John Kellett's Comments
Comment on: RIBA councillor slams delegation to Israel
The RIBA Council has no mandate from members to get involved with foreign politics other than matters of direct architectural concern. Matters such as those discussed above may be of interest to architects as individuals but are of no concern of a professional body.
Oh, how lovely, more 'competitions'. I do so love working for free when I have a mortgage to pay and family to feed. There is no money to venture, therefore there can be no gain. Does the Labour Party have any grip at all on reality? Most architects earn less than most professionals. Including those professionals paid by the state, who are, apparently, all underpaid! Hours on PQQs when they should take minutes, designing 'competition' entries to Stage 3 and beyond without costs, etc. The RIBA may be a charity but few architect's practices are.
Spot on. A cause of bad design is the planning committee and other politicians, or fear thereof. House-builders are under pressure to keep NIMBYs happy.
There is probably not a skills shortage as such. There is a shortage of architects willing to accept salaries lower in real terms than they were eight years ago! Many architect jobs are being advertised at less than those of technicians. How many architects have accepted higher paying posts as 'technicians' and 'project/design managers' I wonder? Until the profession values itself we will continue to be undervalued by our clients and therefore unwilling to increase salaries appropriately and fees to a profitable level. Like CAD before, BIM is making us more productive, but instead of benefitting the profession is being bullied into producing more work for the same unprofitable fee. Daft.
Comment on: Gender pay gap: ‘beyond shocking’
Ian Goulty has hit the nail on the head. Do we know why there is a pay difference? Is it just a trick of statistics? If women take time out to look after children and retire earlier then the 'average' salary for women will inevitably be less. If on the other hand the statistics have been adjusted for such matters then the gender pay gap is a very worrying issue. It is important not to forget that ALL architects are not, generally, sufficiently recompensed for the skills possessed.
Comment on: Brady defends RIBA Council Israeli motion
I agree whole-heartedly with Stephen Games's comments. I doubt the vote reflects the opinion of architects and, more importantly, is not a matter the RIBA Council should be wasting time on, the profession is in complete disarray after 6 years of economic hell and an ineffective ARB is doing very little to uphold the law. Where does international politics feature in the Royal Charter?
Comment on: RIBA changes tack on ARB abolition
The ARB does not currently protect the public from those illegally calling themselves 'architect' and other charlatans purporting to carry out our role ('architectural designers' and 'architectural consultants' etc.). There appears to be very few prosecutions of the many guilty persons and businesses purporting to be architects. How would a slimmed down register enforce compliance with the Law? It needs to be given teeth, together with protection of function for ALL qualified construction professionals
Not only should the title be protected, the function and role of architect should be protected to. Most of the rest of the developed World think it sensible to protect the public by such legislation, the Canadian system being of particular note. In fact, in the interests of public safety and protection from 'cowboys', the role of ALL construction professionals should be protected. For example there are no restrictions on who can call themselves a structural engineer, building services engineer, building surveyor or technologist. The only protection that the public has is 'Chartered' status but that is not backed by legislation as it should be.
Comment on: UN warns of UK housing regression
The UN refers to Ms. Rolnik as an architect, but her name didn't feature in a quick search of Brazil's register of architects. That may be fault of the internet or the web browser I used but........
Why doesn’t the AJ update and republish “Activities and Spaces”? It was written by John Noble, published in the magazine in 1982 and in book form a year later. I still find it useful, but after 30 years it is probably due for an update!
A sensible view. However solicitors and doctors have ‘protection of function’ in order to protect the public. The public has very little protection from fraudsters and charlatans misleading their clients into believing that they are architects. Unfortunately many people believe that it already is illegal for unqualified people to design buildings and therefore see no difference between an architect and an ‘architectural designer’. In my County ‘architectural designers’ are even being given commissions for schools and healthcare projects. With moves by the medical profession to increase the coverage of registration (into cosmetic procedures etc) and the call by the Archbishop of Canterbury for bankers to be required to be qualified, the construction professions should be lobbying for a requirement for building designers to be suitably qualified.
Having just re-read Standard 12 of the ARB code of conduct I would very much like to understand from the ARB how using the phrase ‘the ethnics’ breaks that code. It would appear therefore that merely describing any aspect of a person’s appearance or character or background breaks the code implying that it is now impossible for anybody to be an architect in the UK. If a fellow architect describes me as ‘short’ (which I am) or who ‘looks down on me’ (they have to, due to my height), can I have them struck off the register? The implication from the PCC ruling is that I can! How odd.
