Architect Will Alsop has blamed the riba for threatening good architecture.
Alsop rounded on the institute last week by including it in a list of threats that also singled out nostalgic developers and government procurement methods. He told a conference on the future of design in London, run by Southwark council, that too often architects were lumped together indiscriminately.
'One of the threats to good design is the idea that all architects offer the same service,' said the architect who worked on North Greenwich Station and Peckham Library. 'The riba assumes we can all do the same thing, and we can't. Some are better in certain areas than others; some are geographically more appropriate. The riba is a threat within itself in the way it behaves.'
Government procurement methods were also stifling design and pfi would not make things any better, Alsop warned. 'I can't see London Underground is going to procure the best design for new stations by always going for the lowest tender.' Meanwhile, developers said they knew what the market wanted but had never tested it with anything other than their own building types and put up whatever 'slothfulness let them get away with.'
He reviewed the experiences of Lord Rogers and Lord Foster, both of whom went through lean periods in the 1970s and early 1980s for being too 'difficult, dangerous and risky' to use. 'When Rogers finished the Pompidou Centre he had no work for four years and almost disappeared to California to teach. Likewise with Foster. Yet he is perhaps now building more in London than Seifert did, and he said he built more than Wren.'
Roland Paoletti, architect in chief for the Jubilee Line Extension, likened works of art to the battle strategies of the 'great Englishman' Lord Nelson, with much depending on personalities. He also said the project manager was often like an orchestra conductor. 'But he has no ear for music, can't read music and is jealous of the composer.'
. . . as the institute gets in on the 'rebranding' act
The riba is planning to 'rebrand' its headquarters building as a venue for conferences and meetings for 'design conscious clients' - and rake in extra cash in the process.
The plans, set to be rubber-stamped at the institute's council meeting next Wednesday, involve physically altering the first floor's Florence Hall to enable it to host receptions, dinners, and other evening functions. During the day it would still be used as an exhibition space and cafe, but the latter would be expanded by 50 per cent whilst the exhibitions would overflow into other parts of the building. James Soane of Conran Design has developed the proposals in discussion with house architects Allies & Morrison.
riba director general Alex Reid estimates the scheme would bring in an extra £40,000 each year - enough to fully finance the depreciated cost of the improvements.
The entire proposal was prepared by Reid, architecture gallery director Alicia Pivaro, head of premises Jim Jordan and the institute's advisor and deputy on premises, Chris Williamson and Simon Allford respectively. The move is in line with general principles of the improvement plan formulated in 1999, which sought to transform Portland Place into a visionary, pro- active and accessible 'place of exchange' on architecture.
l The institute has revealed that it is likely to go to arbritration after the purchaser of its Goswell Road premises disputed the 'overage' provision riba is entitled to, having already sold the property on. The original sale contract contained an overage provision if the premises were sold before October. riba solicitors Park Nelson advised retaining an appropriate sum.