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Fee survey graphs: How RIBA damaged architecture

By dropping its fee survey graph the RIBA risks devaluing high quality work, says Kieran Long

The RIBA might think it’s playing a modern, realpolitikal hand in dropping recommended percentage fee scales, but our research suggests that most of you feel that this will be damaging for the quality of architecture. We agree.

It is outrageous that the RIBA should capitulate on fees without suggesting what other method the profession might use to establish how much it should charge clients. With the clarity of fee survey graphs removed, does anyone really think that clients are going to want to pay more to their architects? In fact what the RIBA is doing is pandering to the kinds of practices who are willing and able to cut their own throats on projects, and abandoning the kinds of practices it rewards over and over again in its award schemes.

David Chipperfield, Eric Parry and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios are outraged at the institute’s attitude

It is no surprise the the likes of David Chipperfield, Eric Parry and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios are outraged at the institute’s attitude. These are three of the finest, most decorated architects in the UK, and all of them have a simple message: doing good architecture takes longer. No one can claim these architects are just idealistic young bucks with their heads in the clouds. All of them have delivered big buildings to the highest quality. But removing fee survey graphs, to them, only damages the perception of architecture’s value in the construction industry.

The RIBA has muddied the waters about how to charge for design just as it is claiming that the profession must defend the ‘value’ of architecture during the recession. To say that fee survey graphs should work is not pie in the sky. Germany is just one example of a major economy that values architecture highly, and pays those who do it properly.

Perhaps it is the age-old conflict between the institute’s role as both trade union and promoter of good architecture that has put it in this situation. In this case, the RIBA is ignoring warnings about the latter in favour of clients who want to screw down fees. We will look back at this decision as another moment where the authority and value of architects and architecture was eroded.
kieran.long@emap.com

Have your say on RIBA’s decision to drop fee survey graphs at architectsjournal.co.uk/debate

 

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