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Assael: 'Fee cutting and poor management cannot be blamed on society'

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John Assael of Assael Architecture has declared his support for AJ editor Christine Murray’s rallying call for architects to improve HR and charge for more services

In a letter to the AJ editor, he wrote:

‘I fully endorse your editorial (AJ 18.04.13) urging practices to ‘become truly professional’. It is surely taken for granted that architects must design good buildings that last and enrich our cities.  

‘What is so shocking are two aspects of architectural practice that one doesn’t see in other professions like solicitors and doctors; lack of financial stability and care for staff. In the past two years we have seen large and small practices fail – many of them AJ100 firms – like YRM, Archial, RMJM, Llewellyn Davis Yeang to name a few.
‘You are right to urge architects to charge for their services, but this is only the start; we need to charge the appropriate fees and to run our businesses prudently so that they survive in bad times as well as prosper in good times. Fee-cutting and poor management cannot be blamed on society – it is up to all of us to face up to our incompetence’s and get real. According to the RIBA Benchmarking Survey produced by Colander, 85% of architects don’t even have a business plan over a year; that says it all.   

‘And I also support your plea for architects to put ‘in place proper HR and support – decent maternity leave, pay scales, annual reviews and reasonable working hours.’ Paternity leave also needs to be addressed as well complying with RIBA policy in giving students an additional 10 days paid leave to take Part III – most firms don’t do this. Unless we can become more financially secure and treat our staff with respect, the more we will fall behind other professions who know what it means to be professional – integrity, competence, financial stability and ethical treatment of staff.  And here is a small example about how our professional status has become diminished – in the past architects like many professionals were trusted to sign passport photographs as a true likeness – well no more – we’ve lost the right to call ourselves professionals and your editorial highlights some of the reason for this sad state of affairs.  This great profession needs to wake up and change its ways.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • John Kellett

    A sensible view. However solicitors and doctors have ‘protection of function’ in order to protect the public. The public has very little protection from fraudsters and charlatans misleading their clients into believing that they are architects.
    Unfortunately many people believe that it already is illegal for unqualified people to design buildings and therefore see no difference between an architect and an ‘architectural designer’. In my County ‘architectural designers’ are even being given commissions for schools and healthcare projects.

    With moves by the medical profession to increase the coverage of registration (into cosmetic procedures etc) and the call by the Archbishop of Canterbury for bankers to be required to be qualified, the construction professions should be lobbying for a requirement for building designers to be suitably qualified.

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