The ARB has told an Extinction Rebellion architect convicted of a public order offence that it will not take any disciplinary action against him, and that it is reviewing what all architects need to be taught about sustainability and the carbon agenda
Tom Bennett, an architect at Hackney-based Studio Bark, was found guilty of a public order offence last month after he refused to stop lying in the road during an Extinction Rebellion protest in April.
Yesterday (10 December) Bennett visited the ARB’s headquarters in Weymouth Street, Marylebone, to formally notify the regulator of his conviction. A further 20 protesters, organised by Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN), delivered an open letter in support of Bennett.
The letter stated that Tom had ‘acted with conscientiousness, honesty and integrity’ and should not face any subsequent punishment from the board. Signed by almost 400 people, it was handed to the ARB’s registrar and chief executive Karen Holmes.
Speaking outside the ARB’s offices, Holmes described the protest as a ‘great opportunity to start a conversation’ and revealed: ‘We are doing some work on climate change, in terms of criteria for education.’
She added: ‘There is a focus group that is going to specifically look at whether [climate change] is sufficiently in the criteria. It is due to meet in January.’
Holmes also said the ARB was going to ‘issue some guidance, particularly around protesting’ next week, to clarify how it will treat architects with criminal convictions.
‘The code of conduct does not stop you from protesting,’ she emphasised.
In a tweet published this morning (11 December) ACAN said the ARB had assured Bennett it would not be punishing him. The ARB confirmed it would take no further action against Bennett.
Solidarity with Tom Bennett! We hand delivered our letter of support with 395 signatories to @arb1997UK yesterday. Its now at 500 signed! They have assured us: no punishment, and are preparing some guidance for architect protestors. Thanks all! #vanlophoto pic.twitter.com/See9KzwbuJ— Architects Climate Action Network (@ArchitectsCAN) December 11, 2019
ARB head of professional standards Simon Howard told the AJ that treatment of convictions was centred around integrity.
‘The code is a set of principles, so as long as you don’t breach those principles [you are fine]’, he said. ‘As long as you act with integrity – that’s the key.’
An ACAN spokesperson told Holmes and Howard yesterday: ‘We do realise the importance the ARB has, and the duty of care us [architecture] professionals have.’
Bennett told Howard, Holmes and the protesters that before being arrested he had ‘slipped into a state of despair, that we were never going to do anything as a society to address climate change’.
He added that he had not originally planned to get arrested, but changed his mind because he thought arrests were needed to ‘have the media coverage and the impact I thought was necessary’.