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Paul McGrath's Comments

  • Comment on: The studio is critical, but it's not where all the magic happens

    Paul McGrath's comment 24-Apr-2015 3:42 pm

    If you start from a position which most architects who don't win awards would recognise, that as long as an exclusive club that comprises an elite intelligentsia exists, there will always be an unnecessary distinction between competent designers (which most architects undoubtedly are) and those supposedly having an exceptional design flair. The drive and desire to rise above the rest and join that club, starts in the studio. It is also clear, the higher calibre the school of architecture, the better the credentials become for being admitted to the club. The self-selected Russell Group of universities to which the Bartlett belongs, decidedly set themselves apart and some would say above other universities. Along with other Russell Group universities the Bartlett could be accused of having no interest in "everyday" architecture (even if it is excellent) and every interest in grooming the exceptional. It is not by accident that a guest presentation by a former student was an RIBA Silver Medal winner. Precisely because it is this type of plaudit that sets one person apart from another. Rightly or wrongly it is a fact of life in education and the wider architectural profession. The false assumption, if there is one, is not that everyone can be brilliant at design but that only a fortunate, favoured few are capable of good design. There are a vast number of good architects produced by an excellent education system who never get to exercise their skills to the best of their ability. Due in large part to constraints outside their immediate control or influence. Conditions they have no option other than to work under. Nor does the Architects' Journal appear interested in everyday architecture or the opinions of merely competent architects. (Inconsequential comment boxes excepted.) It would appear opinions are only newsworthy if they come from award winning architects or established personalities. Thereby continuing the virtuous circle that started in the studio.

  • Comment on: RIBA moves to scrap Part 3

    Paul McGrath's comment 25-Mar-2015 10:09 am

    The fact is, it is Europe, not the RIBA driving this review. The European dimension to UK architectural education is always downplayed almost to the point of being ignored. Our archaic route to registration has always been out of step with the aim of standardising architectural education across Europe. The anomalies that resulted from the RIBA and the ARB sticking to its guns when challenged on the validity (not content) of Part 3 for years look pretty hollow now following this debate. Whether this has any real impact on the ARB remains to be seen. Having looked in detail at architectural education 5 years ago, it was clear then how outdated the single, stepping stone route is/was. The sooner multiple routes to registration come about the better.

  • Comment on: Council rejects Grafton's contest-winning Kingston University scheme

    Paul McGrath's comment 24-Mar-2015 3:38 pm

    Why should a University be exempt from the vagaries of our planning system? As anyone who regularly makes planning applications will know, a scheme described as being too big and not in keeping with nearby buildings is a catch-all justification for refusal. That councillor's have invoked position this against its own officers advice shows that planning regardless of policy, is predominantly a political process. At least there is some consistency (from Council's) despite the fact that "award-winning" architects - no matter how good - were involved. Who knows (and I don't) the Councillors may even have a point.

  • Comment on: MIPIM: 10 things we learned

    Paul McGrath's comment 18-Mar-2015 10:44 am

    The AJ's subscription must be a bit too high if their journalists now expect haute cuisine on every assignment.

  • Comment on: MIPIM: 10 things we learned

    Paul McGrath's comment 18-Mar-2015 9:41 am

    From what I can see, MIPIM is simply a hedonistic jamboree disguised as a trade show. The I slap your back if you slap mine attitude couldn't be more in evidence. The AJ's oysters and champagne lifestyle continues.

  • Comment on: Shuttleworth attacks 'arrogant' and 'egotistical' architects

    Paul McGrath's comment 2-Mar-2015 9:41 am

    On the day the AJ's editorial staff were sipping champagne in a hotel built for Toffs with blue blood, handing out self-serving awards to budding starchitects, it is not surprising the AJ chooses to publish an implicit defence of the status quo rather than discuss the egalitarian principles behind Ken Shuttleworth's comments. In the staid world of architecture and the sniffy politics of publishing, we need people to speak their mind without fear of the consequences. Top marks to Ken for doing so and shaking things up a bit. We will no doubt see the awards culture being given wide publicity in the AJ this week. By way of contrast, it would seem the only way the CIBSE Building Performance Awards would get any coverage in the AJ is when a prominent architect makes some observations on the 'arrogant' and 'egotistical' world of some architects. Which of course are immediately condemned by the same self-serving cognoscenti that hands out awards as being "sterotypical" and a "caricature" of architects today. Make are a practice that have on the face of it, determinately tried to break the mould of architects calling themselves a variant of My Ego and Associates in an effort to more accurately represent modern practice based on collaboration between disciplines.

