Young architects are shortchanged by both employers and schools
Any employer or head of school who has the gall to criticise the enterprising students who have formed
ARCHAOS should take heed of William Cobbett's comment: 'I defy you to agitate a fellow on a full stomach'.
The food of radicals is poverty, injustice, and exploitation, and these are the ingredients that have galvanised our profession's younger members into this action. In particular, those employers whose greed, weakness or ineptitude has provided the platform from which this campaign has sprung have much to answer for. ARCHAOS is to hold its first national meeting, with representation from each of the 35 UK schools of architecture, at the RIBA on 29 February. Incensed by the continued poor working conditions for many Part 1 and 2 students, ARCHAOS seeks to establish an employers' code of conduct to 'benchmark pay and conditions and eradicate exploitation'. Students will be urged to refuse their services to offices which do not apply the code. ARCHAOS will also call on the RIBA Directory of Practices to exclude all practices that do not 'sign-up' to the code of employment conduct.
And it doesn't stop there. ARCHAOS is also insisting that schools have an obligation to provide graduates with the education which they need in order to 'practice as architects'.
So, at last, the circle is squared. Most students want jobs, and they want the skills to secure and hold down employment. They don't accept their tutors' weak protestations that it is 'for offices to teach technology, construction, and professional practice'.
No longer, therefore, will irresponsible staff be free to pursue personal agendas to the exclusion of developing 'applied' skills and knowledge. ARCHAOS is demanding that the contract between students, as 'consumers' of education, and the schools be fulfilled.
This will mean more thorough scrutiny by students of course content and more accountability for teachers.
And ARCHAOS is looking ahead: it intends to review the future of the profession, and to provide a framework for formal representation, through which dialogue with the institute will be maintained. A sort of SCHOSA for students!
Marco Goldschmied will open the conference and other contributors include Max Hutchinson, Leonie Milliner and current RIBA councillors Nick Hayhurst and Marc Corbett. So be there! (Details from Nick Hayhurst on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Warnings about disgraceful employment conditions for young staff in practice have been writ loud and clear for far too long. Young architects have given enormously against poor reward and miserable insecurity, and some offices have exploited this ruthlessly. As I have written previously in this column, as long as offices give services freely through speculative work and bogus competitions, the conditions for employees in architecture will suffer.
Teachers must think carefully about their role. Of course school studios should not seek to blindly replicate office experience, but most students ultimately still want to work in practice and all students require some form of employment on graduation, so it is essential that schools maintain (or, where necessary, re-establish) teaching programmes that are appropriate to preparing students as professionals and practitioners.
Universities cannot excuse inadequate programmes and teaching resources on the grounds of financial difficulties. They are contractually obliged to provide an education which meets the standards of the RIBA Parts 1, 2 and 3 examinations. Schools should wake-up to the fact that they may find themselves being sued by students if they don't deliver.
My tuition fees were paid in full, I received a maintenance grant, and first class conditions of yearout employment in the offices of Cedric Price and Alan Baxter. The prospect of incurring serious debt to complete my studies was inconceivable.
Now, grants have gone and fees are chargeable.
The least that practice can do is pay proper wages and the least that schools must do is to equip graduates to work effectively in their chosen field.