Yasmin Shariff's Comments
Well done for highlighting the BBC’s cavalier attitude towards women architects (5 March 2014). The story of the Brits Who Built the Modern World has been oversimplified in an unacceptable, misogynistic account that reinforces the discrimination of women in the profession. The low pay (25% less) and poor registration numbers (21%) highlight current conditions and the last thing we need is such a poor account of history from the BBC. Airbrushing Patty Hopkins out of the illustration is entirely consistent with the way that Female Brits who Built the Modern World have been airbrushed out of living memory and their work trivialised and overlooked. Many have had their names and achievement absorbed into their partners. The true story of British Modernism is more complicated than the Famous Five playing with lego or mechano and building a Brave New World. Before any of the famous five were born, Norah Aiton and Betty Scott had designed and built, in 1931, one of the first high tech buildings in Britain- factory offices for Aiton & Co. in Derby. This pioneering steel framed building is an early exemplary piece of high tech design, yet hardly anyone has heard of it. Neither was there any mention of Mary Medd or Alison Smithson who both pioneered high tech school design. These women, like Su Rogers and Wendy Foster in Team 4, were not accessories and architecture was not a part-time interest or hobby when they weren’t changing nappies or cooking wholesome meals. For these pioneering women, architecture was a full time career, a profession they were passionate about and they were determined to make a mark in against all the odds. They were financially, intellectually and technically as adept as their male partners. It is about time their story was told. Equally yours Yasmin Shariff
Paul Finch has cut to the core. Instead of facilitating members the RIBA has become autocratic and a gatekeeper. The Doric Club had to fight tooth and nail to get together at Portland Place and as for RIBA-USA the Memorandum of Agreement has become a farce. Council has not even been permitted to hold its own dinner club! Democracy at the RIBA is Orwellian with some Council members on the Board are more equal than others. Elected Council members not on the Board have found it virtually impossible to represent members and had to resort to putting Motions to Council. Stephen is a good architect with a business brain and we will need his skills and commitment to turn around an Institute that has been running a deficit budget and frustrates its members initiatives rather than facilitating them.
We need all the friends we can get but not by snubbing existing members. Setting up the RIBA-USA required great energy and enthusiasm. It is a great shame that a row has broken out at a time when we desperately need to work hard to raise the profile of members and the institute. Members are the life blood of the RIBA and I hope that the new Council will resolve any differences so that the enthusiasm and energy of members is harnessed and not frustrated. Members here and abroad should feel that the RIBA will facilitate and support any initiative relevant to their context and not be an impediment.
Yes we need more homes, lots of them and urgently but this call seems like a cancerous growth of 'urban' extensions. If we upgrade our existing settlements we will not have to spend a fortune on infrastructure and any development fund can be spent on social cohesion projects. What we don't need is coffins for the living dead where housing is provided with plush bathrooms and little social connection. Great for accessing hearses but bereft of places to meet and greet, learn, waltz and work.
Its not just about cities in India- our cities are dehumanising the poor. Poor infrastructure, poor social housing investment, poor space standards and poor design aspirations = poor 2020 vision!
Comment on: Obituary: Paolo Soleri (1919 - 2013)
Soleri's ideas about cities are the solution to today's problems of too much trash, too little energy, too much alienation and isolation. The arcology concept (architecture+ecology) looked as social, economic and environmental issues holistically and in an integrated way. Arcosanti and Cosanti are rooted in the environmental movement of the 60s. The idea of the arcologies were that they were to be energy neutral. The city was fed with greenhouses on the lower slopes so that food and energy could rise and nourish the upper areas. Like enormous termite mounds the city keeps to an ideal temperature for all the workers that inhabit it. Recycling and efficient resource use was also at the heart of the arcology- especially the toilets where if it was yellow you let it mellow and if it was brown you flush it down- an immediate 10 fold saving!!! But it wasn't all about materials there was an equally strong social and spiritual/humanitarian concerns that informed the design. Imagine a city that is so connected that the need for institutional buildings become unnecessary. The power of IT makes it all the more possible and I have no doubt that arcologies are the answer to the urgent need in rapidly urbanising countries. Can Governments/local authorities make this imaginative leap? Paolo was truly inspirational. Building Arcosanti with the income generated from bells is remarkable. It hosts festivals and workshops and has a great real food cafe. He may not have achieved his ambition to build an arcology but he certainly changed the hearts and minds of thousands.
Ethnics or Ethics? The ARB needs to get its own house in order, starting with the Architects Act where the wording assumes that architects are male (eg see Section 4 (a) he holds such qualifications and has gained such practical experience as may be prescribed; or (b) he has a standard of competence which, in the opinion of the Board, is equivalent to that demonstrated by satisfying paragraph (a). ) If the ARB is genuinely concerned about 'the ethnics' then I would like to see the wording of the Act made gender neutral and action taken on promoting fair access so that women and other discriminated groups are properly represented and remain on the register. Procurement and pay are two major issues. It is in the public interest to ensure that architects are fairly treated, especially in relation to public procurement. It would be great to see the ARB work with the RIBA to meaningfully tackle this issue instead of paying lip stick service to it. Yasmin Shariff RIBA/AA Council Member
Comment on: Sadie Morgan to become next AA president
Sadie is a wonderful dynamic person - she will make a great president.
Lets get serious. 21% architects in the 21st Century getting paid 26% less is a scandal and against the law. If the lawyers, medics and footsie 100 companies can achieve over 40% representation and more equal pay then there is no reason why architects can't especially when 40% of the construction budget is public sector.
Comment on: Better homes, warmer homes
Aspirations for where and how we live seem to be reduced to the whims of developer greed and well blanketed building regulations. Most housing developments are mono-cultured- designed for isolation. Little more than boxes for the living dead with little thought for socialising inside the home or with neighbours. Mixed use designs where people share common assets, use local shops and have a sense of belonging stand little chance of getting through our archaic planning laws designed to clean up the industrial revolution with its sterilising and now largely irrelevant use classes. Jackson's Lane, Highgate and the Ryde in Hatfield, examples from the infamous 60s, hold many answers of how to design so that people get to know their neighbours and can look out for each other. Allowing the vulnerable to unnecessarily die at a time when we can design homes that require little or no heating and the fact that many families have to choose between eating and heating is a sad reality as we enter 2013. The UK has some of the best architects in the world who could easily transform existing areas and provide stimulating and creative centres that people can thrive rather than die in. There is no other profession that can look at the built environment in a multi faceted way and exploit the opportunities of the physical and ethereal environment. Until every housing association and government department has an architect on its board and leading the design team we will continue to waste money and allow thousands to suffer and die needlessly.