John Kellett's Comments
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?
Too many? Not enough surely. The government (of all persuasions) seems intent on de-skilling the design of buildings. The majority of building designs submitted at planning application stage are not by architects and many are by 'architectural consultants' with few if any qualifications at all. If the government wants good design it should be requiring ALL buildings to be designed by those suitably trained and qualified. The other roles of the architect have been infiltrated by the inadequately qualified too. How do we make government aware of the actual facts? They seem intent on listening to members of the construction industry with a vested interest in carrying out the role of the architect but without possessing the relevant skills. The poor quality of the design of the built environment is, and can only be, due to the fact that most buildings are not designed by suitably trained, qualified and registered / chartered professionals.
I think the RIBA has enough to do with architectural issues without being 'human rights' issues in a foreign country into it. China's treatment of chinese citizens is none of the RIBA's business. It would be odd for the Belgian Women's Knitting Circle to make a song and dance over the RIBA competition to design a new electricity pylon for example. We can object as individuals of course. As for hanging banners....it is NOT easy. The RIBA has been exploring that very subject for a number of years now, 'planners' and NIMBYs are very much against the idea :-)
You state that Wayne Hemingway is a "Self proclaimed architect". Have you informed ARB? Has ARB taken any action? There are enough charlatans and fraudsters claiming to be architects as it is.
Comment on: Localism: the dangers of X-Factor planning
A sighted person is kind enough to point out a large hole to a blind pedestrian and offers to construct a bridge or guide him/her around the hole. Blind person decides to take advice from other blind, and partially sighted, friends and neighbours instead. Blind person falls down hole.
I don't think we ever found out what was 'wrong' with the rather excellent scheme by Edward Cullinan!
Robert, An example of objective bad design would be the very large traditional sash window into a small bathroom (apparently clear glazed) as featured in project seen in the "3 Classicists" exhibition or perhaps cedar cladding 10 storeys up in the air as is quite 'fashionable' at the moment! Town-planners and conservation officers insisting on repeating a bad detail just because it's 'historic' or insisting that 'in keeping' means 'copying' are other examples.
I'm really not certain about "expert opinion should be moderated by democratic principles". Expert opinion should always be 'informed' or 'respect' those 'democratic principles' but the most popular solution is often not the best! Architectural ideologies and styles (subjective) are different. Most are valid and continue to fall in and out of favour throughout history. Bad design (objective), no matter how much it may be 'desired' by the un-informed and design-illiterate, should never be tolerated. Especially as a result of moderation by democratic principles! The problem in a democratic society is, of course, to be able to differentiate between the subjective and the objective.
Comment on: Architect fined £3,000 for ‘incompetence’
Having read the ARB's report it appears that in the case of an 'architect's certificate' the profession's duties have become untenable. Even a 24/7 presence on site could not prevent the Contractor 'pulling a fast one'. It would be interesting to know whether the contractor, who was clearly in the wrong for cheating, suffered any penalty. Let's hope the legal profession do not transfer this onerous duty to the normal JCT inspections etc. If I believed in conspiracy theories I would say that this ruling is designed to keep architects off site and further erode our role in construction. The ARB must provide the profession with further explanation and perhaps guidance, although that may be beyond it's remit. It was supposed to be just a registration body! We have a perfectly capable professional body for dealing with professional conduct in the RIBA, have they been asked to consider the case? How, and why, did the ARB expand it's function to that of 'OffArch'?
Comment on: Part II activist abandons ARB high court action
This is an issue that requires input from Europe and a investigation into the Architect's Directive. As I understand it, persons qualified in Europe to the equivalent of Part 2 can register with ARB here as architects. Persons qualified here require Part 3 to register with ARB. That is plainly inequitable. RIBA membership, "the gold standard", requires Part 3 regardless of where one qualified and is, I understand, regarded highly around the world. A two tier system would be silly and insupportable, there is no reason for the Architect's Directive not to raise the level of 'qualification' across Europe to that of Part 3 or equivalence.
Comment on: RIBA minimum wage ‘shameful’ says Archaos
Surely it is illegal under UK law to employ students and not pay them. Whether you are an RIBA Chartered Practice or not is immaterial. Voluntary work is for the 'not for profit' charity sector or 'work experience' for school-children only. The US unpaid 'internship' model is not valid in the UK (or indeed anywhere). Any architect or practice paying staff (student or not) less than the minimum wage should be stuck off and challenged in court. The majority of Part 1 and Part 2 students provide valuable work, in fact they wouldn't be employed if they didn't! If the profession's business model relies on an underpaid or illegal workforce it is in a sorry state indeed.
It would be helpful to see what the original facade detail and appearance was. As it is the building might as well be new, the interest lies in the re-organisation of the plan and facades.
Comment on: Cable attacks ‘bizarre’ planning rules
Simply restricting local authority powers to town planning (geography, economics and infrastructure) matters and preventing them from interfering in the design of individual buildings would be a start. Requiring all applications to be by suitably qualified agents (CIAT, RICS, RIBA/ARB) would also help, as in many countries outside the UK. Both are simple to legislate for and would increase local authority efficiencies.
