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Minority report

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technical & practice

The disadvantaged and disaffected are being encouraged to pursue architecture by AET, a new educational trust

The Architecture Education Trust (AET) is a new international education foundation for the promotion of architecture and the associated arts. It has been set up, under the auspices of architect Alan Phillips, for the promotion of architecture in schools and to encourage youngsters to take up the profession - targeting mainly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In essence, Phillips acknowledges that in 25 years of teaching he hadn't come into contact with many students from minority groups, which indicated that such prospective architecture students were being deterred by, Phillips concluded, financial difficulties.

But this is not to be a 'positive discrimination' venture: a charity in the worst sense of the word. It sets itself the goal of developing a greater awareness of architecture. Given that 'there is no dynamic charitable trust promoting good practice in architectural education', says Phillips, the AET has three aims:

to help connect the world of architecture with the public;

to provide a 'skills infill', which will involve setting up centres of excellence; and lto act as a resource for students in the UK and abroad.

The skills infill will 'bridge the building universe', meaning that such a cross-disciplinary venture will encourage participation. An urban design masterclass is scheduled later in the new year at the Royal Academy, tapping into funding and goodwill from the ODPM via CABE. Ricky Burdett at the LSE Cities Programme is also mooted as a base for further training and awareness of urban issues and of architecture in general.

Show me the money

Very soon, architects across the country will be receiving a request for money to help promote this venture.

Phillips confirms that, as an act of courtesy, the AET has a company 'washing' the database of names who have expressed a wish that they not be contacted.

Even so, the AET assumes that £100 per annum from each architect (the UK has 38,000 registered names) over a three-year period will help part-fund a large number of disadvantaged students to rise above their immediate financial constraints and apply for university placement on architectural courses. Architects are encouraged to feel as if they are partnering the process - developing this action programme - rather than being passive donors. 'At the moment, ' says Phillips, 'there is no conduit for giving a little bit back.'

Corporate funders will have bursaries in their name. The money accumulated will be allocated by the Board of Trustees to SCHOSA (Standing Conference of Heads of Schools of Architecture) and it will be for them to decide how to allocate spending after taking soundings from AET. Requests from individual schools and department heads will identify students with prospects who have been held back by financial difficulties. Already Nigel Coates at the Royal College of Arts has expressed an interest, citing a student whose 'poverty fund' payments have run out, but who has shown herself to be worthy of support. Says Phillips, the 'RIBA is moribund' with regard to this type of educational activity.

To ensure that this does not become a paper exercise - especially in the case of the architect donors - architects in different areas will be encouraged to speak at schools and regional architecture centres to tell of the realities of architecture and to enthuse sixth-formers to take up the profession. Local students who show flair and enthusiasm will be put forward for bursaries. Hopefully, their talents will be no longer ignored by the educational establishment because of financial hardship alone.

For information call 020 7734 3888

You've been framed

Builders'merchants are not supplying the correct elements for fire doors to ensure that they satisfy regulations, writes Ruth Slavid. A study carried out by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) showed that 70 per cent of builders'merchants were not aware that fire-door components had to be compatible with the tested design, and 75 per cent thought that any component was suitable to be sold with any fire door.

The BWF then carried out a 'secret shopper'exercise, sending a builder to buy a fire door from four outlets: a branch of a national builders'merchant, a branch of a regional merchant, an independent merchant and an approved fire door centre.Although the last produced the best offering, there were errors with all of them.These included: no intumescent strip or strip of the wrong dimensions; missing door closer; the wrong/too few hinges and/or the wrong screws to fix them; too large a lock.

As a result of these findings, the BWF is launching a campaign to educate specifiers, builders and builders'merchants about the importance of having all the correct components. Up until now, says director Richard Lambert, the emphasis has been much more upon the door itself. 'BWF has not made it explicit to builders'merchants what goes with a particular door, 'he said.

The BWF's preferred supply route is still of complete doorsets through its BWF-Certifire scheme, but it acknowledges that 80 per cent of fire doors are sold through builders'merchants. With this campaign, Lambert is hoping for an increase in awareness of the issues.

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