Comment on: Obituary: Dalibor Vesely (1934 – 2015)
Charismatic, charming, surrounded by admirers, everyone wanted to be in Dalibor's studio when I was at Cambridge. His teaching was challenging, complex, intense but inspiring and I wanted to understand and be part of his school of teaching. We knew we part of architectural history and I wanted to be part of it but remained on the fringe. Memories of darkened crits in the 'pit' with swirls of cigarette smoke and strong coffee from Martins. M Phil seminars round the Library table for the chosen few. References to Gilgamesh, Czech animators Brothers Quay as well as Foucault and Merleau-Ponty. Field trips to Leuven and Naples with Dave Dernie and Phil Meadowcroft. Collages and layered images representing both spaces and ideas. Not easily forgotten.
Competitions are risky for architects. I analysed the cost and probability of winning the Windermere Steam Boat Museum Competition in 2012 and use it as a case study to illustrate why architects should not enter competitions. In that case, the OJEU advertisement was open to 500,000 eligible architects. 118 practices probably spent at least 5 days submitting PQQs. 8 'lucky' practices were shortlisted and paid an honorarium of £2500. Looking at the entries submitted, they each probably spent >£50K on developing detailed designs including CGIs. Only one practice would win the completion and earn a fee. I estimate the commissioning body or client gained roughly half a million pounds worth of architects' time and access to considerable creative talent and ideas for a small investment of £20,000 The probability of winning competitions is often extremely low. The cost of not winning can be very high. The waste of resources of so many architects not winning is huge and affects the productivity of the profession. Clients take advantage of architects. I recommend architects choose the competitions they enter carefully and calculate the opportunity costs before committing.
I applaud the initiative to create a new school of architecture fit for the 21st century. The twin objectives of making architectural education more affordable and closer to practice are 'win-win' for students and the profession. Will Hunter has attracted an inspiring and influential group of architects to develop his new school and many ambitious practices I have spoken to are interested in becoming partners. I am sure the London School of Architecture will be a success. From a personal perspective, I hope the curriculum embraces the business side of architectural practice as well as design and contract management. How to start, run and grow an architectural practice is not a focus of traditional training.
I wish Opinion Leaders like Norman Foster would lead by example. Looking at http://www.fosterandpartners.com/about-us/ , there are 10 Senior Executive Partners at Foster and Partners. All men. There are also 8 Senior Partners, all men. Looking among the long list of about 120 Partners, I counted just 12 women. I am pleased for the AJ to get such a high-profile judge for the Women in Architecture Awards but the most effective way for Norman Foster not to 'hide and overlook' women in architecture would be to promote one or two women to the Senior Management of his practice. The RIBA Business Benchmarking Report states that 'Women account for a third of all personnel but only just over a quarter of fee earners. Regardless of practice size, the percentage of women falls steadily by seniority, averaging 41% of Architectural Assistants but only 13% of Partners or Directors.' I would love to see the architectural profession follow the FTSE 100 Thirty Percent Club initiative and aim for 30% of Senior Managers to be women. http://30percentclub.org/ Then young architects might have credible role models.
Comment on: Obituary: Richard MacCormac (1938-2014)
I am sad and shocked to hear this news. I have memories of Richard chairing Professional Practice Part 3 seminars for Cambridge students in MJP offices the early 90s. Committed to the training and education of the profession, and sharing his knowledge. RIP