Way to go
DiverseCity - Celebrating Diversity in Architecture At the RIBA, 66 Portland Place, until 4 October
When introducing this exhibition, Nicky Gavron, London Assembly member and candidate for mayor, noted that, historically, London has been designed by white male architects. Neither London nor the UK is a good advertisement for diversity in the architectural profession or the construction industry - sufficient reason for this type of celebratory exhibition.
As the ratio of women to men is almost equal and the diversity of cultures, languages and influences is staggering, the question is: why is this not reflected in the architectural profession or the construction industry? Only 13 per cent of architects are women and fewer still are of minority ethnic origin.
The collaboration of Architects for Change, the Society of Black Architects, and Women in Architecture has highlighted the current need for more diversity in the industry, and in this exhibition the achievements of those already in the profession are applauded.
Following the RIBA publication Why do women leave architecture? , and similar studies, the topic of diversity in the profession is a major discussion point at present.
The need for a change in architectural education is being mooted, and the importance of introducing architecture as a viable career option for all at an early stage of education seems fundamental.
As architectural exhibitions go, this is perhaps more informative than pictorial.
Thirty-four architects are profiled alongside their achievements, their work taking second place in some cases - but it must be said that this exhibition is to promote the diversity of architects themselves and not necessarily their work, making it more text-dependent than most.
Models of some projects are displayed, including Marks Barfield's London Eye.
Established names such as Julia Barfield, Eva Jiricna, Sarah Wigglesworth and CJ Lim sit alongside a new generation of architects such as Yen-Yen Teh. Those renowned for their work in the community and promotion of diversity in architectural education, such as Sumita Sinha, Sarah Featherstone and Audley English, and supporting bodies such as the Stephen Lawrence Trust and Arc Ed (Architecture in Education), are also featured. SOBA chairman Chris Nasah noted that the architectural profession should be 'learning it, living it, doing it from all sectors' - and this appears to be the case.
Of particular interest to me was an enigmatic film, A Love Supreme, directed by architect Nilesh Patel, showing the dexterity of his mother's hands in preparing food.
Although not architectural in content, it refers to the importance of the Asian woman in society and involvement in the production of the home.
Reaction to this travelling exhibition, and the ongoing debate in the profession should shape the type of architecture produced in the future, its architects, and its response to the needs of a diverse society. To paraphrase RIBA president George Ferguson at the opening, the architectural profession has to be made more attractive and accessible to all to become more viable. There is still some way to go before exhibitions like this are no longer thought necessary to mark the achievement of minorities in the profession and promote awareness.
Liz Ellston is an architectural consultant at Weldon Walshe Architects