RIBA president Ruth Reed has been told by Whitehall insiders that the government thinks there are too many architects in the profession
Speaking at a RIBA student pay and conditions debate last night (21 June) the outgoing president of the institute raised concern that calls to boost government architecture funding had fallen on deaf ears and said she had been told by sources: ‘There are simply too many of you.’
Reed, who has petitioned universities minister David Willets to improve funding for architecture schools, declined to reveal where the comments had come from but confirmed they were not said by a politician.
She pointed to the increasing cost of architectural education and said: ‘There is no way we can support the skills society will need from us in a boom.’
She said: ‘I’m not sure we’ve been heard. I’ve had it said back to me: “There are simply too many of you”.
She added: ‘Designers of this country are exported all over the world. Creative thinking is our export, don’t lose sight of that.
‘We need to keep educating people in architecture regardless of whether the government thinks there are too many architects at the moment.’
The revelations come as the RIBA revealed plans to launch a new initiative later next month demonstrating the value of good design to the economy.
A document featuring case studies will be published at an event attended by architecture minister John Penrose.
Nick Willson of Nick Willson Architects said: ‘At the moment there are too many Architects as there is not a lot of work due to the recession. However when things pick up properly we may have a shortage.
‘This shortage will be caused by two things, one people leaving the profession as in the 90’s and secondly less students taking on Architecture due to the high fees and costs of studying Architecture.
‘This will mean that there are fewer Architects chasing the work. This could possibly increase fees due to demand and supply ratios.
‘A bigger issue is proving and explaining to the government and others the value of good Architecture, design and the good that this does for peoples’ lives, good schools, housing etc. And that Architects don’t just apply “lipstick” to a building!’
Alex Ely, partner at Mae said: ‘I’m not sure how it is any business of government but I’m inclined to agree. Since Government abolished polytechnics students who would make better technicians are training as architects. Consequently the oversupply has resulted in low pay for architects. We need to make architectural technology as desirable a profession as architecture to balance out supply and demand.’
Pol Gallagher of ZAP Architecture said: ‘We find ourselves in a time where the gearing mechanisms that control the input and output of architectural graduates are grossly imbalanced, but that should not diversify opinion that the course is one of the most rewarding and enriching skill-sets available to equip a “creative” to approach many aspects of paid labour.
‘It is the students need to evolve and become “FLUID” within the poorly geared current system which must prevail. The RIBA are positively reinforcing this fluidity with new rules on legitimate PEDR experience.’
Part 1 graduate Alex Maxwell added: ‘The only hope is that some dogmatic shifts during BA/Part 1 [study] encourage and enlighten students that there are more roads to travel than Part II, III etc. and that taking initiative on different methods of practice and design is equally if not more rewarding, both personally and socially.’
Postscript, Ruth Reed’s comment
There is currently a perception in some Whitehall circles that there are too many architects chasing too little work, which is inevitable in a recession. However, even if there are fewer jobs in the traditional role, architect’s skills are needed in the wider restructuring of the construction industry as outlined in the Government’s response to the Low Carbon Construction Innovation and Growth Team (IGT) report this morning.
Ruth Reed, RIBA President