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RIBA: Architects must adapt or perish

Small ‘design-led’ practices will face increasingly stiff competition from multidisciplinary giants and must become more business savvy in order to survive in the future, claims an RIBA report

Published today, the RIBA Building Futures think-tank survey said architects must radically adapt if the profession is to survive the coming 15 years.

The report said: ‘[Architects] will need to develop greater financial nous and commercial acumen. [The] long shadow of the gentleman architect still hangs over the profession.’

Design-led studios of between 50 and 120 staff will be most at risk from competition by large multidisciplinary outfits which are expected to dominate the future market place for architectural services.

An influx of Asian companies to the UK could also contribute to the demise of the design-led studio, the report added.

The report said: ‘[The importance of the global market place is] well understood by the larger UK practices, which are already strongly represented overseas. However, accessing these markets is more difficult for smaller firms or sole practitioners – a form of business that seems to be hard wired into the architectural profession’s gene.

‘[The] future for the practice of architecture as a discrete business is uncertain’.

The report added: ‘The profession must face up to the reality that the context within which it now practices is continuing to change so dramatically that the skill set required must also shift - with financial skills now considered to be core.’

Issuing a rallying cry to the profession, the report also revealed that the UK demand for architectural services has plummeted 40 per cent in the past three years.


Readers' comments (3)

  • If architecture is to become more of a business then salaries will have to increase to match the levels of other professions.

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  • RIBA's Building Futures is a great report, although we think it reflects the changes which are already taking place in the profession, rather than how it will be in 2025. In our own practice, we have been 'thinking out of the architect box' for some time, trying to apply design-style thinking and creativity to the broader issues faced by our clients, so we can work with them in terms of our design to enable them to better manage risks.

    But we still find that the very fact we are called 'architects' and our company is classified as an 'architectural practice' means we risk being pigeon-holed in terms of client perceptions and they do not always appreciate the scope of what we can deliver.

    What is the RIBA and ARB going to do to help facilitate architects to undertake broader roles and raise awareness amongst Client bodies that architects are open to all kinds of business?

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  • John Kellett

    If 'gentlemen architects' stopped undercutting those of us who need to make a living the profession can perhaps return to it's holistic role. At the moment the smaller the fee the less we can do for the money. Earnings are already pitiful and improved efficiency through BIM can only go so far.
    A change is also required in terms of Indemnity Insurance to allow architects to more easily grow a multi-disciplinary architect-led practice.

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