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ARB will not take action over architect convicted during climate protest

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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. 

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’.

  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • Encouraging

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  • Is there a list of convictions they are going to publish so architects know how to break the law without incurring the wrath of the ARB? Protesting is one thing, making a public nuisance of himself, refusing to obey a police officer and getting a criminal conviction as a result is quite another. As an architect, I do not want the profession associated with criminals.

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  • Real change doesn't happen unless you have a real voice, take real action, and mean it.
    Business as usual will not solve anything.

    Architects who are taking action to awake a network of professionals whose collective action contributes to 42% of UK carbon emissions realise words are not enough and should be applauded.

    We must now take action beyond the much-needed awareness and protesting, all architects need to look at the work they do and ask themselves this simple question: ‘Does this project undermine the RIBA Climate Challenge for net-zero whole life carbon buildings by 2030?’

    If it does, then what are you doing about it?
    Are you actively informing your client what needs to change? If not, why not?

    And if they don’t agree then why are you not refusing the commission?
    Do to so will retain your professional integrity.

    In the future climate atrocities will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Save yourself future PI claims against design which undermines our climate, and take action now to protect our environment.

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  • As an architect, I do not want to profession associated with Murphy.

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  • I agree with Jonathan - I am 77 and have seen so many mistakes (my own included) during a lifetime in architecture which have taken us to this critical point. If you have to be a "criminal" to save the planet, then so be it. If our government thinks/is persuaded by lobbyists enough to put Extinction Rebellion on the list as terrorists then we have no hope.
    Unfortunately many architects and contractors are unscrupulous and appear to have no concern for future generations.

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