A break from providing an architectural education that meets internationally recognised standards, such as the European Directive, is very worrying. The profession requires new members who are fully versed in the long term ‘needs’ of the profession not the short term financial ‘wants’ of the Universities. Students wishing to become architects are not going to benefit from courses designed lower standards or increase University income. Courses for architects need to be both broad and deep in order to cover the knowledge and skills necessary, an undergraduate degree cannot do that. To leave University with just an ability to prepare impressive drawings is not enough, graduates wanting a career as architects need to know how buildings are constructed, how construction is managed, costs and have a good knowledge of all the guidance and legislation that applies as well as the art of architecture. Designers of buildings in the UK are already under qualified to meet the needs of the C21, I don’t see how shortening the education courses can improve things. Better access to part-time and online / distance courses would be a great improvement that would not lower standards and maintain adherence to internationally recognised standards. Perhaps educators would benefit from re-reading Vitruvius’s chapter on the education of an architect?
Comment on: Is architecture gay-friendly?
The profession has much greater concerns at the moment than private personal sexual orientation issues. There is also rife, but mostly unintentional and unconscious, discrimination against the disabled, female, short, ginger-haired and state-educated throughout the profession. It is being marginalised by our un(der)qualified competitors who are profiteering on the break-up of an holistic profession into numerous specialisms. Specialisms that lack any overview of the project, as a whole, meeting the client’s requirements. What’s the point of being a diverse and egalitarian profession, if ‘society' thinks/decides it doesn’t want architects anymore?
The only reason practices can't pay is the desire to udercut their competitors by having more work carried out by unpaid students. My practice is under pressure from all directions to take on unpaid 'interns' under all sorts of 'official' apprenticeship type schemes. Should I bow to 'business' advice or stick to the moral high ground and hope my business can grow without 'cheating'? If students are doing useful fee-earning work the minimum pay legislation should apply, at the very least. An architecture graduate is after all worth a lot more than a 16 year old youth with no GCSEs or a 'media studies' graduate. But until the law is clarified and/or challenged loopholes will, unfortunately, be exploited by those without scruples.
Perhaps women are being cleverer by taking more 'dividend' and less 'salary' in order to take advantage of tax rules? Perhaps more women have got more sense than us chaps by getting out of a profession that currently has such little financial reward! I wonder how pay compares across the profession with other 'differences' such as height, accent, school, hair colour (ginger!), age and ethnicity etc? Speaking as someone who has been 'looked down on' most of his life I think you might be surprised by the results. Discrimination is not always intended. I read another study for another profession (I've forgotten which, it was a while ago) where the pay difference was due to women accepting lower offers. I'm not convinced by that argument but........
One aspect that appears to be missing from most commentaries on the issue of converting office buildings to homes is that many offices are in buildings designed for another purpose anyway. Houses, warehouses and agricultural buildings have all been converted to offices in the past. For those buildings, for which 'office' is now no longer a viable use, the Government 'initiative' is very good news.
"Externally, most office buildings are not suitable for residential buildings in terms of windows, balconies, etc and recladding is often required" Not true, nearly all office buildings that are now unsuitable for office use in towns and cities started life as residential buildings. "Most office floor plates from air conditioned post 1970s offices are usually very deep, which makes them unsuitable for residential units" True, but they can make very good offices or homes by creating atria, it can be a challenge to carry structurally within budget but not impossible. "Wholesale replacement of central plant and equipment to different heating, cooling and electrical loading requirements" Not necessarily and would be necessary in many cases to make the building useable as a modern office anyway. "Biggest issue is often structural alterations that may be required to make the original stair and lift cores work for a residential layout" Surely those office buildings will not be candidates for change of use then! Most ex-residential buildings that have been 'converted' to office use can be 'unconverted' quite simply, especially in terms of lifts and stairs.
