The former PRP chairman, an adviser to the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for over two years, has been announced as the government’s new head of architecture. The AJ caught up with von Bradsky at the Better Design for Better Places conference to talk about his new £61,000-per-year post
Congratulations on your new role. How big a deal is it for the government to have appointed a head of architecture?
Well, when can you remember the last time the government had one? It’s a role that is to evolve because it’s still new. It is a big deal for government to have done it. It’s a corporate position so it is about how to influence the civil service towards good design but recognises it being an important aspect of policy-making.
What’s the remit of your role?
We will be developing that over the next few weeks. We will be looking at how we make MHCLG the centre of design advice to other parts of government. It’s also a role that looks at how we can embed quality in government programmes, including garden towns and villages the healthy new towns programme, and a series of government initiatives that are coming forward. We’re looking at how you embed quality into that without stifling the supply and the growth. So it’s about how you balance all those issues to make sure that design is right up there.
What is the key message you are bringing from the profession?
The importance that the role of the architect plays in the design of our communities and our environments. Stephen Kinsella [Homes England chief executive] spoke very well when he said it is not just about architects having a greater understanding of housebuilders, it is also housebuilders understanding architects better. It’s how you bring different parts of the industry together. My main role will be engaging, brokering and making sure there is an understanding of the different sides of the industry.
I don’t want to comment on what Roger Scruton might have said
Will you be working with Roger Scruton’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission?
There is a hope that there will be things we will all draw from the commission. I’m not a part of it, I’m separate from it, but I’m observing it. We will see what comes out of it but I welcome the conversation. I welcome the fact this is happening. The cynicism that exists in both my profession and the industry generally around it [the commission] could be easily dispelled when you look at who is contributing to it.
Yesterday Roger Scruton told the AJ there were no architects on the commission because they have ‘vested interests’…
I don’t want to comment on what Roger might have said.
You don’t think there should have been an architect on the commission?
There are three architects advising the commission: Steven Stone, Paul Monaghan and Sunand Prasad. So the balance is there potentially within the commission for an exchange of views on a range of subjects.
What will it be like going from architect to civil servant?
I’ve been working full time in the ministry for two years as an adviser but my profile has a bit under the radar. I haven’t been a civil servant and I now will be. The MHCLG has valued the practical application of what architects do being available to them as they write policy or prepare for things like the Better Design for Better Places conference; the ability to find people in the industry who want to talk about this. I act as a bit of a hub of information and I’ll continue to do that but a ‘head of’ has a higher profile in terms of influence.
What do you think your biggest challenge will be in the role?
Again, I’ll hold my fire on that.