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Good design is a matter of civic pride


The need to improve the style and elegance of a public infrastructure (NCE 22/29 August) is not confined to motorway bridges or the infrastructure. Public authorities are still among the worst offenders when it comes to the buildings they commission, despite pressure from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).

It was not always so. In the 19th century the civic fathers of Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and the other industrial towns and cities competed to produce buildings which reflected the importance of their town. Contrast these with the utilitarian grey, rain stained civic architecture of the postwar years, and it is easy to see how Britain lost the plot.

The past 20 years have seen a marked improvement in the design and elegance of commercial buildings. But too often some public clients' expectations and desires do not rise to the occasion.

The challenge the construction industry faces is to ensure that civic clients understand that by embracing best value and, if necessary, spending a little more they can reduce whole life costs and have a sustainable elegant and stylish building.

Nicholas Bennett, chief executive, Association of Consulting Engineers, Alliance House, 12 Caxton Street, London SW1H OQL

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