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‘Why you should join the Higher Education Design Quality Forum’

View of entrance from lincoln's inn fields grafton january 2017
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LSE director of estates Julian S Robinson talks about the reconstituted forum and its mission to promote high-quality architecture

’Never talk to a client about architecture,’ Mies van der Rohe once said. ‘An architect of ability should be able to tell a client what he wants. Most of the time a client never knows what he wants.’ 

Julian Robinson

Here at the Higher Education Design Quality Forum (HEDQF) we beg to differ. The forum is the antithesis of this sentiment. Being a unique client forum with equal representation from university clients and built-environment professionals, we indeed come together to talk, research and advise on design issues of interest to the sector.

It was originally established as an RIBA client forum thanks to the energy and vision of the late Richard Feilden. But after more than 20 years, we have recently reconstituted, becoming an independent registered charity and limited company.

The aim of HEDQF is to promote design quality across the UK’s university sector by sharing best practice, lessons learnt, commissioning research, future thinking, undertaking building reference visits at home and abroad – including Delft, Dublin and Vienna, making films, delivering master classes and seminars (free to universities) and sponsoring debates and conferences.

Last year we had our second annual conference, at the University of the Arts, which attracted over 250 delegates – it seems like architects do want to talk to their clients – and we launched our first book, Future Campus, published in conjunction with the RIBA. Our third annual conference will be held on 12 July at the University of Sheffield.

HEDQF members represent universities from across the UK, from the oldest such as Oxbridge and Glasgow to some of the more recent like Lincoln and Falmouth. Our non-academic members include architects, town planners, builders, engineers and even quantity surveyors. The common denominator is a commitment to promoting design quality across the sector.

Higher education is a rich hunting ground for architects, spending over £2.5 billion per annum on capital development, from huge set-piece projects to small-scale design interventions, repurposing old space or renewing the public realm. Universities are generally regarded as educated and ambitious clients, prepared to take the long view as owner-occupiers.

They are interested in creating legacy and deploying architecture as part of the institution’s brand. Attracting the brightest and the best students and staff increasingly relies on procuring the brightest and the best architecture and design, so HEDQF is more relevant and popular than ever.

In almost all cases, when a good client and a good architect come together a great building results. Educating clients and designers on what makes great buildings and, yes, talking to clients about architecture is exactly why HEDQF exists.

The LSE, conscious of its founder-member status, strives to promote high-quality architecture. Our latest project, the Paul Marshall Building (pictured), won by Grafton Architects via an international design competition, was recently on public exhibition prior to submission of the planning application to Westminster City Council. For more information on what we do or to become a member, visit www.hedqf.org.uk

Julian S Robinson is director of estates at the London School of Economics and deputy chair of HEDQF

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