So, that was day 1 at BSEC!
A really interesting day at the Building Schools Exhibition and Conference – meeting a really wide variety of different people on the Architects4Education stand.
It was noticeably quieter than last year – with far fewer LEAs present in particular, unsurprisingly given budget cutbacks. There were still a wide range of debates and discussions taking place though, both on the various stands and on the plenary stage in the centre of the hall, in addition to the conference itself. And we were still kept really busy with a continual flow of people coming to speak to us about what makes Architects4Education special.
Architects4Education - stand 618!
A4E were well represented in an open discussion on the plenary stage – discussing:
How to move on without the support of organisations like BECTA and CABE
How can we make sure that we build new or refurbish educational spaces to high standards and lower cost, without the support of key organisations which may no longer exist?
John Lyall and John Jenner - both of Architects4Education and long standing CABE commissioners were joined by Stefan Jakobek, vice president, head of education, HOK and Rachel Jones, head of education, Steljes to discuss the issues of design quality in this very different climate that we find ourselves in.
John L and John J speaking about where to get advice post becta & post CABE
Lyall and Jenner both brought to the discussion their many years sitting on the various national panels of CABE – the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, highlighting many instances where design quality had been improved (or in some cases protected). Jenner pointed out that the most treasured parts of our built environment came from a time long before CABE – citing St Pauls and St Pancras as examples. He asked “what has gone wrong in the system when it takes a body like CABE to ensure that our public spaces are designed to be the best that they can be? To provide uplifting and inspiring experiences for all users?” He made a strong case that it should be the duty of those procuring the buildings to demand high quality, rather than settle for second best, or worse, for purely commercial reasons. With CABEs future now secure John Lyall was pleased that the years of work – not to mention stacks of research and case studies – would continue to be available to clients and design teams as a valuable resource.
Although CABE is still with us, good design is by no means a surity in the field of education: budgets are facing big squeezes. Stefan said that an organisation such as CABE really should be shouting from the rooftops that design quality must be protected, otherwise the future looks somewhat bleak for future school buildings. He questioned though whether this was possible given that the (now saved) organisation is so closely tied to government, who would not necessarily appreciate such comments!
The changing education landscape was high on most peoples agendas, and most visitors to the A4E stand raised it as an issue. Perhaps Free Schools would be the answer, maybe without architect involvement?
Free School advocate Toby Young spoke about his experience of trying to get their Free School off the ground in a really well attended event. Having read a lot about his efforts in the press it was really interesting to hear him admit that the process has been really difficult and still faces a big uphill battle.
Many people were simply asking what happens next, and the answer for many people seemed to be ‘wait and see’. With the James Review due out very soon perhaps it will become a little clearer…? But then again, perhaps not…!
It is certainly interesting times, and our schools workload at A4E is still really busy. One wonders when things do become clearer whether it will really take off – we all know many examples of schools which really desperately need to be replaced/refurbished/renovated in some form. Whatever happens we feel positive – Architects4Education is a nimble and flexible consortium of award winning practices and we’re confident that we can act fast and intelligently to tackle whatever challenges the new road ahead throws up!
So, after a great first day, we’re looking forward to day two!
Pop along to see us on stand 618 and let us know what you think the future holds!
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