Any architectural student from within the EU who has failed to qualify in their home country, and therefore cannot design buildings in that country in their own name, can freely enter the UK and set up in business here designing buildings without having qualifications or having to prove / demonstrate competency! Can the RIBA, ACA, CIBSE, IStructE, ICE and ARB etc. please lobby UK PLC to ensure that, like most European countries, it is a requirement that all building designers are suitably qualified. To allow anyone to design buildings without any consumer protection in place in the C21 is insane. The minimal 'protection' afforded by planning and building regulations legislation is negligible and is of course also present in those many EU nations who, quite rightly, think it dangerous to allow unqualified persons to design buildings. It should be a pan-European legislative requirement that all members of a building design team are suitably qualified for their role within that team. There is actually a 'employment lake' of trained and qualified British nationals fully qualified in many construction disciplines currently being 'overlooked' in favour of cheaper imported and un(der)qualified labour. Why?
"The survey found that 89 per cent of respondents would prefer to live in a house on a street". I suspect a similar proportion of 'respondents' would prefer to have a better car/appearance/phone etc! "According to the Policy Exchange document, nobody wanted a home in high-rise social housing blocks." Nobody 'wants' to live in social housing, it's physical form is immaterial! Take one 'ugly' tower block, clean it, repair it, renovate/update the internal layout, put newer faster lifts, have a concierge and better security, don't fill apartments with large families and all of a sudden the building becomes 'desirable'. A more cost effective and sustainable answer to the 'problem'.
Being a Bath graduate of the 'combined' course (but not invited to the event) I believe the course provided exactly what the profession needed of it's architects back then. If it ran today it would still be providing the truly rounded architects that are needed in the C21. The problem with many courses today is that they are run by academics turning out 'artists' rather than architecture students and expecting students to 'pick up' the useful stuff in an office before Part 3. Any architecture course today needs to provide a structure to the knowledge learnt in an office, to provide the tools / skills needed in BIM (all flavours) and to provide experience of true integrated working. Producing architecture is a team effort, learning to work with engineers and others in a team environment is paramount. Is the Bath course the only one to have done that, surely not? If the profession wants to produce pointless 'artists' by all means shorten the courses but if the profession wants architects then, if anything, the architecture courses need to be harder and have more content. I'm not particularly impressed by students who cannot read drawings or whose portfolio is full of pretty drawings. The profession needs architects in the Vitruvian sense, and his guidance on the education of an architect is surprisingly relevant, even today, 2000 years later!
Just to play 'devil's advocate': do we actually need more homes? Perhaps we need less people :-) "Better Homes" is a no brainer. But not necessarily "More Homes", there are plenty of empty and convertible buildings already looking for a use. There are also plenty of dysfunctional existing homes that need to be replaced, often the, too small, new ones :-) Perhaps buyers aren't buying the housebuilder's output for the simple reason that they are too small to live in. There isn't really a 'shortage' of housing just a shortage in the South East where companies have, for years, been 'encouraged' to move, by central and local government policies! Altering those policies to encourage businesses to relocate to where the under employed UK workforce already lives would be more cost effective in reducing the housing 'crisis' in terms of numbers. It would also save billions in terms of 'benefits' and commuting costs.
I had the advantage of studying on the excellent 'thin sandwich' course at Bath University (from 1978), where the first five terms were taken jointly with the structural and services engineering student. I would suggest that a similar 'holistic' and collaborative approach is to be recommended. The overly 'arty' courses are doing the profession a dis-service. Architecture is an even handed mixture of 'art' and 'science'. The advice on the education of an architect given by Vitruvius is still relevant today!
Comment on: All change for ARB investigations
Perhaps the ARB should concentrate on it's principle tasks: maintaining a register of architects and 'protection of title'. Policing the profession, in which most are members of the RIBA with it's own independent disciplinary procedure, would appear to be a tertiary role at best. Since all chartered members of the RIBA are registered with the ARB, what is the point of us having two codes of conduct and two disciplinary procedures? Surely the ARB procedures should just be for those architects who are not members of the RIBA.
As an architect in the real world, 'resignation' from ARB would mean that I wouldn't be able to call myself a chartered architect and use the letters RIBA. Whereas if I resigned from the RIBA I could still call myself an architect. Do the Maths :-) There is no reason why the work of the ARB cannot be carried out by the RIBA. I'm not happy with the increase in registration fee, particularly since it appears that some of the fee goes to prosecuting those criminals who call themselves 'architects' illegally and who threaten my business. If the guilty paid rather than the innocent perhaps there could be a reduction in fee? Buildings should be required to be designed by those qualified to do so, as in most of the rest of the World, rather than open to all sorts of unqualified architectural 'consultants' and 'designers' who are damaging the profession by association. Protection of title does nothing to protect the public from self-appointed building designers, many of whom are too incompetent to realise the fact.