  • Comment on: Build bridges, not trumpet worn-out stereotypes

    Paul McGrath's comment 2-Mar-2015 9:39 am

    On the day the AJ's editorial staff were sipping champagne in a hotel built for Toffs with blue blood, handing out self-serving awards to budding starchitects, it is not surprising the AJ chooses to publish an implicit defence of the status quo rather than discuss the egalitarian principles behind Ken Shuttleworth's comments. In the staid world of architecture and the sniffy politics of publishing, we need people to speak their mind without fear of the consequences. Top marks to Ken for doing so and shaking things up a bit. We will no doubt see the awards culture being given wide publicity in the AJ this week. By way of contrast, it would seem the only way the CIBSE Building Performance Awards would get any coverage in the AJ is when a prominent architect makes some observations on the 'arrogant' and 'egotistical' world of some architects. Which of course are immediately condemned by the same self-serving cognoscenti that hands out awards as being "sterotypical" and a "caricature" of architects today. Make are a practice that have on the face of it, determinately tried to break the mould of architects calling themselves a variant of My Ego and Associates in an effort to more accurately represent modern practice based on collaboration between disciplines.

  • Comment on: Micro-homes: part of the solution or part of the problem?

    Paul McGrath's comment 16-Jan-2015 2:31 pm

    As a long term supporter of so-called micro-homes (a nomenclature which is only possible if a minimum benchmark is generally recognised) 37m2 seems rather an arbitrary figure to define the "bottom" considering students live quite happily in self-contained spaces much smaller in area. Of this I have personal experience - not as a student - but as a responsible designer of student accommodation. I have also lived quite contentedly in a self-contained home having a total area (GIA) of 12.5m2 (that I personally designed) for nine years. So I feel well qualified to offer opinions that are based on a whole raft of personal experience that I am able to draw upon when claiming that micro-homes have a role in providing suitable accommodation.

  • Comment on: Micro-homes: part of the solution or part of the problem?

    Paul McGrath's comment 15-Jan-2015 11:01 am

    The key aspect of micro homes is that they should be well designed, so that there are places to store skate boards and provide private indoor and outdoor communal spaces. The big practices that monopolise housing, who sit on committee's and also work for the leading housing associations aren't renowned for "innovative" housing. In truth, UK large mass housing has become somewhat formulaic as the plethora of housing guides demonstrates. It is the small scale architects and developers - like Pocket - who are small enough to be more responsive and astute enough to meet constantly changing demands who are thinking creatively about how to solve the housing crisis. There is also the question of who determines what "well designed" micro-housing might look like. Putting that responsibility on the planning system is unlikely to produce constructive conversations with planners around the merits of using space more efficiently. Clearly, any architect or developer who wants to "innovate" will in future have their wings clipped by the proposed minimum space standards if they stay in their current form. By using architects creatively to demonstrate to politicians what life could be like at the smaller scale can, Pocket can only be applauded.

  • Comment on: Last chance to fill out the survey: Should the title of architect be protected?

    Paul McGrath's comment 6-Mar-2014 10:47 am

    My view is the role should have 'protection' through educational standards and understandable measures of competency. It is unacceptable that untrained, uneducated people can be regarded by uninformed clients as being similar to highly educated and skilled 'architects'. It is that association which will always threaten to devalue the profession. As a Part 2, I am in favour of a system of voluntary registration for all those who practice architecture and have an architectural education. (For example for Part 2's working in offices.) The legal protection of the title of architect however, means little to the wider public and some clients but the role of the architect is still highly respected. To my way of thinking, professional credibility has nothing to do with legally enforced titles.

  • Comment on: Profession hits out at shake-up of RIBA membership categories

    Paul McGrath's comment 26-Sep-2013 4:41 pm

    If you check the membership of the RIBA, I think you will find there are many 'Honorary Fellowships' of the RIBA who are entitled to use the initials Hon FRIBA after their name who are not registered architects. As far as I know the ARB have chosen not to test the validity of this through the Courts. Therefore, the ARB should surely take a pragmatic view of the affix RIBA with those who have an architectural qualification.

