Yasmin Shariff is a principal of Dennis Sharp Architects and an elected AAA and RIBA Council member. She was Head of Design with a multi-academy sponsor and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster.
Well done for highlighting the BBC’s cavalier attitude towards women architects (5 March 2014). The story of the Brits Who Built the Modern World has been oversimplified in an unacceptable, misogynistic account that reinforces the discrimination of women in the profession. The low pay (25% less) and poor registration numbers (21%) highlight current conditions and the last thing we need is such a poor account of history from the BBC. Airbrushing Patty Hopkins out of the illustration is entirely consistent with the way that Female Brits who Built the Modern World have been airbrushed out of living memory and their work trivialised and overlooked. Many have had their names and achievement absorbed into their partners. The true story of British Modernism is more complicated than the Famous Five playing with lego or mechano and building a Brave New World. Before any of the famous five were born, Norah Aiton and Betty Scott had designed and built, in 1931, one of the first high tech buildings in Britain- factory offices for Aiton & Co. in Derby. This pioneering steel framed building is an early exemplary piece of high tech design, yet hardly anyone has heard of it. Neither was there any mention of Mary Medd or Alison Smithson who both pioneered high tech school design. These women, like Su Rogers and Wendy Foster in Team 4, were not accessories and architecture was not a part-time interest or hobby when they weren’t changing nappies or cooking wholesome meals. For these pioneering women, architecture was a full time career, a profession they were passionate about and they were determined to make a mark in against all the odds. They were financially, intellectually and technically as adept as their male partners. It is about time their story was told. Equally yours Yasmin Shariff
Paul Finch has cut to the core. Instead of facilitating members the RIBA has become autocratic and a gatekeeper. The Doric Club had to fight tooth and nail to get together at Portland Place and as for RIBA-USA the Memorandum of Agreement has become a farce. Council has not even been permitted to hold its own dinner club! Democracy at the RIBA is Orwellian with some Council members on the Board are more equal than others. Elected Council members not on the Board have found it virtually impossible to represent members and had to resort to putting Motions to Council. Stephen is a good architect with a business brain and we will need his skills and commitment to turn around an Institute that has been running a deficit budget and frustrates its members initiatives rather than facilitating them.
We need all the friends we can get but not by snubbing existing members. Setting up the RIBA-USA required great energy and enthusiasm. It is a great shame that a row has broken out at a time when we desperately need to work hard to raise the profile of members and the institute. Members are the life blood of the RIBA and I hope that the new Council will resolve any differences so that the enthusiasm and energy of members is harnessed and not frustrated. Members here and abroad should feel that the RIBA will facilitate and support any initiative relevant to their context and not be an impediment.
Yes we need more homes, lots of them and urgently but this call seems like a cancerous growth of 'urban' extensions. If we upgrade our existing settlements we will not have to spend a fortune on infrastructure and any development fund can be spent on social cohesion projects. What we don't need is coffins for the living dead where housing is provided with plush bathrooms and little social connection. Great for accessing hearses but bereft of places to meet and greet, learn, waltz and work.
Its not just about cities in India- our cities are dehumanising the poor. Poor infrastructure, poor social housing investment, poor space standards and poor design aspirations = poor 2020 vision!