Comment on: UK architects are 94 per cent white
Was the 'poll' taken of a 'representative sample' or an actual figure based on the register directly? As a profession we can only encourage those from a 'minority' to start the course and it would be illegal to discriminate (negatively or positively) any applications for employment. As long as someone is qualified to do the job, can legally work in the UK and can communicate clearly in English I will always choose the one most qualified for the work. Any other aspects of their appearance or background are irrelevant. However, if only a very small number of 'minorities' take the 'A' levels and degree courses required there will only ever be very few in the profession. I've always found discrimination in society with such issues as height, weight, left-handedness and age etc! Each on their own are relatively minor irritations of course but.......
The most important aspect in any quest for a value for money reduction in overall project cost, is that of spending the time getting the design right. This can only be achieved with the design team being involved in the brief formation stage and through contact with end-users throughout the design stage. The design that meets those needs is then built. The Government proposal would appear to be a very complicated way of achieving a different conclusion: one that places cheap building as the primary concern and a design that meets the end-users needs as secondary. There are certainly savings to be made by seeking the advice of specialist sub-contractors early in the process as has been proven. But to demote the design team and meeting the client's requirements to a secondary role cannot provide a 'good design'. The word 'architect' features only three times in the report and all references are within a text box quoting an architect inferring that use of BIM will increase the profession's fee income (therefore inviting a fee reduction by clients). In actuality any increase in fee will be matched by the greater level of information required (as has been seen previously with the change from drawing board to 2D and from 2D to 3D). The average architect's income is already derisory in relation to the work expected, reducing fees further can only mean poorer service or lower salaries. Design fee levels should at least stay the same in order that design time can be spent reducing construction and project costs, which is after all the aim of One Year On!
As a 'micro-practice' the 'rewards' of winning a tender for public / OJEU would not justify completing the PPQ / bid. I once (just to see what would happen) tendered for a local authority tender requiring 'a local conservation architect', the tender appears to have been won by a large London practice without any architects! As Mustaq says just being an architect / RIBA Chartered Practice ought to be the only 'pre-qualification' required. After all, the level of qualification deemed necessary to design buildings in the UK by this (or any other) Government, or local authority, is exactly none.
Comment on: The new iPad: What architects need to know
No, of course it's not a phone. It's not a tricycle either. Who would be stupid enough to hold an iPad up to their ear when an iPhone (or indeed any phone) is better suited for the purpose. The camera is good enough for the use it's designed for: meetings and 'snaps'. I'm also hoping someone other than AutoDesk starts producing architect friendly Apps!
Comment on: Paul Morrell: BIM is 'unstoppable'
There are many micro-practices such as my own that already use BIM capable software and implement BIM on small projects. For example Vectorworks Architect is fully BIM / IFC compatible and not much more expensive than AutoCad LT, a distinctly non BIM 2D generalist CAD package! The efficiency gains are there to be had on small projects too. Hopefully we will also see an end to 'plan drawers' resulting from the required adoption of BIM :-)
Yes, but it's not the length of the course that is the problem. Speaking as someone from a 'middle income' background I would rather have studied with the benefit of a loan for the full cost than struggle with a partial grant, which my parents were unable to 'make up' to the full amount. At least the loan is only paid back if one is earning enough, the financial difficulties of 6 years as a student took many years to work through! The lack of female students during the late 70s and early 80s may have been partially due to the grant system. Has the proportion of female students under the loan system improved?
Christine, Your opening statement "The concerns raised by the 62 female practice directors and partners we profiled are those shared by men too: ....... the long road to qualification" is perplexing. It is our thorough education and high standard of qualification that separates us from the charlatans and the 'wannabes'. Anybody who wants a short cut to a professional career as an architect, whether male or female, is no more than one of those very same charlatans or 'wannabes'!
