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Professional life facing a big challenge

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In his stimulating new book, Architectural Knowledge (E & F N Spon), Frank Duffy concludes that 'one of the most powerful instruments for developing, applying and transmitting knowledge ever invented, the professional institute, has an enormous amount of potential and is likely to have a much more central place in the society of the twenty-first century. The price will be the re-wiring of all conventional professional procedures . . . The idea of a knowledge-based architectural profession will be catalytic in an increasingly knowledge-based society.' To which one can only respond: let's hope so.

The continuing debate over the relationship between the professional institute and the Architects Registration Board, despite all the comforting noises made in public, looks as though it may intensify, particularly in respect of education. There are some who would like, for whatever reason, to see the registration fee increased substantially (£100 pa in the not- so-distant future is one suggestion). Such an increase would have the inevitable effect of discouraging membership of the riba. And it would place the registration board on an alternative pedestal, making it supreme in all matters of practice and education, and leaving the riba as a 'learned society'.

In his book, Duffy notes the twentieth-century habit of splitting problems into smaller and smaller boxes, dealing with each as though it were independent of all the others. He points out how limiting this approach is, instead asking, as it were, for more joined-up writing, and an approach which recognises the impact of universal access to information and the synchronicity of activities in the architect's approach to the world. That approach must include the professional context in which architects work; this is a book which all those concerned with the registration board should read and digest. It is not their remit to take actions which put them on a collision course with Portland Place.

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