Sadie Morgan to fight for design in UK infrastructure review

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Sadie Morgan to fight for design in £100 billion UK infrastructure review

Architect Sadie Morgan of dRMM has vowed to put design at the heart of a £100 billion revamp of UK infrastructure, after being named as a member of a government commission that will advise on how the money should be spent.

Morgan, 46, is the only architect on the UK's National Infrastructure Commission, which will make recommendations for £100 billion of government investment.

She was named a member of the high-profile commission this morning by UK chancellor George Osborne.

"The experience of our buildings and places speaks to our national identity, they say something about who we are and what we are good at," said Morgan at the launch event at the National Railway Museum in York.

"The value of design cannot be underestimated, but we need to get it right from start to finish, from procurement to delivery," she added.

Comet Street Studio by dRMM
Sadie Morgan is a founding director of architecture firm dRMM, which designed this wedge-shaped studio for an artist in Deptford in 2014

The appointment makes Morgan, co-founder of London architecture firm dRMM, one of the most powerful architects in the UK.

She already chairs the design review panel of the HS2 high-speed rail project, which the government claims is the largest infrastructure project in Europe.

"I am a creative, with no political agenda I bring my lateral thinking to realise a vision for the future that will help see us through the next five, ten, 15, 150 years," she added.

At the launch, Osborne pledged to invest £100 billion in improving the UK's roads, rail lines, and flood defences as well as other infrastructure projects in the next five years.

"British people have to spend longer than they should getting to work, pay more than they should in energy bills and can't buy the houses they want because of the failure of successive governments to think long-term," said Osborne.

"Infrastructure isn't some obscure concept," he added. "It's about people's lives, economic security and the sort of country we want to live in."

As part of the infrastructure commission, Morgan will be charged with producing a report at the start of each five-year parliamentary term outlining investment priorities for projects across the country.

The commission will initially focus on making recommendations for London's public transport system, improving infrastructure in the North of England, and the distribution of energy across the UK.

It will be led by ex-Labour party minister Andrew Adonis, who pushed through plans for the HS2 rail link between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester as former secretary of state for transport.

Morgan was named chair of the 30-strong design review panel for HS2 earlier this year. Due to begin construction in 2017, HS2 is expected to complete in 2033. Estimates have put its cost between £42 billion and £80 billion.

"My work at HS2 as the chair of the Independent Design Panel has taught me that there is a hunger and passion in this country to make big projects happen," said Morgan. "My mission is to ensure we don't just create efficient infrastructure; we create places that we truly deserve and love being in."

Tower of Love by dRMM
Morgan's architecture firm dRMM also designed a golden wedding chapel in Blackpool

Morgan founded south London-based dRMM in 1995 with Alex de Rijke, who is former dean of the Royal College of Art's (RCA) architecture school, and Philip Marsh.

The firm has won numerous awards, and is one of the UK's pioneers in contemporary timber construction. Its projects range from proposals for a floating housing complex in a former industrial area of London through to small artists studios, primary schools, art galleries, and a golden wedding chapel in Blackpool.

The firm contributed an accommodation block to the London 2012 Olympics Athlete's Village, and in 2009 it completed a house with mobile walls and roof that can be moved to cover and uncover parts of the dwelling.

Morgan, who studied at the RCA, is a former president of the Architectural Association school in London.

Other infrastructure commission members include former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine, John Armitt, who was head of the organisation responsible for delivering the 2012 London Olympics; neuroscientist Demis Hassabis; V&A museum chairman Paul Ruddock; former chief economist for the Greater London Authority Bridget Rosewell; and economist Tim Besley; who was previously a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee.