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Radstock Primary Renaissance and United for the Future (Bath)

Bath and North East Somerset Council are building two new Primary Schools in Radstock (Radstock Primary Renaissance) and a new Special School in Bath (United for the Future). Ray Smith is working as Project Artist on these schemes and was involved in the interview and evaluation process for both projects.

For the Radstock Primary Renaissance, design and build teams were interviewed together. In the successful team, the architects are working for the contractors. On the United for the Future project, architects are to be appointed first, and they will help Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) select a construction team. Both projects are being procured using the partnering form of contract (as opposed to a traditional procurement or straightforward design and build).

Ray Smith recounts his experiences on the project so far:

'An artist is normally called in to work on a public project after plans have been drawn up and very often after building work has begun. What is particularly encouraging about these schemes in relation to the role of artists, is that I was appointed as the project artist well before the appointment of architects or contractors. In fact, we had all the children in each of the Radstock primary schools designing their own school building and contents well before the professionals were called in.

I was asked to participate in the drawing up of the design brief, in the interviewing and shortlisting of prospective contractors on a long list and in the interviewing and evaluation of the three shortlisted contractors who tendered for the project.

It was encouraging to note the importance accorded to the originality and vision of the proposals in the analysis and evaluation of the tender documents. It was particularly important to B&NES that this should be a flagship project, that these schools should give pride and value to the community in Radstock and that they should be innovative, exciting and welcoming. It is during these critical preliminary stages that an artist can help to make a real contribution to the way in which the scheme is conceived and developed.

When the successful contractor was appointed, I became a member of the project team helping to develop and shape the scheme alongside the contractor, the architects, the engineers, quantity surveyors, educationists and project managers.

This is also a critical stage, when the scheme creeps forward, as the views and proposals of the stakeholders, including the planners, are reviewed and absorbed and when the realities of the budget can appear to conflict with the informing ideas and the vision for the work as a whole. During this period of adjustment and re-shaping, you have to try and hold on to the vision and help to find imaginative solutions when cuts are required and choices have to be made. The process is quite intensive and it requires patience and commitment. But you become fully engaged in the whole of the work as it emerges on the drawing board. This process will hopefully continue right through to the completion of the buildings.

Although there may well be no check list of distinctive 'art features' at the end of this process, I am hoping that when the buildings are experienced as a whole, there will be a real sense that artists have been at work throughout the scheme.'

RS 19.01.04

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