Comment on: RIBA: Architects must adapt or perish
If 'gentlemen architects' stopped undercutting those of us who need to make a living the profession can perhaps return to it's holistic role. At the moment the smaller the fee the less we can do for the money. Earnings are already pitiful and improved efficiency through BIM can only go so far. A change is also required in terms of Indemnity Insurance to allow architects to more easily grow a multi-disciplinary architect-led practice.
As a small practice I cannot afford to enter competitions, I don't have the funds or an independent income. It takes most of my waking hours to keep financially afloat after the impact of the incompetence of bankers. Competitions give clients the impression that design is free, PFI + BSF are prime examples. If a building is designed in full by several teams / practices, each losing team / practice has to recover costs on other jobs. If community groups, formed as result of Localism and The Big Society, are expecting free advice without the prospect of a commission, or for the commission to subsequently go to another practice or plan-drawer the profession has no future as a source of income. The way forward is a form of protection function as in other countries and professions. The government has given, or has plans to give, all sorts of job functions protection by qualification and registration, even dog walking! Surely architecture and the built environment, for humans, is more important to society than animals.
Comment on: Award-winning Aedas BSF school to close
So the school was never needed in the first place then! It's construction wastefully diverted funds away from the hundreds of State, CofE and RC schools that do need replacing, whose funding has been axed. Why not use the building to replace out of date schools in the area?
Surely these are meaningless statistics without some account of the volume of projects 'in progress'. There are probably 144 projects 'on hold' in my home town! What are the criteria for a 'project'? To have 144 projects out of 144 on hold is serious. To have 144 projects on hold out of 1,440,000 is not serious! It would be more helpful for the statistic to be expressed as a percentage of projects on hold, perhaps defined by sector or size too. As it stands the reported information is meaningless.
Comment on: Localism Bill: urgent clarification needed
"pro-bono opportunities for architects"? Working for free isn't an opportunity it is exploitation, unless there are enforceable requirements for the architect to be paid for the work at a later date at a sensible fee. I fail to understand why we should provide our services for free in order for somebody else to make a profit. It's hard enough as it is with ridiculously low fee levels for the work we are required to provide.
Comment on: Survey shows worrying lack of BIM awareness
Not quite tongue in cheek because I truly hope that I'm not the only architect using full BIM in the County of Northamptonshire. There are only about 100 architects and a significant proportion of those work outside the County! Despite the additional work early on I am finding that there is an improvement in productivity and efficiency overall. The link between NBS and VWA/ArchiCad is useful too. The trick is not to produce information that looks like it's imitating a 2D Cad drawing that is imitating a pen drawing imitating a pencil drawing! Neither am I wasting time in Photoshop or Excel.
Comment on: Survey shows worrying lack of BIM awareness
That doesn't surprise me at all. Even with skills in the BIM capabilities in ArchiCad and Vectorworks I found it impossible to find work when 'credit crunched'. My own new small practice uses the full BIM capabilities of vectorworks. I know of no other practice in the county using full BIM!
The other side of the argument is of course that groups of householders will grant themselves permission for very large ugly extensions. I can also imagine a group of agricultural landowners making a tidy profit out of redefining their own land as 'development land'. It will be interesting to see how a 'neighbourhood community' is defined! From what we know at the moment it doesn't look as if the idea / policy has been thought through fully. Why not just fast-track applications that meet policy and/or are by 'approved agents' (ARB/RIBA, CIAT RICS etc) to allow planners to concentrate on the badly presented / non-conforming to policy applications? Just a thought.
Whilst architectural education appears to concentrate on the "delight" to the detriment of "firmness" and "commodity" there will always be a shortfall in knowledge, which has to be gained in practice. Educationalists need to decide whether they are training professionals or artists! The European requirement to allow anyone with Part 2 (or equivalent) to practice as an architect sets entry to the profession at a lower level than is acceptable. The RIBA's "gold standard" of Chartered status is at risk. Protection of function could perhaps provide the protection of the consumer by permitting 'registered architects' and other building designers to have design control over a limited range of building types / project sizes. Chartered architects with Part 3 Chartered Practices having to be used for larger non-domestic projects. Many countries operate similar systems. How about: Part 1 = artist / building designer (small projects + unlisted) = RICS / CIAT equivalence Part 2 = registered architect (up to medium scale non-complex projects + unlisted) = Euro architect equivalence Part 3 = professional chartered architect (all projects including listed) = RIBA "gold standard" By no means is that the only answer but the anomaly needs to be openly discussed and a solution found.
Comment on: Councils to set own planning fees
When many Local Authorities do not have RTPI qualified case officers and even fewer have conservation officers with architectural or planning qualifications it should be difficult to justify. Every applicant should expect every submission to be dealt with by a fully qualified town-planner. Will architects, and their clients, be permitted to counter-charge for incompetence and time wasted on matters that are not town-planning matters? Will "agents" be vetted such that application submitted by RIBA / TRPI / CIAT / RICS / ARB professionals are 'fast-tracked' for a lower fee?