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Paul McGrath's comments

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

    Paul McGrath's comment 24 April, 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.

  • RIBA moves to scrap Part 3

    Paul McGrath's comment 25 March, 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.

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

    Paul McGrath's comment 24 March, 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.

  • MIPIM: 10 things we learned

    Paul McGrath's comment 18 March, 2015 10:44 am

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

  • MIPIM: 10 things we learned

    Paul McGrath's comment 18 March, 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.

  • Shuttleworth attacks 'arrogant' and 'egotistical' architects

    Paul McGrath's comment 2 March, 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.

  • Build bridges, not trumpet worn-out stereotypes

    Paul McGrath's comment 2 March, 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.

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

    Paul McGrath's comment 16 January, 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.

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

    Paul McGrath's comment 15 January, 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.

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

    Paul McGrath's comment 6 March, 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.

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