11 times Heatherwick Studio declined to comment

Oh good, it's that bloody bridge again. Image: Heatherwick Studio.

The time it was rumoured to be at work on Google's new headquarters in California.

 

“I can confirm Heatherwick Studio and BIG are working on a joint design project for Google in Mountain View, California. We can't give any further comment at this point," Heatherwick Studio's Tom Coupe told Dezeen.

 

And the time it was set to repeat the trick in London.

 

Heatherwick Studios declined to comment when contacted by City A.M.

 

The time in 2008 when people started worrying about the spiky sculpture it wanted to send to Shanghai, sparking panic about safety and possibly also Anglo-Sino relations.

 

Consultants on the Shanghai project are understood to be worried following the design problems that surrounded Heatherwick's B of the Bang sculpture, according to Building magazine. A week before the 184ft steel work – commissioned to mark the Commonwealth Games – was unveiled in 2005, the tip of one of its many giant spikes fell off.

Lai Pak Hung, managing director at Davis Langdon & Seah, which is working on the Shanghai scheme, reportedly said: "We can't say we don't have any worries. Given it's the Expo, it's not just about safety – it's political. It could affect the UK's relationship with the Chinese government."

Heatherwick's studio declined to comment yesterday.

 

The time when Thomas Heatherwick offended four other architecture practices by publicly slating their plans for the redevelopment of the Royal Mail Mount Pleasant sorting office.

 

Heatherwick declined to comment.

 

The time when opponents of the Garden Bridge launched their “folly for London” competition, to highlight their contention that it was a total waste of public money.

 

The competition budget is £60 million - the amount of public money earmarked for the bridge by by TfL and the Treasury.

The satirical competition has been designed to poke fun at the real Garden Bridge and was timed to co-incide with a fundraising event for the Garden Bridge at Harrods.

Heatherwick Studios declined to comment.

 

The time it looked like then London mayor Boris Johnson may have broken public procurement rules, by taking Heatherwick to meetings with sponsors before inviting any other practice to apply for the job.

 

LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood reports: "When you want to fix your roof, you don't just ring up one builder and say how much. You ring up three or four builders to get a quote, compare the prices and make sure you get the best value for money.

"Boris Johnson should be doing the same at City Hall with the Garden Bridge - which is relying on millions of pounds of tax-payers' money.

Heatherwick Studios told LBC they do not comment on private business meetings. 

 

The time it emerged that Heatherwick met Boris or one of his deputies at least five times before the formal launch of the competitive procurement process for the Garden Bridge.

TfL has also been contacted for comment. Heatherwick Studio declined to comment.

(Heatherwick won the bid, by the way.)

 

The time the London Assembly said that all this was a bit rum, really.

A committee of elected London Assembly members criticised the mayor over the tender process for the 60,000-pound design contract for the new bridge, a pedestrian river crossing which would create a new green space in the middle of the city.

The committee said Johnson met five times with the winning designer before the procurement process began. One meeting was during a taxpayer-funded trip to San Francisco to seek funding for the 175-million pound project.

"The mayor's actions undermined the integrity of the process in terms of the contact he had. No other bidders had that contact with him," Len Duvall, chair of the committee that produced the report, told Reuters.

The contract was won by Thomas Heatherwick, who previously designed an "Olympic Cauldron" for the London 2012 games and a new model of double-decker bus for the capital. A spokeswoman for Heatherwick's studio declined to comment.

 

The time it looked suspiciously like Boris Johnson had wanted Heatherwick to win all along.

From the Architects’ Journal:

Transport for London was instructed that its chairman, mayor Boris Johnson, wanted the organisation to support Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge proposal eight weeks before it held the bridge design contest the designer went on to win, it has emerged.

A December 2012 TfL briefing note released following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by the AJ makes clear the mayor’s support for their scheme in its opening paragraph. This and accompanying material released under the FOI response has sparked renewed calls for the National Audit Office to investigate.

