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IMF chief slams Irish architects

The Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI) has hit out at calls for reform of architectural contracts made by International Monetary Fund board member Michael Casey in the Irish Times.

The organisation described an opinion piece by Casey, titled ‘Architects must answer for misery of bad building’ published last week as ‘inaccurate, misleading and damaging’ and warned it was taking further legal advice on the matter.

Casey – who is a former chief economist with Ireland’s Central Bank – argued the RIAI’s short form contract gave the profession ‘maximum wriggle room’ and meant architects had ‘no responsibility to ensure that the works are up to standard.’

He said: ‘Notwithstanding the lack of responsibility, architects were able to charge lucrative fees during the Celtic Tiger period. For some jobs, they could charge up to 30 per cent of the total cost of works.’

Casey went on to argue that it was in the public interest that a ‘one-sided’ contract be ‘scrapped immediately’.

He said: ‘If retained in anything like its present form, no client should ever sign it.’

He also said architects in the private sector had done ‘little to improve the built environment with any degree of originality’, adding: ‘Minimalism is often used as an excuse, where the reality is an abiding fear of any design that makes a statement.’

The article provoked a flurry of letters which included responses from RIAI members complaining of inaccuracy.

Dublin-based Mike Morris wrote: ‘[The] article fails to mention the role of the developer, which is ludicrous. The building failures of the past 10 years come from the exclusion of architects, not from collusion with them. The failures are serious. Badly-researched articles do not help to rectify them.’

Malahide-based architect and lecturer Dorothy Jones described part of the article as an ‘insult to the profession and contracting firms’.

She added: ‘The reference to fee charges of 30 per cent or anything approaching it even during the “boom years” is pure fantasy.’

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