Douglas Read is absolutely right in saying that protection of function is a prize worth fighting for, but a million miles from the truth in implying that architects will first have to win the trust of the public by abrogating control of education and practice to the ARB to do so (AJ 23.02.06). On the face of it, Read's letter seems a reasonable exposition of the view that architects must 'rst serve the consumer, but the claim that the ARB has anything other than the most limited role in consumer protection doesn't stand up.
When the government's Warne Report was published a decade ago, it found no need for an independent body to police the profession. This was because the degree of knowledge and competence of the profession as exemplified in the performance of its institute, allied with the vast array of public controls that exist, rendered the need for further safeguards superfluous. The report recommended that ARCUK be abolished and that the profession be self regulating and keep its own register.
Sadly, the new body regarded simply keeping a register and prosecuting sundry surveyors and plan-drawers for stupidly calling themselves 'architect', instead of the grander-sounding 'architectural consultant', as boring, and it presented no opportunity for expanding the organisation's power. So the ARB rebranded itself as a consumer organisation, pledged to play a watchdog role, and set about savaging the architects who, ironically, financed it.
The ARB is unqualified to represent the consumer and certainly has no understanding of the ethos promoted by the RIBA, that architects have a wider public and environmental duty than simply serving their immediate paymasters. Instead, its selfimportant and self-serving opportunistic attempts to supplant the role of the RIBA, (widely regarded overseas as the world's most prestigious architectural institute), and its feral pursuit through the courts (using your money) of those who question its rights to expansion, all testify to the moral bankruptcy of an organisation which then has the effrontery to claim the moral high ground.
In these circumstances, appeasement, however well intentioned or dressed up as 'constructive engagement', is inappropriate and taints all those who advocate it. My message to Douglas Read is that the best way in which we can serve the public is not to appease the ARB, but to reform it.
George Oldham, by email