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Signoff: David Taylor

I ALMOST missed Architecture Week. In fact, I would have missed it if I hadn't been trampled by a flock of smelly, incontinent sheep as I tried to cross the Millennium Footbridge over the Thames.

At first I didn't realise that what I was treading in was a celebration of British architecture. My first thought was: 'what the **** are these sheep doing in the centre of London?'

But then I noticed that the two straw-chewing, smock-clad simpletons herding the beasts were none other than international architectural superstars Renzo Piano and Lord Richard Rogers. At that point I realised that there might be some link between the sheep and the built environment.

What I was witnessing was the opening event in the 2006 London Architecture Biennale (in partnership with Bike Week and Sustainability Week for no better reason than the fact that they all clash).

The sheep nonsense was all about the link between the capital's food and its architecture. They could have just kicked off with a slap-up lunch in a nice restaurant, but apparently they wanted something more visible.

Not all of the Architecture Week events were as daft as the sheep stunt, thank God. For example, there was a 'Pub Architecture Trail' in London last Sunday.

This was billed as a 'leisurely stroll around the West End looking at the best pub architecture'. They're repeating the event this Sunday in order to locate some of the stragglers who didn't make it home the first time round.

Back home, I started looking for exciting architectural events in my locality.

I noticed most consisted of visiting museums and art galleries that are open all year round. Or standing in the street taking in a façade or two.

That's great - I'll have my own Architecture Week later in the year at a time that suits me.

I DON'T know anything about competition law but I do know that if the authorities find out you've been colluding with rivals to rig prices or divvy up contracts, you're in big trouble.

I know it's not the same, but that's why I've always found it a bit difficult to understand how all these framework agreements are allowed to f lourish. Instead of bidding for contracts in an open market, it is now considered acceptable - in fact, downright virtuous - to cosy up to your prospective client and do a deal without any rivals getting a look-in.

Now maybe I'm showing my ignorance here, but I didn't know that major contractors participating in the Department of Health's ProCure21 framework programme were expected to pay fees to the client in return for the chance of getting juicy hospital building contracts.

I only found this out when three of the contractors walked away from the deal last week. Carillion, Wates and Taylor Woodrow were apparently fed up because they were paying out £170,000 a year for ProCure21 'membership' but weren't getting the jobs.

Laing O'Rourke and Kier have been getting it all.

My colleagues on the news desk say this proves that ProCure21 isn't a cosy market.

Because, once you have competed in the open market for a place on the ProCure21 bandwagon, everything is competitively tendered against your fellow ProCure21 contractors. So, if you don't win the contracts, that's your problem.

To the DoH and the competition authorities, this is a fair and open market. But to a growing number of ProCure21 contractors, it's a waste of £170,000 a year. I think I'd walk, too.