality campaigner Baroness Howells has controversially called on the government to set aside a quota of public works projects for ethnic minority architects.
The Labour peer wants to see a period of temporary positive discrimination in an effort to break through 'the glass ceiling' in architecture.A similar system was used to bring an end to segregation in the US.
'If I look for a black-designed government building I can't find one, ' she said.'How long must I wait? If the government policy is to spend, say, £100 million on buildings then it could say that 10 per cent should be by ethnic minority groups.'
Her idea is that individual clients, whether private or public, should not be expected to discriminate in favour of ethnic minorities during a design competition, but that a target figure of projects should be made for contracts awarded outside design competitions.'If the Labour government is serious about ending racism, it has to look at ways of raising the profile of ethnic minority professionals.' She said that ethnic minority architects could bring 'a different ethos' to projects in areas of mixed population. It is estimated there are only 70 black registered architects in the UK.
Chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment Sir Stuart Lipton, who is heading the Society of Black Architects mentoring programme, said ethnic minority architects should concentrate on winning government and local authority jobs to help build up a strong track record.'There must be equal opportunities in government projects, 'he said.'The government will bend over backwards to be seen to be doing the right thing.'