Britain Won't Bend in Ban on Curvaceous Schools

The UK's Department for Education is banning curved walls, glazed walls, internal partitions, and a host of other design elements and materials in an attempt to keep a lid on costs for its five-year $4 billion school-building program.
October 4, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Robert Booth reports on the design templates unveiled this week for 261 replacement school buildings to be constructed over the next five years. As Booth notes, "[t]he templates tell architects new schools should have "no curves or 'faceted' curves, corners should be square, ceilings should be left bare and buildings should be clad in nothing more expensive than render or metal panels above head height. As much repetition as possible should be used to keep costs down."

The announcement has sparked outrage from architects. "It is extraordinarily over-prescriptive and it shows an extreme lack of trust in the architectural and construction professions to deliver schools to budget," says Peter Clegg, a partner at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.

Columnist Steve Rose takes aim at the "secret trauma" that must be afflicting education secretary Michael Gove:

"Gove clearly has issues with architecture. Last year he told a free-schools conference, 'We won't be getting Richard Rogers to design your school. We won't be getting any award-winning architects to design it, because no one in this room is here to make architects richer.' Never mind what works for children or teachers. Or the fact that architects, especially award-winning ones, are generally quite good at designing buildings. Or the fact that the day before this outburst, Gove had been praising Hackney's Mossbourne Community Academydesigned by, er, Richard Rogers."

"So now he's literally putting things straight," says Rose. "Perhaps this is the first step towards a square new coalition utopia – a world entirely designed by Lego, Rubik, Mondrian and David Chipperfield. Although that sounds a bit colourful. Perhaps colour should go too. Who needs it, after all?"

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Published on Monday, October 1, 2012 in The Guardian
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