Thomas Heatherwick declined to comment.

 

The time Boris’ successor as mayor threw a spanner in the works.

The AJ again:

London’s new mayor has effectively suspended work on the Garden Bridge because of concerns that an enabling project at Temple Tube station will lead to more public money being spent on the £175 million project.

Heatherwick Studio declined to comment.

 

This time.

At time of writing, Heatherwick Studio has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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More than 830 cities have brought essential services back under public control. Others should follow

A power station near Nottingham: not one owned by Robin Hood Energy, alas, but we couldn't find anything better. Image: Getty.

The wave of cities worldwide rejecting privatization is far bigger and more successful than anyone thought, according to a new report from the Transnational Institute, Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation. Some 835 cities in 45 countries have brought essential services like water, energy and health care back under public control.

The persistent myth that public services are by nature more expensive and less efficient is losing its momentum. Citizens and users do not necessarily have to resign to paying increasingly higher tariffs for lower standard services. The decline of working conditions in public services is not an inevitability.

And the ever larger role private companies have played in public service delivery may at last be waning. The remunicipalisation movement – cities or local authorities reclaiming privatised services or developing new options – demonstrates that cities and citizens are working to protect and reinvent essential services.

The failure of austerity and privatisation to deliver promised improvements and investments is part of the reason this movement has advanced. But the real driver has been a desire to meet goals such as addressing climate change or increasing democratic participation in service provision. Lower costs and tariffs, improved conditions for workers and better service quality are frequently reported following remunicipalisation.  Meanwhile transparency and accountability have also improved.

Where remunicipalisation succeeds, it also tends to inspire other local authorities to make similar moves. Examples are plentiful. Municipalities have joined forces to push for renewable, climate-friendly energy initiatives in countries like Germany. Public water operators in France and Catalonia are sharing resources and expertise, and working together to overcome the challenges they meet.

Outside Europe, experiments in public services are gaining ground too. Delhi set up 1,000 Mohalla (community) clinics across the city in 2015 as a first step to delivering affordable primary health care. Some 110 clinics were working in some of the poorest areas of Delhi as of February 2017. The Delhi government claims that more than 2.6m of its poorest residents have received free quality health care since the clinics were set up.


Local authorities and the public are benefiting from savings too. When the Nottingham City Council found out that many low-income families in the city were struggling to pay their energy bills, they set up a new supply company. The company, Robin Hood Energy, which offers the lowest prices in the UK, has the motto: “No private shareholders. No director bonuses. Just clear transparent pricing.”

Robin Hood Energy has also formed partnerships with other major cities. In 2016, the city of Leeds set up the White Rose Energy municipal company to promote simple no-profit tariffs throughout the Yorkshire and Humberside regions. In 2017, the cities of Bradford and Doncaster agreed to join the White Rose/Robin Hood partnership.

Meanwhile, campaigners with Switched on London are pushing their city to set up a not-for-profit energy company with genuine citizen participation. The motivations in these diverse cities are similar: young municipal companies can simultaneously beat energy poverty and play a key role in achieving a just and renewable energy transition.

Remunicipalised public services often involve new forms of participation for workers and citizens. Remunicipalisation is often a first step towards creating the public services of the future: sustainable and grounded in the local economy. Inspiration can be found in the European towns and villages aiming for 'zero waste' with their remunicipalised waste service, or providing 100 per cent locally-sourced organic food in their remunicipalised school restaurants.

Public services are not good simply because they are not private. Public services must also continuously renew themselves, grow, innovate and recommit to the public they serve.

The push for remunicipalisation in Catalonia, for example, has come from a movement of citizen platforms. For them, a return to public management is not just an end in itself, but a first step towards the democratic management of public services based on ongoing civil participation.

Evidence is building that people are able to reclaim public services and usher in a new generation of public ownership. The momentum is building, as diverse movements and actors join forces to bring positive change in communities around the world.

You can read the Transnational Institute report, “Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation”, on its website.