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Ministry of Housing begins hunt for Head of Architecture

Prime minister theresa may on barratt construction site

The government has launched the search for an architect to sit at the heart of its Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

The role, which comes with a salary of £61,083, will be to advise the department ’on architectural policy and practice’, focusing on the design quality of new homes.

The job description calls for someone with ’a proven track record of delivering quality housing schemes’, who will be able ’to establish the department as a centre of knowledge and advice on design matters’ and ensure ’importance of design outcomes is recognised and implemented’ across government.

Reporting directly to the chief planner, the chosen architect will be both ‘an independent expert in design matters’ and a central figure in the ’the wider delivery and policy agenda of the department’.

Outlining the reasons for the position, the government said: ’[The] quality of design of new housing developments can often be perceived as a barrier to achieving planning permissions or public support for the new housing we need.

‘We recognise the need to create great places to live but we also recognise the need to reassure communities that the new developments will be of a high standard.

’[The successful candidate] will champion the importance of good design outcomes to the construction industry, architectural practices, house builders and planning departments, to raise the design standards of new housing schemes, thereby influencing communities’ attitudes to new development.’

It is not yet known how the role links with the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission, which is led by controversial philosopher and champion of conservatism Roger Scruton.

Earlier this month he attacked contemporary architecture in a provocative speech calling for a return to traditional design based on the Classical orders, slamming Modernist architects and singling out Norman Foster’s work for particular criticism.

Key responsibilities of Head of Architecture role

• To give architectural advice on design to the department and other government departments in line with the agreed objectives of Ministers.

• To work with and advise the design team on delivering an action plan to raise awareness of the importance of good design standards in new housing developments;

• To bring commercial and/or consultancy experience to assist in the formulation of of policy and guidance, with a view to delivering on the government’s commitment to improve the design quality of housing with better engagement with communities; and

• To meet with and advise other teams engaged in estates regeneration and the provision of new settlements, including approaches to masterplanning. This will involve meeting a range of stakeholders, travelling to regions and speaking at events and workshops.

An MHCLG spokesperson said:We need the best people to advise our Ministers and drive our agenda on promoting better approaches to housing design and innovation.

’[We] encourage any ambitions architects thinking of joining the Ministry for Housing to apply and help us make our vision a reality.”

The closing date for applications is 23 December 2018. More details here.


Teresa Borsuk, senior partner at Pollard Thomas Edwards
Yes, design matters! Design quality is at last being brought centre stage in the housing agenda. Or so we hope.

The job description notes that the quality of design of new housing developments can often be perceived as a barrier to achieving planning permissions or public support for the housing we need and that communities need to be reassured that new developments will be of a high standard.

The post is for a qualified architect with a proven track record of delivering quality housing schemes, who will report directly to the chief planner. That in itself could be challenging.

It’s not clear where this role sits with Roger Scruton’s recent appointment as chair of the government’s new Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. So the question of how quality is defined and determined and, in particular, how it relates to style, inevitably comes to mind.

We wait with interest to see who the successful candidate will be.

Chris Roche, director of 11.04 Architects
Finally the government has woken up to the importance of an architect’s strategic overview in solving the housing crisis. Every metropolitan local authority should have a chief architect.




Readers' comments (4)

  • At last! Congratulations in order, provided the appointee is picked on merit not as part of a style war.

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  • joseph b fitzgerald

    My vote for Head of Architecture would be John Towmey OK he is Irish but that would be a boon !!!!!
    Joe FitzGerald FRIBA

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  • If they were really serious they would provide a serious salary that would deliver the serious experience and intellect to make the role one to be taken seriously

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  • the 'head of careers support' advisor's role in the civil service was advertised at a salary of £185,000.... a chief architect is worth half as much apparently

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