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Smith kicks off Architecture Week with 'quality' pledge

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Culture secretary Chris Smith restated the backing of prime minister Tony Blair and the New Labour regime for architecture and quality public buildings at the launch of Architecture Week on Monday.

'Architecture is about setting, it's about quality and it's about the way a building works as well as the way a building looks, ' said Smith. 'I'm determined to improve the quality of public building work in this country and I know the prime minister shares this concern.'

He was speaking a fortnight after word of Blair's involvement in a new push on quality (AJ25.5.00). The venue was the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, which has been remodelled by Howarth Tompkins Architects and Camlin Lonsdale Landscape Architects.

Smith was launching the week's festivities - 300 events from 9-18 June - and his words on the now 'familiar point in the calendar' and government's backing for design were echoed by RIBA president Marco Goldschmied. 'In 30 years of practice, I've never heard a minister publicly acknowledging architecture in the way this government is doing, ' he said.

Goldschmied said next year's Architecture Week will extend the popular 'Architect in the House' scheme, where architects advise on house improvements for a £15 fee, which goes to housing charity Shelter. This year it includes businesses, and next year it will embrace schools too. Shelter director Chris Holmes said Allford Hall Monaghan Morris' Paul Monaghan has suggested improvements to Shelter's Old Street Offices, and the project will be the subject of a Radio Four Front Row programme tonight.

A 30-second cinema advert funded by the Arts Council is publicising Architecture Week at 90 cinemas across the country. It has been put together by New Architecture and Artists Union, a group of architects, artists and filmmakers.

Other highlights include talks by Peabody's Dickon Robinson, Zaha Hadid, Ron Arad and CABE representatives Paul Finch and Ian Ritchie, while the RIBA is holding a 'family day' on 10 June. More information is at www.archweek.co.uk

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