PRACTICE SIZE WARNING SHOULD HAVE BEEN HEEDED
The AJ's story 'the Size of the Matter', on practice size (AJ 09.02.06), prompts the following points:
as RIBA president, I warned the profession of the dangers of its inappropriate structure: too many small and medium-sized practices and insufficient resources concentrated at the size required to meet the increased scale of prevailing opportunity and demand;
I also warned against the continued drift away from construction technology and project management. Others had not taken this ground: we had surrendered it. Generations of teaching staff have much to answer for in this respect, and their continuing claim that 'practice' must take responsibility for teaching in these areas remains as daft as it is irresponsible; and
I warned of the need for a different 'culture'. The continued widespread notion of practice as an exclusively design-orientated pursuit and the misleading representation of our star firms as bohemian artists belies an essential truth. The few successful firms who build well; enjoy repeated commissions and critical acclaim;
and offer well-structured and well-rewarded career paths for their teams are, first and foremost, highly effective business operations.
In this respect they speak the same language as their progressive clients - and that is why they are so successful.
Seven years is far too big an investment to provide a ducking pool into underpaid and unchallenging careers. It may be belated, but the newly emerging business-led and serviceorientated profile of architectural practice will do much to reestablish its influence within the construction industry. As for small practice, it will remain as important to architecture as the GP is to the health service - but not as a career path for over 80 per cent of our profession.
Paul Hyett, chairman, RyderHKS