18 October 2011

Gavin was elected to RIBA National Council 2010. (Perhaps) he got your vote.

After an intense campaign of cajoling and pleading Gavin was elected to National Council for a 3 year term. The turnout for elections was depressingly low at about 14% but I definitely benefitted from a large number of first time voters. It was clear to me that the younger generation of architects (ie. under 40) questioned RIBA’s relevance. If we want a profession where we will be fulfilled, standing on the sidelines is not an option.

On arriving at RIBA I was pleased to find an organization being reformed. An unwieldy beast with convoluted structures and internal markets was being streamlined under the stewardship of Harry Rich to become ‘One RIBA’

The reforms include the creation of an executive board (60 person councils are not an efficient decision making bodies). RIBA Trust has been brought into the fold with undertakings that donations will be ring-fenced and Committees have been strengthened. Despite reservations about what I would find inside 66 Portland Place, I have been impressed by the calibre and enthusiasm of staff and the other individuals who devote large amounts of unpaid time to the cause. I made a number of statements in my election pitch, what progress has been made?

RIBA needs to ‘come down off its mountain’ and provide practical assistance to Architects

RIBA did mishandle the low pay issue. It has been made clear that the RIBA President is mandated to make punchy statements reacting to events without having to go through lengthy consultation with all stakeholders. Angela Brady came out quickly to condemn low pay and has made it clear that action will be taking against chartered practices that break the RIBA Code of Conduct.

RIBA should be the Architects ‘Union’ defending our services from unqualified competition

This will be a constant battle and the recession has again proven that Architects are their own worst enemy. A fee bid race to the bottom is the unfortunate result of competition without limits like protection of function or recognised fee scales. The building industry is cyclical and fees should reflect this and encourage medium to long term business investment.

RIBA has been lobbying hard to influence the coalitions National Planning Policy Framework with questions about how local communities are going to devise community plans and what constitutes ‘sustainable development’. This is a political lobbying challenge for Angela Brady.

RIBA should be a unifying force by linking the aims and interests of Practice and Education

I have been voted onto the Education Committee at a particularly pivotal moment for architectural education. The challenge of the coalitions new funding structure is immense with continuing worries about what it will mean for diversity in the profession. Practices should be encouraged to invest in their links with education through teaching and research.

The structure and duration of Education needs radical reform

The Education Committee is right at the heart of developments in how architectural education is delivered. Courses like Bath are evolving to deliver teaching over 4 semesters and part-time options may well come to the fore. I am supporting plans to offer a wider route into the profession.