Here is the text of the ‘sponsored competition’ which appeared on the website of the Architect’s Journal on December 5, just after the publication was announcing that Croydon Council’s Brick by Brick house-builder (which has yet to build a single house) had won a ‘prestigious’ prize. Purely coincidentally, of course.
The paid-for article appeared under a heading which called it a ‘Q&A with Jo Negrini, chief executive of Croydon Council’. It seems highly likely that Negrini provided her own questions to herself.
Do not mistake this for anything like objective journalism: this is a piece of advertising, paid for with Croydon Council Tax-payers’ money, intended to enhance Negrini’s profile among her London architecture mates.
Where appropriate, we have added some explanatory commentary in square parentheses
Why are you undertaking an OJEU Procurement Tender exercise for the transformation of public realm within the Fair Field cultural zone?
[iC: Like that is supposed to be a question? For those not fluent in councilspeak, OJEU stands for the Official Journal of the European Union, the publication in which all tenders from the public sector which are valued above a certain threshold must be published]
Negrini: With Croydon’s £5.25billion regeneration now well underway [iC: errrr, Westfield?], there is real momentum in our town’s growth [iC: who is she trying to kid? Take a look at what developers Schroders said just last month]. We have been putting culture firmly at the heart of our regeneration and Fair Field, located in our stunning new Cultural Quarter [iC: Fairfield Halls, a £30m, two-year project managed by Brick by Brick, is running 15 months late and at least £10m over-budget], will be a hugely important space in Croydon’s town centre.
This prominent area will become a mixed-use neighbourhood with a thriving cultural, civic and community offer. The jewel in its crown will be Fairfield Halls, an iconic venue transformed by a £30million refurbishment into a world-class arts centre, bringing the best of national, international and local entertainment to the heart of Croydon [iC: we only have Negrini’s word for that. The venue managers have yet to publish any details of the acts or shows they have booked for 2019]. The Cultural Quarter is also home to Croydon College, a centre for further education which attracts students from across the globe.
As such our Cultural Quarter needs a bold and ambitious setting. Fair Field will be an exemplary public space, attracting visitors not only from within the borough but from across London and the South East.
The time is right for us to be more ambitious, and look to pioneering and transformational proposals for this important part of Croydon’s town centre. We are using a process that is open to local, national and international participation so we can push boundaries and create a fantastic public destination.
We’re proud of and ambitious for our borough and what it has to offer. This scheme, which will be of the highest quality, will be monumental and really help us continue put Croydon on the map [iC: dull and cliché-ridden Negrini probably doesn’t realise this, but Croydon has “been on the map” since the Domesday Book (Google it, Jo)]
What is your vision for the future of Fair Field?
[iC: Pass the sick bag, Alice]
Negrini: We want it to be proudly grounded in Croydon’s heritage [iC: The Arnhem Gallery. The Ashcroft Theatre] and provide an exciting destination for the thousands of people who will live, work in and visit the town centre every day to enjoy as part of their daily lives.
Welcoming and accessible routes will lead to a space showcasing the most exciting, innovative and high-quality design, providing a platform for cultural and community activity linked to the Fairfield Halls and Croydon College.
We envisage the use of water and lighting will be key parts of this exciting space, while other interventions and technologies could also be considered. The spaces and routes within Fair Field will provide fun, safe and uplifting experiences for all on a 24/7 basis and it will be a beautiful destination in its own right.
Croydon has always aimed to think big, bold and ambitious, and Fair Field will be no different.
[iC: Jo “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini receives a salary of £200,000 a year for this load of old flannel]
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
Negrini: We are looking to receive submissions from teams of talented and progressive architects, landscape architects and designers who have experience in designing and delivering inspiring, sustainable and resilient public spaces.
We also want these teams to have a real interest in Croydon, get under the skin of its fascinating history and thriving future, and understand their sense of responsibility to shape an important space for public good.
This opportunity will be open to established and emerging high-calibre practitioners, both nationally and internationally through the OJEU process utilising the London Tenders Procurement Portal.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
Negrini: Croydon Council has recently been given the go-ahead for the next phase of Growth Zone funding to continue to invest in and regenerate the borough’s infrastructure over the next four years.
But there are not only transport improvements as a result of this. There will be benefits to other open spaces, our cultural offering and many other areas. So yes, there will be plenty of design opportunities on the horizon.
The procurement process will vary from project to project, and will use a mix of in-house expertise as well as external design teams.
Are there any other recent major public space regeneration projects you have been impressed by?
Negrini: There are several pioneering projects we have been impressed by, particularly ones carried out as a collaborative effort between talented specialists; architects and landscape architects working alongside innovative artists; designers and engineers whose work pushes the boundaries of public space, art, light, technology, and inclusiveness.
Every place is different; from how it looks and its history to its culture and socio-economic layout, so the design for Fair Field will need to need to respond to and enhance its unique context. We will welcome innovative designs that reflect the requirements for Fair Field.
And there you have it. From Croydon’s £200,000 per year chief executive, the insight that “every place is different”.
And all placed with the Journal at a cost to the Council Tax-payers. Well worth a couple of grand of someone else’s money. And what better way of putting herself in the shop window for a new job, eh?
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