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Magnificent seven to decide on architecture champion

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Government plans for an architecture champion are to be firmed up by seven design experts, with key RIBA involvement.

The team chosen this week includes riba president David Rock and Alicia Pivaro, director of its Architecture Gallery. Francis Golding, secretary of the Royal Fine Art Commission, and Michael Gwilliam, director of the Civic Trust and vice chairman of the Urban Design Alliance, are also in the line-up.

Margaret MacKeith, a qualified town planner, rfac commissioner and pro- vice chair of the University of Central Lancashire; Les Sparks, director of planning at Birmingham Council; and Barry Shaw, chief executive of North Kent Architecture Centre and executive of the Architecture Centres Network, round off the list.

The interim set-up will last until the chair is appointed on 29 March. The dcms sent out application forms last week and, contrary to some reports, has not ruled out an architect - or one of the seven on the steering troup - for the position. Candidates may be offered commissioner posts if unsuccessful. The chair, expected to be appointed for three years, will have the last word on the number of commissioners and their regional remit. Although the chair will be paid a salary for two or three days a week, commissioners will not. But they will receive expenses and maybe attendance allowances.

A dcms spokesman defended the sketchy details: 'Much will depend on how the chairman wishes to do things. We know from similar bodies like the Arts Council that heads often have distinct views. It seems sensible not to lumber them with things they may not be happy with.'

Lucy Musgrave, director of the Architecture Foundation, said the initial budget of £1.3 million was not enough. 'If you are talking about a new national strategy and not replicating existing activities, it does not give one great confidence. Look at other dcms-funded organisations - the new group is not low down on the ladder: it's not even on it.'

She added that the most important thing was for the group to have formal links with the detr, and said the champion must be 'very proactive, ambitious and have zeal'.

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