Dezeen Magazine

UK to appoint national head of architecture

The UK government is recruiting for a head of architecture to "champion the importance of good design" and "raise the design standards of new housing schemes".

The position within the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), which comes with a £61,083 salary, is for a qualified architect to advise on "architectural policy and practice".

According to the job specification, the candidate needs a "strong political awareness" and "a proven track record of delivering quality housing schemes".

The new role has been announced following the establishment of the government's Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, which also aims to improve the design of homes in the country.

Role to champion importance of good design

Along with advising on housing, the head of architecture will be expected to give design support for projects across the government.

"A critical element of this role will be to establish the department as a centre of knowledge and advice on design matters to ensure that across government programmes the importance of design outcomes is recognised and implemented," reads the job description.

"In addition you will champion the importance of good design outcomes to the construction industry, architectural practices, house builders and planning departments, to raise the design standards of new housing schemes, thereby influencing communities' attitudes to new development."

The government is recruiting the head of architecture position as part of its drive to place housing at the top of is domestic agenda, with the department stating that the lack of quality design is limiting the amount of housing being built.

"We have identified that the quality of design of new housing developments can often be perceived as a barrier to achieving planning permissions or public support for the new housing we need," said the department.

"We recognise the need to create great places to live but we also recognise the need to reassure communities that the new developments will be of a high standard."

"It's a very good thing"

The British architecture community has reacted positively to the announcement.

"It's great that MHCLG are investing in their team of civil servants with appropriate expertise to support the narrative articulated by politicians," Ben Derbyshire, RIBA president and chair of housing architecture firm HTA, told Dezeen.

"I believe the new head of architecture will provide an excellent point of contact to deliver on this potential – with substance, not merely style."

British architect Piers Taylor, who recently organised a letter signed by 1,000 architects to the UK prime minister stating that Brexit would be devastating, told Dezeen: "It's a very good thing."

"Whoever does it needs to engage with policy rather than issues of design, and instigate a set of policies where the government can take a lead on affordable housing delivery," he added.

Main image, of a social housing scheme in London designed by Bell Phillips, is by Killian O'Sullivan.