Happy new year. But a lot of people may be wondering just how happy a one it will prove to be. In personal terms of course pockets will be feeling empty after the festivities (and perhaps some imprudent expenditure during the sales). But it seems that the world of architecture and construction is feeling similarly gloomy.
Building has just reported that the British Council for Schools Environments has closed down.
The organisation, set up by Ty Goddard during the last government to gather and disseminate knowledge that could make schools better, has run out of money. Although Goddard ( who left some time ago) was no unthinking fan of programmes such as Building Schools for the Future, it was an organisation that looked increasingly uncomfortable in the new mean, lean days of stripped down schools. Although perhaps needed more than ever. But with no money to keep it going there was no option.
The Architecture Centre Network was a similar casualty of lack of funding last year, but has now come back, the AJ reports, as the Architecture Built Environment Centre. Congratulations and good luck, but the main difference between the old organisation and the new is that the new organisation (as well as extending beyond England to all of the UK) has no funding and no paid staff. In other words, it will be dependent on good will from hard pressed organisations already trying to make their own Architecture Centres viable.
The architecture centres will be trying to find money in a number of ways, not least through paid-for design reviews. Which, on a national scale, is what Design Council CABE is also endeavouring to do. Organisations are increasingly dependent on the one hand on goodwill, and on the other trying to find money from increasingly smaller pots, finding private funding for what were previously deemed government funded goods.
And it is not only this not directly commercial activity that has suffered. BD reports the latest financial problems at innovative developer Urban Splash. Unfortunately one of the developer's USPs is that it operates almost entirely outside London - which would be fine except that London is the only place where anything is happening. In the latest issue of the London Review of Books John Lanchester highlights how London is rapidly becoming an entirely separate economy from the rest of the country, to the ultimate benefit of neither. He also takes the government to task for severe economic failure. Not much hope there then.
As I said, happy new year.