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Time to clarify registration's real purpose

My last two columns addressed the confusion and inconsistencies surrounding registration as illustrated by the Hellard appeal heard in the High Court last week.

Because the legislation endeavours to control title instead of function, it produces inevitable conflict between the ARB and the RIBA, while damaging the interests of nonregistered architects who are nevertheless members of the RIBA. I suggest two possible remedies.

One entails a sensible recognition of the wide and widening role that many who initially trained as architects undertake outside conventional practice, both within the development and construction industry and beyond. Examples include Roger Zogolovitch (developer), Michael Honey (past local authority/LDDC, now London Ambulance Service chief executive), Ricky Burdett (who established the Architecture Foundation), Mark Fisher (Pink Floyd 'Wall' and other gig installations), Peter Murray (ex-Blueprint publisher, now head of Wordsearch), non-practising academics and retired practitioners. These people all trained as architects. To suggest that they should be denied recognition just because they are not involved in conventional practice is both ludicrous and insulting.

To enable such recognition the current limitations on uses of affixes and entitlement to adopt the 'style' architect should be relaxed, while ratification should be granted earlier by awarding the title architect at successful completion of Part II/diploma stage. Furthermore, once 'qualified', that status has been achieved and, with any common sense, should never be subsequently denied.

To protect consumer interests, only those who qualify at Part III would gain a certificate to practise, without which there should be a restriction of function. Only those with the technical, legislative and contractual knowledge to act as practising architects, overseeing the preparation of production information and construction activities, would operate.

The anticipated indignant cries from surveyors are easily quelled by also permitting them, architectural technicians, and structural engineers to make such applications subject to appropriate standards of validation over their training.

There are strong precedents for all this: it's a criminal offence, unless registered, to issue a writ or prescribe drugs. If, like law and medicine, appropriate standards of architectural service are to be pursued through registration, there is no point in letting any untrained Tom, Dick, or Harriet offer the service. To be effective such registration must, logically, control function. The ARB's law-imposed preoccupation with title is nugatory.

The alternative remedy is, of course, deregistration. To claim that the current arrangements enable the ARB to protect the public from those incompetent or unworthy to act as 'consultants' is absurd: anyone is allowed to offer architectural services.

We would be better off having no registration, like engineers and quantity surveyors, rather than enduring controls that are blatantly unfair to many of our members, cause deep division within our ranks, and allow charlatans to compete unrestricted for architectural work.

So which way is best: an effective and practical form of registration, or deregistration? Certainly the current halfway house where we suffer the ambiguity of unworkable legislation, while being dictated to by a registration board at sea with itself and (potentially) at loggerheads with the profession, is no way forward.

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