In his inaugural speech as riba president, Marco Goldschmied talked of the need to communicate with architecture's 'many audiences'. Past riba president Max Hutchinson is currently appealing to architects who have designed their own homes to appear on his tv show, while Scottish deputy culture minister Rhona Brankin is calling for an architectural equivalent of Changing Rooms. But is it really enough to push the idea that all publicity is good publicity? In his speech Goldschmied posed the question: 'Can't everybody do architecture with a planning form, a project manager, a bit of mdf and some diy videos?' Not surprisingly, he concluded that this was not the case - but only after 'agonised reflection over a period of many months'. What, then, is likely to be the conclusion reached by a lay person who is hardly likely to devote so much time to forming an opinion?
You don't get the medical profession calling for repeat runs of Casualty or organising community games of 'Operation' - the game where players used a fishing rod to hook brightly coloured plastic organs out of a small plastic doll. But then doctors are in the happy position of having a guaranteed supply of clients. There may be those who view them with suspicion, but a poor public profile is scarcely going to prevent people from turning to them when illness strikes. Left to their own devices, most people will happily go through life without ever feeling the urge to contact an architect. And some of them, presumably, will do an awful lot of building with mdf and diy. But the result might be dangerous, might be illegal, probably won't make the best use of available resources, and almost certainly won't look as good as it should.
Putting architecture on the telly might demystify the profession just a little too much. The years of training behind each design decision don't make good viewing. Ripping things down and putting things up do. This is the bit which is easy to copy. The message architects should be getting across is not that 'anyone can understand it.' It is that 'anyone can benefit from it - but architects do it best'.