Architects have accused the Education Secretary of hypocrisy for choosing award-winning designers for his new ‘palace’ in Whitehall, while pupils learn in prefabricated classrooms.
When the Coalition came into power Michael Gove claimed that the Building for Schools Programme was wasting money with architects “creaming off cash” and criticised schools that brought in “award-winning architects” to design new premises, the Independent reports.
Now Mr Gove’s department has appointed the major international architects BDP to design the interior of its new HQ in Whitehall’s Old Admiralty Building. The total cost of refurbishing the Royal Navy’s former 18th century headquarters has not been announced, but the design contract alone is worth up to £5 million. DfE civil servants will enjoy 11.25 square metres of workspace, compared to just six square metres per pupil in a typical new school.
Architects were scathing over the design commission. “Giving yourself a Palace in Whitehall, refurbished by leading UK designers and condemning school children to learn in prefabricated classrooms is hypocrisy that belongs to George Orwell’s Animal Farm,” said Peter Morris from Peter Morris Architects. Elena Tsolakis of Kyriakos Tsolakis Architects added: “It’s ironic that for his own commission he hires one of the biggest practices around while he is happy for the children of the country to be educated in flat-packed, shrunken schools.”
The DfE claimed that the move to Old Admiralty would save taxpayers more than £19 million a year. “The proposed move is the latest step by the DfE to reduce the cost of its property estate. Since May 2010 it has reduced the annual cost of its buildings by £17 million,” a spokesman said.
Do you think architects are right to criticise Michael Gove for awarding a £5 million contract to an award-winning design firm for the interior of the DfE’s new HQ? Is it one rule for civil servants and another for teachers and pupils?