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Maria Smith takes out a contract

Anywhere Borough Council (ABC) is inviting expressions of interest from architect-led teams for the regeneration of the Anywhere town centre waterfront. This is a once–in-a-generation opportunity to transform Anywhere town centre and secure its future for generations to come. We are looking for a team that shares our vision and commitment to delivering a high quality outcome that makes everything better without changing anything. This commission is to build on the civic visioning masterplan for the cultural way-finding heritage strategy that was half-heartedly prepared by Sort Of Almost Economics regeneration consultancy.

Anywhere is a totally generic place with no distinguishing features whatsoever. It has a history of agriculture and industry like everywhere else, and in recent years has suffered from a decline in industry and in domestic tourism, like everywhere else. Like most settlements, Anywhere boasts a slightly smelly and underused waterfront. This is lined with disused industrial buildings that have no merit whatsoever and that everyone from school children to elected members are keen to see the back of. However it is critical that, when this area becomes a dead dormitory scene from a horror film that is too depressing to be scary, this unloved character is retained. First and foremost, our vision is to create a sense of place. This means nothing at all but a great deal to the entire project team.

Over the last few years, Anywhere Borough Council has awarded miserably weeny grants to local artists and community groups who have delivered excruciatingly small-scale projects.  We have encouraged local people to take up market stalls at the dramatically unattractive historic 1990s market, and to create pop-up shops in the town. We gave them no support or rates relief and the project failed before anyone noticed it was happening. We have granted over £30 in shop front improvement schemes which over four shops bid for. We were heartened by the vivacity of local spirit this desperation revealed and are reinvesting the cash in a fundraising scheme to create extra parking spaces round the back of the town hall for council officers who prefer not to walk more than 10 steps. The spaces will be named for the shopkeepers and will be allotted on a first come least served basis. 

ABC is keen to appoint an insipidly collaborative team that thoroughly misunderstands the term collaboration

Infrastructure is key as Anywhere is built entirely for the car. Buses run once a week and stop 12 miles outside the town centre in front of an abandoned swimming pool, one of the county’s finest buildings in disrepair. With this project, we aim to increase the carriageway widths to assuage local politicians, increase pavement widths, add cycle lanes – all without affecting the everyday business of the failing shops. ABC previously commissioned a feasibility study, which proposed slightly narrower road markings but the council was unable to resource an officer. ABC welcome proposals that tackle these restrictions creatively, working with the council highways and maintenance teams and doing exactly what they say.

It is essential that everyone in the town, including those that will be dead by the time the project begins construction, is happy with every aspect of all the proposals. We have therefore carried out extensive community engagement over the last 50 years. This has resulted in reams of fantastically useless questionnaires that the council does not have the resources or intelligence to interpret, and consultation fatigue on a spectacular scale. Last year alone saw three deaths that have been linked to pointless questionnaires. ABC would like to see consultation experts with a complete disregard for privacy and ethics as part of the team, one of whose the first tasks will be to carry out a series of community events to determine the best format for community engagement going forward. 

ABC is keen to appoint an insipidly collaborative team that thoroughly misunderstands the term collaboration and is open to being chaotically manipulated by the project team. ABC has already appointed 12 project managers, each with specific, unnecessary roles who can create extraordinary confusion in scopes of work, contract management and cost control. They will determine procurement policies at their whim and the design team will be expected to adhere to all policies as they emerge – written or not. We would expect the design team to also include at least four design-focussed project managers with a specific remit of unpicking the complex, idiotic lines of communication.

The budget for the project is £20m for capital works only. This is to include professional fees and maintenance costs and cannot be spent on maintenance. It has been drawn down from 2067-8 budget and will be available on sign off of the concept stage, which will almost certainly never happen. We look forward to receiving proposals from teams motivated by the challenges this project brings. 

Expressions of interest should be delivered by email, 75 copies printed off on obviously recycled paper and hand delivered on the back of an ox by midnight on the summer solstice.  Tenders received after this deadline will be given to the witch who will use creepy witchcraft to dispose of them. Please include within your expression of interest, confirmation that you are not related either directly or by marriage to the creepy witch.

Please address any queries to: This email is unmanned and you will receive an automatic reply within two years.•

Maria Smith is a director at Studio Weave


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