  • Comment on: Profession hits out at shake-up of RIBA membership categories

    Paul McGrath's comment 26-Sep-2013 12:37 pm

    I applaud the RIBA for taking this necessary step. It is long overdue. As a 'qualified' Part 2, having never considered joining the RIBA, I will now be doing so at the first opportunity. Where previously for me at least, 'student' membership had no credence the suggested changes give some recognition for a minimum of 5 years study. Having a post graduate qualification immediately puts you in the top 5% of the population (by qualification) and it has always struck me as ludicrous the architectural profession unlike some other professions, gives no recognition at all to highly qualified graduates who do not go on to register. It is a great shame that a vocal minority of 'registered' architects see this as a loss or a dilution and not an attempt to embrace people who play an important role in the wider architectural profession and in architects offices around the country. This type of protectionism does nothing to prevent the accusation that professions are elitist. This change now gives the non-registered the opportunity to support the profession through meaningful membership of the RIBA and I hope the RIBA will represent the opinions and well being of the non-registered. I assume the ARB will resist the use of the affix Associate RIBA by those who are not on the register and trust the RIBA will be robustly promoting the wider benefits of its decision. Far from confusing the public, this decision will further isolate the truly unqualified from tarnishing the reputation of the architectural profession. When all is said and done, you will still need a very high level of qualification and integrity to join the RIBA and that is what the wider public will clearly understand.

  • Comment on: Profession hits out at shake-up of RIBA membership categories

    Paul McGrath's comment 26-Sep-2013 10:44 am

    I applaud the RIBA for taking this necessary step. It is long overdue. As a 'qualified' Part 2, having never considered joining the RIBA, I will now be doing so at the first opportunity. Where previously for me at least, 'student' membership had no credence the suggested changes give some recognition for a minimum of 5 years study. Having a post graduate qualification immediately puts you in the top 5% of the population (by qualification) and it has always struck me as ludicrous the architectural profession unlike some other professions, gives no recognition at all to highly qualified graduates who do not go on to register. It is a great shame that a vocal minority of 'registered' architects see this as a loss or a dilution and not an attempt to embrace people who play an important role in the wider architectural profession and in architects offices around the country. This type of protectionism does nothing to prevent the accusation that professions are elitist. This change now gives the non-registered the opportunity to support the profession through meaningful membership of the RIBA and I hope the RIBA will represent the opinions and well being of the non-registered. I assume the ARB will resist the use of the affix Associate RIBA by those who are not on the register and trust the RIBA will be robustly promoting the wider benefits of its decision. Far from confusing the public, this decision will further isolate the truly unqualified from tarnishing the reputation of the architectural profession. When all is said and done, you will still need a very high level of qualification and integrity to join the RIBA and that is what the wider public will clearly understand.

  • Comment on: RIBA announces Part 1, 2 and 3 memberships in major shake-up

    Paul McGrath's comment 20-Sep-2013 8:13 am

    Hallelujah!

  • Comment on: Government looks to bring in minimum space standards for homes

    Paul McGrath's comment 21-Aug-2013 12:12 pm

    Whilst creating a level playing field, mandatory minimal space standards do nothing to properly cater for the myriad number of different types of housing occupant. The 'one size fits all' approach cannot ever hope to make a distinction between a student, a retired widow and a gourmet cook. From the rise and rise of the coffee shop it would appear more young people are spending more time eating and drinking in public places than in their own homes yet for a one person home, according to the London Housing Design Guide a kitchen will need to have a counter-top length of over 4m in an area of 6.2m2. This includes providing a four-ring hob, two of which will, in all probability, be totally redundant. Rather than produce original research that details how domestic items such as cookers, are actually used by different types of housing occupant, the RIBA (in their recycled research) accepted uncritically that everyone should be provided with a four-ringing hob regardless. Architects will be reduced to 'façade creators' (if they aren't already) that mask 'kitchen boxes' of a pre-determined size, 'bedroom boxes' of a pre-determined size and 'living room boxes' of a pre-determined size. I guess next on the list is that every home should have at least a 'bedroom' and a 'kitchen/dining/living room' to reinforce the stereotypical view of what a home should be. The focus (for architects) should be on using and designing space efficiently, not blindly providing space so it can be used in the most inefficient way possible. The RIBA should be the one to challenge, examine and explore whether every home needs a washing machine (which in my home is unused for 95% of the time it sits there) and whether the concept of a communal 'launderette' is a good thing for society and the environment. I fully support the AJ's More homes, Better Homes campaign but mandatory minimal space standards seem specifically designed to attack greedy developers rather than make homes more affordable for everyone or better designed for a diverse range of occupants. As with a lot of modern legislation, the blunt instrument of mandatory minimal space standards is bound to have unforeseen consequences. Let's hope they don't make housing even harder to access than it is already with our less than perfect and intransigent delivery mechanisms that are the mass house builders or housing associations that limp architects are powerless to arrest.

