Parker, James

What has happened to the movement for a per cent for art in hospital new builds? There was a successful workshop held last November, where trust chairs and chief executives were enlightened to the possibilities of improving their environments immeasurably. However, bar a Final Account in November’s HD (p45) written by architect Richard Burton (a member of the Allocate working group for a per cent for art), little concrete evidence has emerged as to NHS Estates having taken up the cause. The recent publication of the revised Departmental Cost Allowance Guides (DCAGs) has recommendations for an increase in baseline funding for a huge variety of departments and areas, but there is only passing mention of artwork.

And despite the success of the first workshop last October – perhaps, aside from publications such as HD, the only method currently available of making people aware of the benefits in the absence of any budget allocations – it appears that the follow-up workshop has been postponed indefinitely. Whether this is because NHS Estates has put the kibosh on the whole idea or not is unclear, but it certainly seems that the movement has taken a backwards step.

The DCAG guidance is a huge step in the right direction, and should elevate public sector comparators such that PFI consortia have the freedom to push for more design quality. The reformed bidding process for PFI schemes (reported here) should allow much more time for those elusive elements such as briefing to occur. Let’s hope that removing one whole tier of bidding, and raising the minimum threshold for Treasury approval from lOm to E75m, is not just used as an excuse to fast-track mundane solutions. It is a clear opportunity to really step back from the minutiae, and think about how an overall design vision might revolutionise a hospital, both functionally and spiritually. It worked at Norfolk and Norwich.

James Parker, Editor.

Copyright Wilmington Publishing Ltd. Apr 2002

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