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Sympathic registrar gives the human touch to ARB relationships at last

In this, my last column, I am glad to draw one major campaign to a close. Let me begin with a quote: 'It is surprising to me - even shocking - to occasionally meet architects around the country who are not a member of the professional body. Given the huge burdens placed upon professional people . . . I cannot think how anybody can do this successfully, let alone competently, if they are not part of a network of like-minded people providing exchanges of ideas and support for one another.

'It might be the case that [to call] yourself an architect then you have to register with the ARB, but it is certainly the case, in my view, that your careers are going to be very difficult to grow, and prosperity is going to be very hard to come by, without the fellowship, support and expertise that membership of the RIBAmay bring you. Not forgetting, of course, some cracking events and parties along the way.'

On the face of it these words, spoken recently at the North-West region's annual awards and Part 3 graduation ceremony, are unremarkable. But they were delivered by none other than Robin Vaughan, registrar of the ARB.

Just one year ago it was unthinkable that the ARB would have been invited to such an event, let alone that its registrar would proffer such an opinion. But a week is a long time in politics, and a year is just about long enough for an intelligent and wellintentioned registrar to sort out the stupid confusions and miserable ill-feeling that have dogged relations between the RIBA and the registration board since its inception.

In fact, it has taken Vaughan just eight months and, if he and his team are given proper licence, it seems that there will soon be clear water between the ARB and the various professional member organisations with whom it must deal - the RIBA, RIAS, RSAW and RUSA.

Clearly defined and mutually complementary roles between the ARB and the professional bodies is one of the two ingredients required to ensure the long overdue peaceful and harmonious relationships essential to the interests of the public, clients, architects and indeed architecture. The other essential ingredient is competence in the board's work and affairs - something that has all too often been missing as the ARB slipped from crisis to banana skin with grim regularity.

Vaughan is intelligent but above all he is sensible, well-intentioned, and sympathetic.

While knowing precisely what is expected in terms of the legal function of a regulatory body, and what he must deliver as its senior officer, he holds a basic respect for the good work and integrity of the vast majority of architects.

Epitomising a regulatory official through and through, the key to his success is that he operates with a human touch. This has brought a breath of fresh air to the organisation.

The turning point of the ARB's fortunes seemed to come, perhaps by coincidence, as Owen Luder delivered a totally just, but nevertheless courageous, decision with respect to the case that the board had unwisely pursued against Ingrid Morris.

With that matter behind them, and Vaughan's constructive approach to the future, it is now possible for the regulatory body to rapidly build itself into an invaluable instrument in maintaining standards of service within our profession.

Getting relationships between the ARB and our profession sorted has been a tough struggle. So it is with some considerable pleasure that I can at last confirm my confidence in the new registrar and his team.

Together with those enlightened members of the board who can see the difference between a professional institute, a regulatory body, and a consumer protection agency, they are now on their way to making an organisation that is up to the task that it was created to carry out.

It is on this happy and optimistic note that I must sign off, for there is an election to fight.

In the mean time I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a rewarding new year.

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