Comment on: The Diary of an Anonymous Architect #5
If the government and democracy requires good design, having planning applications judged 'democratically' cannot work. Good design is objective and can only be 'judged' by knowledgable persons. Aesthetics is largely subjective, ought not to be a town-planning issue, and can only be considered by the visually literate (which rules out many democratically elected councillors). Town-planning should be solely concerned with infrastructure, geography and politics to meet the changing needs of society. It should set the brief not dictate the solution. The quality of the built environment is too important for decisions to be left entirely to the democratic process.
Comment on: The Diary of an Anonymous Architect #6
Most of these new fangled 'spin-off' professions and quasi-professions within the construction industry actually charge a lot more for their services than we do, if you take all the 'free' time given to practices by employees into account. I remember working for a practice where we worked out that the annual profit was equal to the free time kindly donated by staff. The directors got new cars, the staff no bonuses! On that basis larger architect's practices returned to Victorian business practices years ago :-)
I always thought that runways were aligned to allow take off into the wind. To have all four aligned East - West when the prevailing wind is usually from the SW seems odd. Taking off in a strong Northerly would appear to be compromised too. Surely it would make sense to utilise spare capacity at existing airport locations and/or redundant RAF bases around the country rather than 'insist' everyone travels to and from London, increasing transport issues.
Comment on: BSF ‘made the schools estate worse’
"start procurement for the first batch in the second quarter of 2012. The work would be completed by the start of the school year in 2013"! Does that mean just over a year to fully design and construct a complete new school? Sounds a bit optimistic, especially for PFI. If true one would have to question the 6 month delay in starting. A 50% increase in programme would make the task merely 'improbable' rather than 'not very possible at all'.
Can we also hope that the "independent expert support" is paid for and by appropriately qualified persons, that "good design" is prepared by qualified professionals and that said good design will be judged by those qualified to do so? I was at a conference recently where a DCLG official stated that it was EXPECTED that the professional advice required under the 'localism' aspect of the NPPF would be provided pro bono! At the moment we have a situation arising where designs are often prepared, assessed and judged by those without the wherewithal to know whether it is "good" or not. The expectation of free design advice is unlikely to be an improvement.
Comment on: Prince's Foundation unveils Knockroon housing
Whatever happened to the C21? The use of traditional sustainable materials doesn't preclude a contemporary style, so why pretend to be something it isn't? As for the plans, who on earth places sanitaryware on an internal wall backing onto a bedroom, with all the attendant 'noise' and privacy issues? By the way, there is no record on ARB.org.uk of Ben Pentreath being an architect!
PS for "unqualified" read "under-qualified"
Since most homes are not designed by architects how can it RIBA's "Ratner moment"? Architects have had very little to do with the low design standard of most new housing. The fact that homes are sold on the basis of the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is a purely artificial construction of the sales teams. To sell on the basis of sqm and running costs would be just as easy to implement. It is often claimed that it is the cost of land that is the biggest factor which determines the size of houses. Again the price of land is artificially determined by how many houses the vendor thinks will fit on the site, the more the developer actually gets on the site, the larger the profit. To return to a situation where our new homes are large enough to live in, the whole process needs a rethink. Government, house builders, estate agents and architects should be resolving the problem together. Since nearly all of the badly designed new houses are designed by unqualified incompetents and/or developed/built by 'cowboys', requiring all buildings to be designed and built by those suitably qualified and trained would be a start!
There are many examples of clever use of minimal space with multi-functioning spaces, micro-flats, caravans and boats etc. However, none of them are 'comfortable' to live in. PassivHaus's 30M3 per person rule of thumb is a sensible one, particularly if one has guests or needs to store a pram. Oh yes, bring back Parker Morris, all is forgiven. It would be useful if the AJ could republish "Activities and Spaces" too, my copy is extremely dog-eared!
Comment on: Speculative work ‘endemic’ to the profession
Like many micro-practices, and others without a private income, I simply cannot afford to work for free, or even 'at cost'. To do so would mean hiring a student to work for free (which is illegal). Also, a fact conveniently ignored by 'clients', the risk is higher for architects than for developers since the developer's profit on successful projects is substantial, whereas that for architects is mediocre at best. I would happily take the risk if I had the developer role. Particularly if I could get all the hard work done for free :-) When will the profession wake up to reality? The only people who benefit from our working for free are the developers / clients, not us.