  • Comment on: Sometimes you just don't know whether to laugh or cry

    Paul McGrath's comment 11-Nov-2012 3:40 pm

    I am truely honoured that I have elicited a response! My intention was not to smear Mr Finch but to counteract what I see as a one-sided view that pretty much uncritically supports the conventional wisdom of politically powerful lobbies. Always it seems, at the expense of the margins and innovative thnking. I would not like to see the Berkeley Group and Crest Nicholson - even with their 'raised game' - to become the Government's unofficial housing advocate. If anyone is actually interested in the McGrath concept - which I very much doubt as I am just little people - Mr Finch is very welcome to visit some of the 'hovels' I have designed. Then perhaps a more balanced opinion would result. The McGrath concept also puts its money where its mouth is. By purchasing a small, difficult brownfield site and trying to develop it as a home I am contributing to solving the shortage of housing in London (however small that contribution might be) and not taliking about it or using it as a vehicle for personal acclaim. The practical difficulties of doing so are emense. Consequently I would welcome the chance to describe to Mr Finch how difficult it is to actually build an affordable, accessible single house in London bearing in mind that every step of the way someone says no; never mind the myriad number of third party demands infill developments are now forced to comply with by the planning system as if it were a major project before any development can even start securing development funding. All told, it is no wonder London has a deficit in housing supply. It is almost true that a high number of 'hovels' is politically better than a one off house. As every jobbing housing designer out their knows the bigger the project the less scrutiny the 'authorities' seem to place on them. Compare big housing association schemes with say small private domestic extensions; one has a relatviely easy passage the other seems to attract the entire gamut of rules, regulations and standards the Local Authority can throw at it and are put under totally disproportionate scrutiny. Yes the subject is too important to always adopt utilitarian solutions. The AJ's support of better homes should have the support of everyone.

  • Comment on: Sometimes you just don't know whether to laugh or cry

    Paul McGrath's comment 1-Nov-2012 12:21 pm

    Paul Finch clearly moves in rarefied circles where mere morals are few and far between. To support the Berkeley Group and Crest Nicholson and denounce the lowest common denominators of the HBF is a clear bias in favour of the so-called great and the good. Commentator’s are acutely aware of which side their bread is buttered it would appear. If PF were a football commentator he’d only be interested in the Premiership and teams like Accrington Stanley wouldn’t get a look in. Rather than making regulations that maintain the dominance of the ‘big players’, rule makers should seek to encourage innovation and not stifle it at every opportunity. Minimum space standards are a case in point. Look at Japan and the ‘micro-homes’ movement; could that happen in the UK? Not if you follow the logic of Mr Finch it won’t. Is it just coincidence that with more and more regulation, less and less gets built? There is a certain irony that while LA’s are clamping down on illegal garden shed homes architects are suggesting garages could be converted into affordable homes. This suggests the priority is to get people housed in decent well-designed homes rather than arguing how big those homes should be or how energy efficient they are. Having read the Future Homes Commission report it is clear to me the future is with small innovative design led house-builders and not leviathan ‘market leaders’ like the big house builders.

  • Comment on: ‘Desperate’ Part I student advertises her labour on eBay

    Paul McGrath's comment 24-Sep-2012 11:24 am

    Once again the RIBA's commitment to Part 2's and below working in the profession is shown to be trivial. If the 'value' the RIBA attributes to a graduate is only the minimum wage, it effectively gives Chartered Practices (and by example, other practices) permission to exploit highly educated 'students' as a cheap labour source. The RIBA must address the increasing reality that a degree or post-graduate qualification in architecture is virtually worthless without registration. It's high time the RIBA started to think of Part 2 as a destination and not just a stepping stone to other things.

  • Comment on: ‘Desperate’ Part I student advertises her labour on eBay

    Paul McGrath's comment 24-Sep-2012 9:39 am

    Once again the RIBA's commitment to Part 2's and below working in the profession is shown to be trivial. If the 'value' the RIBA attributes to a graduate is only the minimum wage, it effectively gives Chartered Practices (and by example, other practices) permission to exploit highly educated 'students' as a cheap labour source. The RIBA must address the increasing reality that a degree or post-graduate qualification in architecture is virtually worthless without registration. It's high time the RIBA started to think of Part 2 as a destination and not just a stepping stone to other things.

  • Comment on: Industry reaction: ‘Never a good time’ for ARB fee hike

    Paul McGrath's comment 17-Sep-2012 9:41 am

    Describing the ARB as a 'statutory regulator' is wholly wrong. The UK Parliament requires of the ARB to keep a register, prescribe the qualifications needed to become an 'architect' and promote and maintain a code of professional conduct. It does not regulate anything. Its only purpose is to deliver the responsibilities given to it under the Architects Act. All these increasing peripheral 'costs' to being professional must be passed on to the consumer - at least to some extent - so how does this demonstrate to potential clients using an architect will keep fees competitive? In a small but significant way, cost increases like this only serve to put pressure on wage deflation.