The right time for consultation

There is an old story about a man who ran a raffle to win a horse. When the winning ticket was drawn, he apologised that the horse had died and refunded the winner’s money, keeping all the rest.

John McAslan and Partners must be feeling like that unlucky lottery winner – getting the prize and having it snatched away at the same time – in Glasgow’s George Square competition. While there is no suggestion of financial impropriety, Glasgow City Council’s behaviour leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

At one level its actions make perfect sense. It has listened to local voices saying that they do not want radical changes to the square, and has decided simply to refresh it instead. This would be a prudent, popular move – if it hadn’t waited until after an international design competition to make it. In the council’s terms it has wasted money on the entire process. Even if it considers this money well spent to come to the ‘correct’ conclusion, think of the 33 practices that entered, the six on the shortlist, and the impressive panel of judges who gave up their time.

Time is money for practices these days, with little spare capacity. Choosing to enter one competition means turning down another. When I wrote BD’s White Paper on how to win work at the end of last year, we looked at the reasons for entering competitions and also at the capital that practices can make from near misses. But in this case all six shortlisted schemes are tainted with a sense of being not good enough, and the disappointing outcome will leave all the participants feeling cheated.

Let’s hope Glasgow isn’t planning any other major competitions any time soon – if it does it may meet an understandable reluctance to enter.







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