Letter: A lottery for architecture

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The Independent Online
Sir: As the Secretary of State for National Heritage finalises the rules that will govern lottery expenditure, a wonderful opportunity stares him in the face. He must insist that the statutory distributors of funds set the highest standards in the design, construction and performance of buildings funded by the lottery. If he acts now he will deserve the admiration of future generations who use public buildings. If not, the Government will have left the chance to practise what it has lately begun to preach: the economic importance of good design.

The case is irrefutable. If the lifetime cost of a building is 100 per cent, its capital cost is only 10 per cent. But its design cost is a mere 1 per cent, even though the quality of this initial thinking determines a building's lifetime usefulness and its overall artistic merit. Good architecture does not cost more than bad, measured at the lifetime level. It should in fact cost less, and it will certainly deliver greater value.

Section 26 of the National Lottery Act provides Peter Brooke with the power to direct the distributors of lottery funds as to the manner in which they should treat applications for 'good causes' in the arts, sports, heritage and projects to mark the turn of the century. As the Government has said that lottery funds are generally to be used for capital purposes, his directions will hold sway over thousands of proposals anticipated for the design, construction and refurbishinent of public buildings.

He now has a chance to improve on an earlier draft direction, which relegated architectural issues to explanatory notes, by creating a definite direction on quality. This would give distributors a loud and unambiguous message and would send a powerful signal to applicants that mediocre design is simply not acceptable. The art of architecture is the thread that runs through all possible lottery projects, from cricket pavilions on village greens to opera houses and theatres. It would be a pity if the Government's commitment to setting quality standards throughout the public service were to falter in this, the most obtrusive and unavoidable of the arts.

Yours faithfully,

FRANCIS DUFFY, RICHARD BURTON, SHERBAN CANTACUZINO, Sir HUGH CASSON, Dame ELIZABETH CHESTERTON, RORY COONAN, Sir ANDREW DERBYSHIRE, Sir PHILIP DOWSON, Sir NORMAN FOSTER, MICHAEL HOPKINS, PATRICIA HOPKINS, Sir DENYS LASDUN, STUART LIPTON, Sir PHILIP POWELL, Lord PALUMBO, Sir COLIN STANSFIELD SMITH, Sir WILLIAM WHITFIELD, Professor COLIN ST JOHN WILSON

Royal Institute of

British Architects

London, W1

24 May

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