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Radical conservatism is not institute Luddism

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Letters

It is a novel experience for me to be accused of arch-conservatism (see Alex Reid's letter, AJ 23. 11. 00). My objection to the scrapping of committees in 1998 was because it was not the sort of selective cull which most organisations need at regular intervals. It was an attempt to externalise, shrink to vestigial proportions, or disempower many activities which are vital to the role of the institute and the spread of members'interests. They were invited to become 'unlinked' or expelled societies.

These groups included housing, community architecture, women architects, conservation, architects in industry and commerce, and public sector architects. These activities, represented as 'low impact', had ensured that the RIBA was represented at minimal cost on various bodies and at exhibitions and conferences. The main cost of this work is borne by the members, who donate their time.

Reid's proposals included the closing down of the public affairs board, since reinstated (under a different title), together with many committees scrapped in 1998, on the wise insistence of Marco Goldschmied.

Most fundamentally, this overhaul of the mechanics of the institute was brought forward without the guidance of an agreed strategic vision. It was presented as a cost-cutting exercise, as was the amalgamation of the education and practice departments, an initiative of Reid's later reversed when, predictably, it was found to be unworkable.

To the extent that I believe there is an irreducible core of work which the institute needs to cover, I am conservative. The strategies and tools it uses must vary with circumstances. I do not accept that these are the attitudes of a Luddite.

Kate Macintosh, Finch Macintosh Architects, Winchester, Hampshire

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