Education secretary slammed for criticising ‘award-winning’ architects before selecting BDP to design his department’s new home
Architects have branded education secretary Michael Gove a ‘hypocrite’ after BDP was selected by the Department for Education (DfE) to create a new headquarters for it inside Whitehall’s Old Admiralty Building.
The leading AJ100 practice won the job as part of a team led by Mace and also including engineer Hoare Lea.
The latest appointment comes four years after Michael Gove controversially blamed architects for ‘creaming off cash’ under Labour’s £55 billion Building Schools for the Future programme. After the Coalition took power and Gove was appointed Secretary of State for Education, he also said that ‘award-winning architects’ should not work on Free Schools and singled out Richard Rogers by name.
Relations between Gove and the profession deteriorated further after it emerged two years ago that plans for new standardised schools which would be 15 per cent smaller and £6 million cheaper than previous designs.
Peter Morris of Peter Morris Architects said: ‘Giving yourself a 18th Century Palace in Whitehall, refurbished by leading UK designers and condeming school children to learn in prefabricated classrooms is hypocrisy that belongs to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.’
Calling for higher standards of new schools design, he added: ‘We don’t want to live in Gove’s Farm anymore.’
Elena Tsolakis of Kyriakos Tsolakis Architects said: ‘Michael Gove must be mincing his words now, after [claiming] taxpayers money [was wasted] on designing our schools. Its ironic that for his own commission he hires one of the biggest practices around while he is happy for the children of the country to be educated in flat-packed, shrunken schools.’
She continued: ‘The UK has been at the forefront of educational design through the BSF programme and our education design expertise has become an export for us.
‘The school building budget runs into the billions and tens of millions of square meters so they need to be well design, considered, sustainable buildings that are beacons of learning. Now that [would be] taxpayers’ money well spent.’
Around 1,600 DfE civil servants will occupy the Grade II-listed eighteenth century complex when the 18,000m² overhaul completes in 2017.
Each worker will have around 11.25m² or workspace compared to 6m² per pupil in a typical new school where teachers’ offices are usually 8m².
The cost of refurbishing the Royal Navy’s former London headquarters has yet to be announced but the design contract is worth up to £5 million and the relocation is expected to save DfE £8.5 million a year.
According to the tender notice published in April, the new headquarters will have a BREEAM very good rating and be a ‘class leading facility that is not overly elaborate and which offers demonstrable value for money.’
The move is part of the government’s on-going consolidation of its estate which has so far raised £1 billion from projects including Blair Associates’ transformation of nearby Admiralty Arch into a hotel.
A spokesman for the department said the Old Admiralty move would save more than £19 million a year for the taxpayer, including an annual saving of more than £8.5million for the Department for Education.
According to the department, the relocation from its existing, rented home at the Sanctuary Buildings to the freehold property would ‘proivde excellent value for money’ and mean that the DfE ‘will not have to renegotiate a lease and will be much cheaper to run in the future’.
The spokesman added: ‘The proposed move is the latest step by DfE to reduce the cost of its property estate. Since May 2010 it has reduced the annual cost of its buildings by £17 million.
‘[We will] will save another £2.5million in 2014 through moving out of buildings in Guildford, Cambridge and central London.’