John Kellett's Comments
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.