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Architects need to rediscover leadership role, says RIBA client report


Clients want architects to take back the lead on running and delivering projects, according to the RIBA’s latest piece of research

More than 100 housing developers, contractors, and local authorities felt that architects were key to the vision of a project.

The clients surveyed encouraged architects to rediscover the leadership role which it has lost to specialist managers in design-build procurement.

Partner at Argent Nick Searl, is quoted in the report: ‘Architects are the spiritual leaders in this process. Everyone wants you to do it. Believe in it and reassert.’

While Colin Tedder, technical director, at Bouygues UK, added: ‘Architects should champion design quality. That’s their primary function and their greatest skill. It’s important that they take the lead and recognise its importance in delivering their services.’

The report, which is Stephen Hodder’s last major piece of work before stepping down as RIBA president, said that architects needed to lead the way in showing clients how to unlock the value of their sites and should ‘find the keys to the hearts and minds of clients’.

It is the result of a two-year long project led by the outgoing president, which involved one-to-one interviews and roundtable discussions with a whole host of clients.  

The report also found that many clients feared architects really struggled to listen to their needs.

Inefficient, inaccurate, late, clumsy, badly managed, and poorly communicated processes were all blamed for creating difficult relationships with clients and affecting the success of the finished building.

While clients added that an architect who listens and understands would reduce their perception of risk.

Richard Cook, head of residential development at Lend Lease is quoted in the report: ‘We rehire practices that are creative within the brief, get on with the work, and listen.

‘They engage with the team, the place-making and the community. That is the real value add.’

Clients also felt that practices fell into two categories – the concept architect and the technical architect – and they struggled to find firms that could do both.

Many said they consistently had to replace the concept architect with a ‘safer pair of hands’ later down the line.

The full 44-page report is set to be launched at the RIBA on 15 September.


Readers' comments (4)

  • Maybe that's because some practices are actually set up in the (highly amusing) method described FAT last week!

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  • The questions are:
    1. Are architects going to rise to this challenge?
    2. Are clients willing to pay for the role?

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  • How is it that the RIBA weren't championing this for the last 10 years? Why are they surprised by this?
    This is what happens when you focus on architecture when clients want architects.
    Reminds me of the old Mastermind quote "..And your specialist subject?....'The bl**ding obvious"

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  • Skills4stem

    Maybe there should be greater investment in developing Architects leadership, communication and influencing skills with external stakeholders!

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