Letter: Sterile scheme for Whitehall

Sterile scheme for Whitehall

Sir: If ever a complex of buildings should have been commissioned to flag the importance of sustainable and energy-conserving architecture, it was the replacement for the Department of the Environment towers at Marsham Street. Instead we have a sterile, lumpen competition winner with no apparent consideration of environmental priorities (report, 22 October).

A scheme by Andrew Wright Associates which took sustainability as its guiding principle failed to reach the short list. Other government departments such as the Inland Revenue and the Scottish Office have shown a much greater sense of environmental responsibility in their recent buildings.

It might be argued that this was an urban design ideas competition, and the environmental agenda will be addressed at the detailed design stage. As the Andrew Wright scheme shows, sustainable design starts with the relationship between buildings and the site. Such a design philosophy represents a fundamentally different approach to that which the DoE is demonstrating in the buildings it appears to favour. This is not about style but global responsibility.

Earlier this year John Gummer gave an inspiring address at the start of an RIBA conference called "Green Buildings Pay". It is to be hoped that the lessons of that conference will be fully acknowledged at the next stage of the design programme.


Chairman, Environment and Planning Committee

Royal Institute of British Architects

London W1