To deliver the current huge public building programme the government has gone into partnership with the corporate sector and a variety of public/private procurement devices have been created.
Due to the scale of the operation only the largest corporate organisations are perceived to be able to take on these projects. This has undermined the ability of small- and medium sized firms. including architects. to compete effectively in this market, which. in value. accounts for nearly half the total national building programme. The promised trickle down effect has failed to materialise. Meanwhile. the government's social obligations are compromised as the big firms are legally obliged to place the interests of shareholders before those of the public.
I have seen evidence of this in the failure of many large projects procured in this way to measure up to expected standards while proving to be much more expensive to the public purse over their committed lifespan than would otherwise be the case. Architects’ competence to take part in this process is now judged to be the size of their practice and indemnity insurance. About 80% of registered architects are estimated to be working in practices with less than 10 staff. These practices are perceived as an unacceptable risk in this market. leaving only 20% to contribute to the major public building programme at anything like an appropriate level of authority and remuneration.
By allowing big business to dominate government projects in this way some of our most talented architects are being pushed onto the sidelines. The alternative is for architects to embrace the culture of big business and to become part of a large organisation: which most architects try to avoid as they know it will reduce their ability to contribute at the community level, where the real effort is needed.
It is the skill of individual architects with the ability to form random associations. and not the size of their organisation, that is more likely to deliver the cities people will want to live and work in in the future.
Hans Haenlein www.haenlein.com