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Richard Murphy: Scotland is 'worst country' in Europe to be an architect

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Richard Murphy, whose Edinburgh home was last week named 2016 RIBA House of the Year, has called Scotland one of the ‘worst countries in Europe to be an architect’ 

Speaking to The Herald on Friday, Murphy criticised the Scottish government’s procurement strategy, told young designers to leave the country and warned of a ‘big slow down’ in work for architects. 

‘The big problem with the public sector is that the government has set up a procurement system [where] it doesn’t matter how good you are, you cannot get a job – they favour the big commercial practices, and this has spread to universities,’ he said.

‘There is an enormous hypocrisy in Scotland; you have an architecture policy, an architecture unit [in government], and at the same time a policy which is putting design practices out of business.’

He added: ‘You cannot do a good building without a good client, so Scotland is one of the worst countries in Europe to be an architect now.’ 

Murphy also advised young architects: ‘Leave, get out – there is no future. I am sorry to say that because there are some really talented young architects. We find it really tough.’

Murphy, who was elected to RIBA Council earlier this year, also told the AJ that he would use his position on the practice and profession committee to lobby for a new procurement code.

Speaking to the AJ, he said: ‘We now have a system in place – both in Scotland and the rest of the UK – which has now got virtually nothing to do with selecting architects for their skills.

‘You will go to an interview now, and 90 per cent of the points are on project management skills – with just 10 per cent on design experience. I feel very sorry for young architects; they can’t now progress past small-scale small domestic work.’

Murphy also criticised the growing practice of only allowing architects to mention their projects completed in the past three years.

‘Our biggest building was five years ago, but we are not allowed to mention it,’ he said.

‘What they should really be asking is whether the person in charge has experience of doing another building at any point of their career.’

Murphy praised other European countries – including Iceland and Germany – for their procurement systems, which he said do more to promote open competition.

Last week, Murphy’s own home in Edinburgh was crowned 2016 RIBA House of the Year.

Described by RIBA president Jane Duncan as ‘part jigsaw puzzle and part Wallace and Gromit’, the house features a series of unexpected places and moving walls. 

Murphy’s practice, Richard Murphy Architects, has designed a number of leading Scottish buildings, including the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre in Dundee. 

In August, planners approved his firm’s proposal to transform the Category A-listed Thomas Hamilton-designed Royal High School on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, into a new home for St Mary’s Music School. 

The scheme is being billed as a ‘viable alternative’ to Hoskins Architects’ controversial £75 million hotel redevelopment plans for the disused 1829 masterpiece overlooking the Scottish capital, which planners narrowly rejected last year. 

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • MacKenzie Architects

    Troo dat.

    Since Devolution, Scotland has had a a great opportunity to free up lots of procurement attitudes, but steadfastly refuses to think outside of the heavy-admin box.
    It is a probably a Keltic culture thing -trust nobody and delegate no authority.

    A wee country where everyone knows yer maw, should be capable of simple and imaginative commissioning, brief-writing, planning, construction laws, funding and whatever and everyone would work to high ideals.
    (everyone is afraid of bringing shame to their ma)

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