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Amanda Levete: Architects have allowed project managers to ‘take over’ their role

Annual lecture amanda levete 35

Amanda Levete has urged architects to stop allowing project managers to ‘take over’ the design process

Speaking to a packed crowd at the annual New London Architecture lecture, held at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington yesterday evening (6 June), the Stirling-prize winning architect said the profession must act to prevent the further ‘erosion’ of the architects’ role.

Echoing comments made by dRRM director Sadie Morgan, who earlier this year warned architects not to ‘sleepwalk into irrelevance’, Levete said: ‘As a profession, we have sleepwalked into it and we’ve let project managers take over the role we used to hold.’

She added: ’Once you’ve lost the direct relationship [between client and architect] it becomes a more transactional one, a more contractual one, and a much more defensive one.

‘I think we need to try and break down those preconceptions of defensive relationships because contracts are set out to be adversarial and it’s the wrong way of beginning. So you have to overcome that hurdle.’

Levete also spoke about issues surrounding design competitions and urged architects to be ‘more entrepreneurial’.

She said: ‘The competition system is so demanding of so many people, for very little money, but we’re obliged to do it. I think there are new ways we could begin to explore and I think that the role of the architect now is to be more entrepreneurial.

‘Can we, together with a network of consultants, not identify the unmet need, find the site, put together the funding and then do it? There is so much money out there.’ 

Levete also spoke about her award-winning work including a detailed presentation on the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon and the overhaul of the Victoria and Albert Museum .

The event was one of the headline events of the London Festival of Architecture, which continues throughout June.


Readers' comments (6)

  • Kevan Shaw

    I totally agree with this however clients need to stop appointing the project manager and QS directly and have them appointed through the design team, i.e. under the architect. The concern seems to be that unless the client maintains separate control costs will be unconstrained. This may happen with a few architects who are too egotistical but the majority are responsible and consider the building, the client and the users properly.

    Kevan Shaw

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  • John Kellett

    I agree with article and would argue that there are three VERY distinct 'project' management tasks for any building project. The first is Brief Management, a client task that architects are best qualified to assist with. The second is Design Management which is an architects key roll. Lastly Construction Management which is best managed by the Main Contractor. The three tasks align completely with the principle CDM roles too. In my experience PMs 'managing' all three is a pointless task sucking a fee from the project completely unnecessarily. Given a proper and fair fee the architect can easily carry out the first two 'project' management roles without interference from a PM appointed superfluously for all three very different 'project management' roles that are best carried out by those best qualified to: the client, the architect and the builder.

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  • Has anyone attended the talk? I am interested to know more about how the architect can be entrepreneurial, any further info on this topic from this conference?

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  • Phil Parker

    Good debate to be having - we need more of it.

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  • Haven't architects known this for a rather long time? I'm struggling to see how this is news......

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  • As Paul Iddon says, nothing new here, and RIBA has done almost nothing to defend Members who have spent entire careers delivering projects on time and to budget, against the irritation of people who, with limited knowledge of the iterative and indivisible subtleties of design and construction, intervene with irrelevant questions and chivy the wrong people at the wrong time. It might soon be discovered that diluting clear lines of responsibility and making liabilities opaque and dispersed, or introducing 'value engineering' as an afterthought, can lead to horrifying tragedies with everyone, and no specific party, held to blame.

    An aside; this separate 'discipline' only arose in the early 90s when architects became 50% under or un-employed, and QSs' workloads collapsed to almost zero It is as inexplicable as cost control being outside (unique to the UK) the design studio where, as Kevan Shaw implies, it should be embedded from first sketches. It's not hard to include "Project Management and Cost Control" expertise on the website headings...

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