Hey, guys! You do realise that this is the AJ website and not Infowars, yeah?
Well, the previous scheme won a Housing Design Award last year and this new iteration is an improvement. So let's see, shall we?
Paul Finch is mistaken. Nobody is suggesting that Foster's bridge would be anything other than exceptional - but how do we know that the others' designs might not be just as good? The principle complaint with this process was that the playing field was far from level.
A more robust process would have removed the fee component entirely (after all, it's a microscopic sum in the scale of the overall project cost) and for the entries to be judged entirely on design quality. And why not an anonymous competition? The two-stage process ensured that all qualifying teams met the minimum levels of competency, so there was no reason why judges couldn't have assessed the shortlisted schemes on their relative merits without knowing who the designer was.
No-one wants the process to be reduced to myopic "bean-counting", but just for it to be fair. It appears that this was not.
It should be a condition of RIBA Chartered Practice Membership that firms commit to these things - equal pay, reasonable hours, banning "internships", etc. Not only do these things result in inequality, they also suppress fees.
An anonymous "hotline" should be provided by the RIBA to report miscreants, and the threat of removal of Chartered Practice Status should be a genuine one.
So why become a Chartered Practice?
Entry to the RIBA Awards, eligibility for public tenders and so on should be open only to those practices which have earned this status. This would require reform both of the Chartered Practice programme and public procurement generally, but both are achievable.
Standards need to be raised.
Comment on: HS2 looking to employ smaller practices
Although admirable, an intention to use "SMEs" is pretty meaningless when it comes to architects, as this definition includes something like 97% of practices - a fact that is misunderstood by many outside the profession.
A commitment to employ smaller practices should really mean a commitment to selection criteria that favours quality over size. This is achieved through a more intelligent use of procurement rather than a vague desire to promote smaller practices (which usually means big practices by any reasonable definition); reducing barriers to entry and providing a level playing field so that architects are chosen according to their talent rather than their turnover.