I am writing to express both my surprise and delight concerning the interview with Rab Bennetts detailed in 'Prima donnas need not apply', in aj 3.2.00. I am surprised at the lack of letters in subsequent editions of the aj discussing this excellent article. But I was delighted to read such sensible views being expressed by a leading architect rather than the usual sense of self-importance we architects can suffer from.
The comments from Bennetts that architects should develop 'a healthy respect' for other construction professionals (including main contractors, subcontractors and even the guys on site) should be applauded. None of us should be so opinionated not to realise that we can, and should, learn from people who have built our creations. After all, architecture is surely about the actual built form and the spaces and sensations it creates, rather than any visual image (be it created on paper or in a computer).
I also found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with his comments concerning young architects. Without wanting to sound like a fuddy-duddy (having been a practising architect for 20 years), I think Bennetts is right to highlight what seems to the 'de-skilling' of our profession. I find many young architects want to be in charge of the design from day one, without having first learned about the 'nuts and bolts' of building. I firmly believe that you must first learn how to put a building together before you can truly design. Students leaving university do not have the construction skills to be able to achieve this and so it falls on 'the office' to take on this responsibilty. This can be a potentially hazardous process. Having realised there is a problem within the profession, how can it be addressed? As a working architect one often feels isolated from the educational world of the universities and the riba, or is there a way we can help?
The profession must address this issue in this new Egan age of 'lean construction' and 'getting it right first time' if the profession cannot train its young architects well. If we don't address this now we may, despite the best efforts of architects like Rab Bennetts, loose even more control of the design process rather than gaining greater control.
Stuart P Barlow, Tring