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Scottish architects split over £1,000 festival payment

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Scottish architects are split over a request by the RIAS for funding to support its Architecture Festival in 2016

Each practice in Scotland has been asked to contribute an ‘optional’ £1,000 towards the cost of the institute’s Festival of Architecture which will take place in just over a year.

The event, which has received the backing of the Scottish Government, aims to raise ‘awareness of the importance of a well-built environment and help inform communities throughout Scotland of the economic and social benefits of good architecture’.

The year-long celebration will also mark the centenary of the RIAS, and will include events, commissions, education programmes, pop-up architecture, and competitions.

RIAS secretary Neil Baxter admitted funding the festival was ‘a challenge’ and that, as well as asking for contributions from local practices, the organisation had also approached public, commercial, construction industry and charitable funders.

He said that it was agreed by the RIAS Council to approach practices regardless of size.

Baxter said: ‘Happily many [practices] are responding positively, a good number have given and many others have indicated willing. Some, who cannot afford it, even over three years (tax deductible), have proffered to volunteer, in kind support, which is great.

‘At the end of the piece the practice contributions will be circa five per cent of the total cost. Given that all architects in Scotland should be substantial beneficiaries of the festival that seems reasonable.’

But Scottish architects are split over whether to pay the £1,000 contribution.

Small practice founder Kieran Gaffney, of Edinburgh-based Konishi Gaffney thought the RIAS needed to do more to sell the idea to practices.

He said: ‘We received a mail-out asking all practices to pay £1,000 towards the Festival of Architecture 2016. That arrived in October I think. I was surprised and a bit taken aback that this had dropped on our doorstep without any other word having arrived.

I already pay several hundred pounds for not very much

‘My advice to the RIAS is to improve their communication, this kind of thing should be done by building consensus, asking around, getting people on board and explaining how the money will be spent and what outcomes we might expect. Instead we get what feels like a council demand notice.

Gaffney added: ‘This is a lot of money, it would buy us a laser cutter or a Part 1 assistant for about three weeks. The RIAS need to sell it to us as a business proposition and I’ll decide on that basis, not as a requirement of membership - I already pay several hundred pounds for not very much in my opinion.’

While Glasgow-based Alan Dunlop said he would not be paying the £1,000. He said: ‘As a fellow of the RIAS I contribute a significant amount every year in my membership subs. Almost £500, for this I receive a quarterly magazine and not much else. I am not aware of any contribution that the RIAS has made towards the development  of my studio or being supportive of me as an architect.

‘In fact, and as a whole, the organisation has sadly little effect on the Scottish Government or the profession in Scotland. The most pressing problem facing architects in Scotland is the flawed procurement process which the RIAS has done little or nothing to address.’

But Stallan Brand has paid the £1,000. Its director Paul Stallan said the move was ‘a leap of faith’ for the practice.

He added: ‘We are not entirely clear what the Festival programme includes for or how we might participate. I do know that the team at the RIAS are especially committed to public engagement which can only help the profession. We are looking forward to getting involved in some capacity.’

Ben Addy of Moxon Architects, agreed: ‘We will be paying it. I think it’s fairly straightforward – we have supported similar things in the past and would look to do the same in the future.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I don't know where Alan Dunlop has been for the last 30 years. He certainly hasn't attended an RIAS Convention, CPD event or used RIAS Practice Services by the sounds of it. Perhaps he's not seen the RIAS President's commission findings on Procurement published in 2011? I think the RIAS offers excellent value for money. It does a remarkable amount with a modest budget and I for one feel it is definitely batting for the profession here in Scotland.

    Jim Sutherland, Redman Sutherland Architects

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  • I'm happy you're content Jim. True, I have not attended a convention since 2004 and it will probably be another ten years before I attend another. Yet I 'd be interested if you could suggest another architect who has written more positively about architects and architecture in Scotland in recent years. I'm up to my neck in CPD.

    However, I have read the 2011 document and as far as I can detect the publication has had absolutely no influence on the Scottish Government or public procurement in Scotland:

    Small and medium sized practices still are still restricted or barred entry; Design quality of new buildings and fitness for purpose has not significantly improved, The Scottish Futures Trust or "Hub"s are driven by bottom line economics not design quality ; We are no clearer on the expertise of those judging PQQ's or those involved in the final tender selection of public sector procurement process.

    However,as the profession is dogged by a lack of respect, which has resulting in low fees and long hours, the Presidents call for pricing, reliability and value for money in the process seems to have had an effect but not in the way anticipated, I suspect.

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