Sadie Morgan, one of the UK’s foremost architects, has been appointed as the design czar for High Speed Two in an overarching role that will cover every aspect of the project, from “ticketing to toilets”.
Ms Morgan, who co-founded London-based dRMM architects in 1995 and is currently president of the Architectural Association, will chair the HS2 Design Panel, a body that will oversee all the design elements of the project.
The panel will be tasked with ensuring the Government and HS2 Ltd’s aims are delivered, building on Britain’s railway engineering heritage to create stations, viaducts and bridges that impress, while at the same time being sympathetic to the landscape through which it is built.
Speaking to the Post about her new role, Ms Morgan said she believed her architectural background would bring much to the post.
She said: “The fact I am an architect gives me a good oversight - because this role is all-encompassing, from ticketing to toilets.
“It really does cover absolutely everything and as such it really has to draw on experience from a hugely wide range of disparate disciplines.
“I am absolutely clear this role is about communications and making sure designers don’t just plant down their ideas, because this project will only be a success if it works for those individual communities that it touches.
“I know what good design looks like, how buildings help make places and how communities can not only be regenerated but how the benefits of good architecture and good architectural buildings can really make a difference to the areas they are within.”
Ms Morgan’s appointment coincides with the publication of HS2’s Design Vision document, which aims to provide a framework going forward to engineering, architectural and design teams.
It encompasses three themes - people, place and time. The people theme revolves around creating something that meets people’s needs and caters for a diverse audience.
The place element stresses the need to create places that support quality of life and celebrate local areas while the third element involves ensuring HS2 will stand the test of time.
Ms Morgan said there were certain principles that would be adhered to, with the project taking the needs of local communities into account.
She said: “I am absolutely delighted to be involved as a designer, to have the opportunity to influence one of the biggest infrastructure projects in my lifetime.
“The great thing about HS2 and the Department of Transport’s design vision is their belief and understanding of the need for good design.
“Early on they decided to put together a design panel which will help to guide and support through the design process.
“We have to make sure everything works intuitively and well for everyone and all elements are fit for purpose but sensitive to context.
“The overriding feature is what good design looks like.
“The Design Panel will be there to help and support as a critical friend.
“It’s a supportive role and not a policeman but there to say “do you know what that could be a bit better” or “have you thought about that” or “do we need to be sensitive about how this goes down in this place”.
“We’re there as a check for government and we have a duty to make sure everything is delivered to the highest design standards.”
Although the project is sert to go ahead, Ms Morgan said she was mindful of the concerns of those who fought against it.
But she believes by embracing HS2 enthusiastically, in much the same way the nation did with the London Olympic, that Britain can create something to be proud of.
“I believe passionately about design as it can help mitigate all those things people are anxious and worried about,” said Ms Morgan.
“If we can create a sense of national pride in what will be one of the most exciting and extraordinary building projects in my lifetime I really hope we can take these non-believers along with us.
“There are going to be difficulties - I am sensitive to that - but the way to deal with it is to say let’s all come to the table with a positive attitude.
“Let’s look at what’s causing concern and distress and see how we can best design our way out of it.
“Not only London, but the UK as a whole came around to believe in the Olympics.
“This is a project that has so much more potential for the whole of the UK.
“It can highlight in a wonderful way what Britain is good at and show Britain excels in design.
“We can exceed our own expectations.”