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Harry Rich: ‘I want us to become the L'Oreal profession’

RIBA chief executive Harry Rich at this morning’s AJ100 Breakfast Club told architects from the UK’s largest practices why they need a new mantra

Speaking at London’s Claridge’s Hotel, Rich said: ‘I want us to become the L’Oreal profession’ quoting the brands’ ‘because I’m worth it’ slogan.

Clients often overlook the value of architects, according to Rich, who singled out project management and sustainability as areas of particular concern.

‘I have a terror around sustainability and its down from experience. [Project managers] didn’t steal [project management] we gave it to them. It’s about practices being able to think about these things as part of the business.

‘That’s history and I don’t know if we can get [project management] back, but I think we might be about to do the same thing with sustainability.’

 He went on to suggest in ten years time his successor might ask how sustainability consultants ‘stole our business,’ emphasising why architects have the skills, responsibility and commercial motivations to take a lead role in the field.

‘We’ve got to try to help save the world, do great work and make money doing it,’ he said.

Rich went on to again float the idea of introducing a new award which he said could look at the success of a building 10 or 15 years after completion.

He said the public conception of awards like the Stirling Prize being ‘beauty parades’ was a problem.  ‘I’m looking at ways we can adapt and add to the awards and make it more likely they can stimulate interest in the building as a whole thing.’

In response to recommendations in the Browne Review that government should allow universities to charge higher fees, he said: ‘Clearly architecture up until now, even without [unlimited] fees, has been expensive and it tends in general to make a very particular kind of profession, and it’s not easy for people from certain backgrounds.

‘These proposals could make that even more exaggerated but we will be doing what we can to try to preserve the position as much as best we can to stop the profession becoming too closed.’

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