The ARB deals with individuals not practices, and its function is to ensure that only those deemed competent to use the title architect are permitted onto the register, and that anyone whose competence is found to be seriously inadequate or whose conduct is found to be unacceptable is removed. The ARB must also deal with those who 'misuse' title by claiming to be an architect when they are not registered.
This last obligation produces considerable ambiguities whenever obviously competent architects from overseas, despite being barred by our laws from using the title architect in the UK, are invited to practice here.Two such examples are Herzog & de Meuron, architects for the new Tate Modern at Bankside.
Some people may of course say that because they trained abroad they cannot (irrespective of their design skills) be competent in UK legislation and contract procedures and thus wouldn't meet Part 3 standards in terms of consumer protection.
But such views are hardly justifiable when you consider that the UK's membership of the European Community entitles 'architects' from any of the member states to use the title architect in the UK irrespective of their potential lack of knowledge of UK laws, contracts and so on. But Herzog & de Meuron are barred, not for these reasons, but solely because Switzerland (albeit a European country) is not a member of the EU, and they both trained in Zurich.
Clearly this all too often absurd situation seriously undermines the work of the ARB: Herzog & de Meuron can design a house for UK clients - as UKlaw does not restrict function - but they must not hold themselves out as architects in this country. Accordingly, if a project goes 'belly up' through their incompetence, they are exempt from any referral to the ARB.Whereistheconsumer protection here?
Such apparent inconsistencies also apply to people who, although trained overseas, have taken up residency here. Jan Kaplicky, founder of Future Systems and Stirling Prize winner, is one such case - he trained in former Czechoslovakia now devolved into two countries one of which (the Czech Republic comprising Bohemia and Moravia) is currently negotiating entry into the European Community.
This poses a tantalising question: Jan trained in Bohemia, so, if the new Czech Republic ultimately joins the EU, does this somehow improve his competence overnight as he will presumably be entitled to use the title architect forthwith within the UK? Or will only those who graduate from schools in the new Czech Republic post-EU membership enjoy such status? That would seem daft as EU membership is not based on the standard of a country's education being equivalent to, or better than, the prevailing standards elsewhere in Europe (excluding, of course, Switzerland! ) I make no criticism of the ARB in pointing out these matters for it has not created these anomalies. I merely draw attention to inconsistencies that need resolving. No good can come of requiring our registration board to operate unworkable legislation - it will only bring it into disrepute.What we need is a sober rev iew of the issue of title protection in the context of an increasingly global market arena.
Whatever some might think, the ARB does not exist to protect UK architects from foreign competition. It is there to protect the consumer by ensuring the competence and conduct of those who use the title architect. In the modern world that cannot be based on the presumption that only those who have passed their exams in UK schools qualify.
Thankfully, the RIBA has reconstructed its ARB working party and I have been included in its membership. Hopefully, it w i l l now be poss ib le to work c lose ly w ith the ARB in a long overdue effort to resolve these knotty problems in a way that protects the consumer, complies with EU legislation, ensures the reputation of our profession, and is fair to all the parties concerned.
But it won't be easy and much hard work lies ahead.