Halford stresses that, under the Equality Act, simply having an open tender is not good enough. Councils have a duty to actively encourage applications from under-represented groups, too.
“In a situation that has historically had lower BAME representation, you would expect the procurement exercise to take positive steps to encourage those groups to apply in the first place,” he says. “It should be a process where you look to see whether there are equality problems in the way you have done things historically, and how you might do them differently in future.”
Yes, it’s ‘Why are there no black architects, you racists?’ which is apparently the next front in the ongoing war.
The mayor of London has condemned the outcome of Southwark’s framework as “clearly unacceptable”, yet Southwark insists that it followed the mayor’s own procurement guidelines for equality, diversity and inclusion.
The mayor launched his own Architecture, Design and Urbanism Panel in 2018, but, when questioned by the Guardian, a spokesperson declined to confirm how many BAME- or black-led practices are on it.
“People say black architects simply don’t exist,” says one, “or if they do exist, they’re not good enough. We are most definitely here, we’re just asking to be given a chance.”
But you don’t. You want quotas. You want ‘affirmative action’. That’s always what these pressure groups want.
And if some race or creed is underrepresented at something, it’s always racism. There can be no other explanation.
One established architecture tutor, who has taught at a number of former polytechnics, which tend to have a higher number of BAME students, despairs at the systematic racism she has witnessed.
“It’s like a toxic cult,” she says. “One of my brightest students couldn’t even get a job interview because he had an African name, so he ended up leaving architecture to work at Asda. Others have gone into web design or tech. If you want to be successful and earn some money as a black person, why on earth would you stick with architecture?”
It’s a good question, really, isn’t it? Why would you? What do you bring to the subject just by being black?
Seth, who also works for a London borough, stresses the value of including those without conventional architecture training in the conversation.
“Shaping the built environment requires so much more than people who have a single set of skills,” he says. “It’s about looking through other lenses, and how that local knowledge is valued and accessed. Local authorities need to commit more time to understanding what they already have in their area, and how their own communities can support and inspire them to do things in a better way.”
Just what is ‘non conventional architecture training’ supposed to be? Answers on a postcard!