Comment on: The Diary of an Anonymous Architect #2
"God that was such a boring post." Welcome to the world of an architect's practice in the C21 :-)
A good example to show why agents for planning applications should be appropriately qualified (RIBA, CIAT etc) or at least drawings prepared by. Grade II* listed and no reference to a conservation architect either.
Comment on: UK riots: tell us your stories
I don't live in London, or any city for that matter. I live in part of the country that requires travelling some distance by car to reach any sort of 'cultural' facility be it a swimming pool, theatre, concert or shop. Public transport is not a viable option. In fact many have to commute many miles to get a job, I didn't work in the County for many years due to the lack of opportunity. We had no riots apart from small copycat outbreaks of violence in the larger towns (from city-dwellers shipped out to the countryside perhaps). Anyone living in a city has excellent access to any facility, it's nonsense to argue lack of access. I am sick and tired of less well-off city-dwellers moaning about how 'deprived' they are, the 'rural poor' are not a minority in many parts of the country but they are not rioting because the rioting has nothing to do with such issues. The riots are simply criminal and often orchestrated for political purposes. "Had educational opportunities taken away from them"? What on earth does that mean. London is littered with schools. If you choose not to learn you have only yourself to blame. If you're not intelligent enough to get to university no amount of 'education' will change that. Higher education is far more affordable now, the loan system is far fairer than a means tested 'grant'. It would appear from news reports that many of the early rioters were adults with jobs, hopefully they won't have a job to go back to. The children and unemployed and / or 'disaffected' youth ought not to be able to afford the Blackberries apparently used to organise the unrest anyway! Hence my earlier comment. Architects were never 'responsible' for poor public housing: the brief, the budget, quality of construction and the politics were and are far more responsible. For example, we can't design larger houses because the brief, budget and procurement paths don't permit it. I stand by my observation made earlier regarding the initial rioting, later looting was obviously opportunist. I'm fed up with apologists trying to justify the unjustifiable. Rant over.
Comment on: UK riots: tell us your stories
The timing, location, organisation and use of youngsters suggests to me that terrorists might be at the root of the riots. Torched buildings were at crossroads and easily filmed, youngsters are more readily 'radicalised', timing ahead of the Olympics (before security tightens), targeting 'down at heel' areas etc. The current stupidity of the economic markets around the world could also be orchestrated by terrorist organisations. Selling shares in companies based in non-AAA rated countries in order to buy bonds in the very same non-AAA rated countries is at the very least bizarre. For rioters to destroy the streets that they live in would be stupid. Hence the suspicion of external influence.
"Good design" can be in any style. The trouble with Design Review Panels is that they are usually only looking at large schemes by architects, that are generally not "bad design" in the first place. If the government is serious about the promotion of good design it should be requiring all buildings to be designed by persons trained and qualified to design them. Which leads to the other problem, are all panellists trained and qualified to judge "good design"? Most badly designed buildings (large and small), don't currently come under the scrutiny of DRPs. DRPs are the wrong solution unless used for all planning applications. To use a DRP to judge major developments by internationally known architects (or indeed any architect) is insulting. To use DRPs as a constructive design review with the client and / or fellow architects prior to making a planning application is however very useful. Let me pose another two questions: 1] does anyone know of a scheme considered by a DRP that was not designed by an architect / architect's practice? 2] What is the success rate of DRPs in getting bad design (not just indifferent or the wrong style) changed?
"plus you don’t earn much for the first 10 years." You don't earn much for the next 20 years either! As a profession requiring a high level of intellect the renumeration is, generally, pitiful. It does not take much intellect to realise that, unless committed, architecture is a financially unrewarding career. Perhaps it is that which is behind the reduced numbers applying to start a course? At current salary levels the 'debt' is one that won't necessarily be required to pay back!
Comment on: Kevin McCloud’s housing to be rolled out
It does rather have the look of a row of terraced slate quarryman's houses in North Wales: very harsh and very grey. It is perhaps due to the lack of landscaping and the lack of a sunny day for the photos but...... Also: "had energised people to give up their time", "We have managed to absorb lots of free time and nobody has put a price on that", and "admits to having ‘squandered’ time on the scheme" do appear to be euphemisms for "work for free". I wonder who made a profit out of the scheme.
Comment on: AJ reveals the top 100 architects on Twitter
Just a small observation. Many of the listed people / businesses are not architects! Does ARB know? Does ARB care?