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Quango boss fuels fashion fears

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The government's chief construction adviser has demanded that architects ally themselves with fashion and textile designers in the building design process.

Dennis Lenard, the boss of quango Constructing Excellence, has waded into the ongoing row over the role fashion designers should play in architecture.

Lenard told the AJ that 'there is a lot architects could and should learn from the other design professions'.

He said he would use his position as head of the new agency - an amalgamation of Rethinking Construction and the Construction Best Practice Programme - to campaign for fashion, graphic and fabric designers to take a key role in the design of buildings.

Lenard's comments contribute to the ongoing debate into the role that fashion designers such as Wayne Hemingway and John Rocha should play in architecture (AJ 13.11.03).

'Creativity needs to drive the construction process, ' Lenard said. 'At the moment architects do not use enough of the other design professions.

'We need to try to get the other professions involved in buildings.

It should not just be the preserve of architects. I know this idea will not be greeted warmly by the architecture profession but it is something I strongly believe in.'

However, Lenard's comments were greeted with scepticism by Hemingway, the founder of fashion label Red or Dead, who sparked the current debate with his Gateshead housing estate for Wimpey Homes.

'You should not think about fashion when you are designing buildings. I am not a proper fashion designer and this is why I think I can do it, 'Hemingway said.

'If this is a way of getting architects to think more creatively and stop having their designs dictated by structures then it would be a positive, ' he added. 'But we should be wary of giving formally trained fashion designers too much influence.'

RIBA president George Ferguson agreed.

'I would react strongly against fabric and fashion designers taking the lead on building design, ' he said.

'It would be disastrous if we ended up with a kind of fashion architecture, which would be very superficial.As soon as other designers take control of standards the quality would suffer.

'If you look at what Wayne Hemingway did in Newcastle, the architect he worked with was not credited at all on the scheme, ' he added. 'There would be a real danger for construction in this country if using other designers was seen as the solution to boring housing.'

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