YOUR FUTURE IN THE BALANCE
There are serious matters afoot at the ARB that architects around the country ought to be paying real attention to.
This issue could have a monumental impact on the way that you and your architect successors go about your business for generations to come. Bear with me; here goes.
In the forthcoming elections to the ARB's governing board (the results of which will be announced by 10 March), a group of eight rebel architects - acolytes of the long-term ARB maverick Ian Salisbury - aims to take over all seven of the seats on the board reserved for members of the profession.
If they manage to do so, there is every chance that the ARB will either be pared back, or, in the extreme, put out of business altogether.
The rebels, the self-styled ARB Reform Group, have mixed opinions on the board's future, but all agree that there needs to be less bureaucracy and less of the ARB in general.
The group, which it is understood has the unofficial backing of RIBA president Jack Pringle, is made up of: Nicholas Tweddell, a former member of the board, Mark Benzie, Peter Phillips, Derek Salter, Colin Brock, John Griffi ths, George Oldham and, perhaps surprisingly, award-winning practitioner Alfred Munkenbeck.
If this 'gang of eight' does kill off the board - and this would be no gentle mercy killing - it would more likely than not sound the death knell for the ever-popular protection of title system.
This would mean that any member of the general public could claim to be an 'architect' and face no consequences when it emerged that they weren't.
It would also make it unlikely that most young wannabe architects would bother with Part Three, since it would not be a prerequisite to calling oneself an architect.
Unsurprisingly, this group is not entirely settled on what it wants in place of the ARB - if indeed it wants to kill it off at all. Some are keen to see it put down altogether, allowing the free market to reign without protection of title. Others, who could be characterised as the RIBA loyalists, would like to see the register brought inhouse at the RIBA. The remaining members of the 'gang' would be happy to see the board continuing, as long as it stopped 'interfering' in areas that have traditionally been the responsibility of the RIBA, such as education.
One thing they are all agreed upon is that they find it offensive that the body put in place to regulate architects is dominated by people who are not in the profession.
'We all have very different opinions on many subjects, but we are all in agreement that there must be change, ' Benzie told the AJ.
'We all believe that it is outrageous that the profession is regulated by a board that has a majority that are lay people.
It must be changed.' But there are other candidates, of course, who have very different opinions to these revolutionaries. They vary hugely; from Roger Shrimplin, who has many sympathies with the gang of eight, to Yasmin Shariff.
Shariff has been a long-term thorn in the side of those looking for reform.
For example, she is a serial supporter of increases to the retention fee and argues that almost all the work undertaken by the board in the last few years, such as in education, has been the right thing to do.
One of the most unlikely consequences of the political machinations surrounding the forthcoming election is the rebirth of a group most thought had died a death. Many years ago, when the organisation that governed registration was called ARCUK, there was a group called the 'Unattached' that used to sit on its governing council to represent the interests of the thousands of architects who were not RIBA members.
This week, they suddenly announced that they were back.
Probably concerned by the RIBA influence on the gang of eight, former Unattached activist Thomas Woolley said he would stand for election. The reason? Suspicion of what the rebels were up to and what they might have up their sleeve. Woolley says: 'There are 9,000 unattached architects out there who are not members of the RIBA. We do not feel that the RIBA represents the interests of normal architects, and would be worried if registration was taken in house.' The fundamental fact is this: there's a lot at stake in this election. Please have a think, and please use your vote.
Ballot papers will be distributed to all ARB members who are eligible to vote by 1 February. The closing date for the receipt of completed papers is 1 March.
THE ARB REFORM GROUP:Mark Benzie Colin Brock John Griffi ths Alfred Munkenbeck George Oldham Peter Phillips Derek Salter Nicholas Tweddell
THE OTHER CANDIDATES:Conal Campbell Tony Clelford Elspeth Clements James Cuthbertson Vidur Dindayal Thom Gorst Christine Lelong Sarah Lupton Anthony Mealing Yasmin Shariff Nita Sharma Roger Shrimplin Thomas Woolley Bernard Wyld