Pre-millennium fallout predicted

There are already signs of a staff fallout, as designers recruited by groups competing for Millennium Commission projects may be shed.

After a flurry of activity during the pitching phase, many millennium projects have now selected a design team and moved on to the second stage – scheme development and planning applications.

Some design groups which have not succeeded in catching the millennium gravy train will have to downsize, says Nick

Townend, managing director at Ideas. There are also unconfirmed reports of consultancies folding as bids run into the buffers.

There has also been a reported shortage of related skills in some areas. After the recession of the early 1990s, in which the Royal Institute of British Architects measured 40 per cent of members jobless, it is proving difficult to find architects with project management experience.

Communications experts and designers in areas such as acoustics and lighting are also a valuable commodity. Raj Patel at Arup Acoustics, where nearly 35 per cent of jobs are backed by Millennium Commission funds, says the practice has been recruiting more graduates than usual to compensate for a skills shortfall.

A graver picture is delivered by Future Systems partner Jan Kaplicky: Millennium Commission funds need to be matched by private sector finance, he says. While established organisations have a proven business history on which banks can assess lending risk, many new projects, Future Systems’ Earth Centre at Doncaster among them, may not receive matching funding, due to bankers’ caution. “This could be the case with a whole spectrum of projects,” says Kaplicky.

See News Analysis, page 8

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