Thoughts before taking the path towards RIBA presidential election
Many of you will by now know of my decision to stand for the presidency of the RIBA. Most of you will understand that the role of a columnist would be incompatible with that of president, should I be successful at the election. I will, therefore, stop writing shortly after Christmas.
This decision is cause for enormous sadness. I did not apply for the job; I was coopted - despite never having written anything much before - while dear old Ray Cecil was unwell back in the autumn of 1994, and was subsequently asked to stay on after his death.
That was some 175,000 words and 250 columns ago. The opportunity to write and the exchanges that I have enjoyed with readers through letters columns, private correspondence and many impromptu discussions over this time have been one of the most rewarding parts of my career.
The discipline of 'turning out' a weekly practice column has caused me to continually research issues, test opinion and refine arguments. I have written on matters ranging from building failures, education, health and safety, Zeplin design, construction litigation, codes of conduct and sustainability through to cybercafes. There have been articles on adjudication, PI cover, libel, copyright, debt collection, VAT in building, the role of the clerk of works and even Mike Tyson!
Throughout, I have tried to entertain and to inform - that, I think, is the role of a professional journal. Readers hold a wide variety of opinions and they represent an enormous spectrum of practice in terms of type, style and size of work, as well as many specialist careers outside mainstream architecture. My endeavour has been to raise issues of wide interest, and to promote discussion in the best traditions of public debate.
There have also been the campaigns. I wrote more than 30 articles on the ARB with the express interest of ensuring that the organisation matured into an independent and effective registration board - nothing more and nothing less. A constructive relationship at last exists between the institute and the ARB and I have since learned that my articles have influenced thinking in this field around the world.
Among other campaigns, I have also worked hard on the sustainability agenda, and argued for decent employment conditions for young salaried staff in UK offices. And then there is the issue of fair trading with the Americans. . .
Along the way I've trodden on a few toes (sorry), generated occasional threats of litigation (never pursued) and received an endless stream of advice on what I should (and should not) write about.
But most of all I have loved every minute of it! There has been laughter, occasional anger, and much serious discussion. And, throughout that time, I have been forced to think through a thousand issues that affect us all, wherever we work within this great profession and industry of ours.
Indeed, it is exactly this aspect which has led me inevitably to this campaign for president: my work as a columnist has informed my development as a RIBA Council member - the constant dialogue with you as readers has seen to that. I now want to use that experience to the full.
Ours is a profession of courage and one that cares, made up of wonderfully independent and colourful personalities. But it is also a diverse profession, ranging from enormous offices that carry the logistical capabilities to build to the highest standards anywhere around the world to the sole practitioner whose breadth of skills and depth of knowledge is so essential to the smaller client.
It is a profession of big names, star names, and, inevitably, a mass of lesser-known and unknown personalities. But they all tend to be bound by two key objectives: an unyielding optimism combined with the will to see good architecture realised in all its varieties. Above all, it is a warm and generous profession. For me, being part of it and having the privilege of writing for you for so long has been the greatest pleasure.