Ten steps, over the next year, to improve architectural competition culture in Europe

Conference ‘Competition Culture in Europe’, group portrait. Sept. ’17;  Photo: Eva Kasbergen

|Palazzo Widmann at the Venice Biennale, May 24, 2018|

Last week Architectuur Lokaal with Project Compass organised the first, two-day conference on Competition Culture in Europe in Amsterdam. The results of a comparative research study of 17 countries was presented and extended with knowledge from other countries. The conference represents the start of a four-year project to improve the accessibility and transparency of competitions in Europe. The conference concluded with agreement being reached by representatives from over 25 countries to embark on the following programme over the next year.

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Heart of the matter: Why architects need a key role in the construction process

(This article was originally published in Planning & Building Control Today).

To find an architect lamenting the erosion of the profession’s role within the construction process may elicit from many little more than crocodile tears, and to others, smack of a futile act of self-preservation when faced with challenging financial targets, shrinking capital budgets and the avoidance of risk. But whilst architects’ railing at the demotion of quality in favour of ‘certainty’ is hardly new, events of the last year have suddenly thrust our concerns into the spotlight.

It is still far too early to apportion culpability for the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in June, but it is possible that this may emerge as the latest, and most tragic, manifestation decreasing oversight that architects have been warning about for so long. At the very least, there is clear evidence that a lack of professional, independent scrutiny has resulted directly in catastrophic failures elsewhere which could — had circumstances been only very slightly different — have resulted in tragedies of their own.

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Good riddance to the Garden Bridge

Good riddance to the Garden Bridge: an eye-watering waste of public funds

Walter Menteth article originally published 11 May, 2017 in

 

 

With one swift blow, London Mayor Sadiq Khan confounded plans to construct a leafy walkway above the River Thames. By refusing to guarantee further public funds, the mayor leaves the Garden Bridge project with a funding gap of some £70m, and a countdown of just eight months until planning permission expires.

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Passing the buck: The new construction crisis

HUGE PROBLEMS WITH QUALITY IN UK CONSTRUCTION IS APPARENT. ACTION MUST FOLLOW.

(Walter Menteth article originally publish on LinkedIn pulse March 19, 2017)

Over recent months significant construction issues have been reported that highlight major deficiencies in UK procurement culture.

The Orchard Village EstateLakanal House in Southwark, The Edinburgh PFI schools programme, Catalyst Housings Portobello Square developmentSolomon’s Passage in Southwark, and Bovis’s recent £70m pay out to purchasers, are some recently reported examples.

The common thread between each one of these is poor scrutiny, lack of oversight and co-ordination, where responsibilities and the supervision for implementing qualitative judgements had become confused, or worse disdained or ignored. The quality of the construction works has ultimately suffered with disastrous consequences, none of which should have happened.

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The highlights (and a few low points) of 2016’s design competitions

(This article originally appeared on Dec. 16, 2017 on the Architects’ Journal website, HERE.)

Those with their noses pressed firmly to the grindstone of the public sector will know that 2016 presented an increasingly exasperating array of pungent procedures and cack-handed contracts.

Despite evidence of good practice emerging in isolated pockets across the UK, many of us continued to wrestle with excessively complex, unnecessarily verbose prequalification questionnaires and archaic and bewildering web portals seemingly coded on a Commodore 64.

It was a big year for high-profile cultural projects. The Museum of London began and concluded the selection of a design team for its new Smithfield home, with the award going to a talented team headed by Stanton Williams. Meanwhile, in Essex, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council commenced, abandoned, and began again its search for an architect to take forward the Thames Estuary Museum it had previously awarded back in 2009, but which had ground to a halt in the seven years since AEW’s original scheme won planning. Quite who’s up for taking on this apparently Sisyphean task might become apparent early in the new year.

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Flying by the seat of their pants

 

(Walter Menteth article origionally published September 13, 2016 in LinkedIn Pulse)

There have been significant recent revelations about the Thames Garden Bridge in London and the Garden Bridge Trusts structure and funding.

These reveal the Trusts near exclusive reliance on public funding, which reputedly amounts to £30m from Transport for London, £30m from central government, along with the costs and liabilities of indemnifying the project along with the contracts the Trust has entered into.

There have also been revelations about the number of significant and expensive contracts the Trust have now let on their own account, at exceptionally high risk. These have onerous obligations and damaging break clauses. These have been let prior to the project having received full authority and clearance to proceed with construction. Continue reading “Flying by the seat of their pants”

The crescendo of Thames Garden Bridge opposition call for an independent inquiry

Following Project Compass’s detailed submission of critical evidence into the procurement of design services for the Thames Garden Bridge to the GLA Oversight Committee 17/9/15, and the subsequent Project Compass Thames Garden Bridge Procurement Report 02/16 examining both procurements of design and project management/engineering services, a significant number of other further fundamental concerns have been brought to light.

Calls have been growing for the project to be subject to an independent inquiry, with the RIBA now joining the chorus. Five inquiries: by The Charity Commission, The National Audit Office, the GLA Oversight Committee, the Mayors Office, and TfL’s external auditors have or are now interrogating separate issues. Continue reading “The crescendo of Thames Garden Bridge opposition call for an independent inquiry”

#Remain in Europe

A purpose in aligning EU procurement regulations has been to ensure our closest markets are freely accessible for design services.  The EU has constructively contributed to ensure the ongoing reform of procurement is made better, fairer, more accessible and can stimulate growth. Project Compass research evidence highlights many of the worst procurement practices uniquely emanate from the UK. The Leave campaign have presented no policy on how improvement might be achievable or delivered, with no evidence that leaving the EU would benefit UK construction procurement. In this absence what have we to go on? Continue reading “#Remain in Europe”

Project Compass Newsletter May 2016

Project Compass Newsletter May 2016
May 2016 Newsletter

The Project Compass Newsletter May 2016 reports our outputs, activities and uptake, and includes some summary trends analysis along with our anticipated programme.

Muddy Waters “Jobs for the boys”

London’s proposed Thames Garden Bridge

(Walter Menteth article originally appeared in January 31, 2016 on LinkedIn pulse)

From all that is now known about the Thames Garden Bridge it has become increasingly apparent that this project represents a turning point.  Its entire procurement is characterised by corruption that is tainted by nepotism and collusion.

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