CTO Natura Materials Corporation (www.naturamaterials.com)
Phoenix AZ and Snowflake, AZ
Senior Sustainability Scientist, Arizona State University Global Institute of Sustainability, Tempe, Arizona
President, RIBA-USA Inc. (from 2016)
Also serve as Vice President and member of the executive team for MESA Indian Development Group (a Gila River Indian Community corporation devoted to increasing tribal economic sovereignty, sustainable development and cultural integrity).
Professional and academic qualifications span the fields of architecture, environmental physics and energy conservation, system dynamics and public health.
Comment on: Get rid of the Architects Registration Board
I agree with Paul Finch
The stupid and costly duplication that the ARB is attempting to engage in borders on a Douglas Adams Hitchiker's Guide chapter. Why on earth the RIBA didn't protect its full scope of responsibilities during t1990s reforms is beyond me.
I'm very much in favor of planning for the future and doing things that - hopefully - make our work and our profession better at what they do. But I, for one, think that in the same way that we should not throw out "old" tools, techniques and processes (you know..the ones that actually work) we should apply the same logic to reviving the appropriate relationship between ARCUK and the RIBA.
Oh..and there's one other thing too. How come that a spposed independent oversight agency making sure that architects are who they say they are etc, dump people off the register for not paying fees? If architects are compelled to be on the ARB register in order to practice their profession, why do they have to pay a fee to remain on it? If ARB membership were voluntary and was a "qualification" of value to the public then sure, have a fee structure. But when it's compulsory by government decree in order to practice as an architect, what the hell is the fee for? Are these fees deductible against gross income BTW?
Comment on: ‘First we storm the building, then we take back the asylum’: Allford slams ‘irrelevant’ RIBA
Reshaping the RIBA
As the current President of RIBA-USA and a Chartered Member of the RIBA (earned after the marathon of architecture school in the UK and passing Part III), it has been very distressing for me and hundreds of other British-educated architects to have our regional initiatives in education, exhibitions, public policy and research persistently sidelined and ignored, viewed it seems as more of an annoyance to be tolerated than worthwhile ideas to be embraced along with the work of members operating in other regions of the world. The RIBA should be as virtual, useful and pervasive as many of the tools we use today to communicate readily with each other - not just as a club geared toward the needs of those who happen to live close by in London. Our membership is global and the RIBA ought to be reflecting and supporting that reality.
Its always easy being a critic but I have to say that it has become increasingly frustrating to see our hard-earned Chartered Membership dues get spent on initiatives of dubious value to the profession, while the Institute appears content to stand idly by while the role, credibility and standing of its members in the eyes of the public and policy-makers, are persistently eroded and marginalized by a host of under qualified interlopers claiming to possess more relevant expertise - which, as we know, they mostly do not.
We know that the role of human habitat in the production of greenhouse gases, human health and wellbeing, and economic resilience is profound. So too is the role played by architects in the shaping of it; the engineering, production and precision assembly of the places and environments human beings inhabit for home, work, education, worship and play. After the necessarily long and multi-disciplined marathon of architectural education leading to RIBA Part III, it is beyond frustrating to see the RIBA, through its business and governance priorities, appear content to see society at large think that the role we play in the affairs of mankind is little more than an expensive, discretionary drafting service or as grey-clad extras in glorified fixer-upper DIY TV shows.
We are all facing a world that will likely be utterly transformed by the confluence of this latest pandemic and the fragile nature of global economies operating on vast mountains of complex debt and easily-broken supply chains of goods, services and materials of all kinds. On the other side of this pandemic (and there will be more like it waiting in the wings) it’s likely that some reset buttons will be pushed. Getting “back to normal” might not be one of them, implying as it does returning to the hyper-consumptive, just-in-time, profits-at-all-costs world that was brought to its knees by of all things, a virus. The role the RIBA should already be playing in advising elected representatives, and allied professions considering the kind of economy, way of living, type of commerce, global trade vs local production and so on, post pandemic, is without doubt a significant one. This role for the Institute, tapping into its membership base for expertise, isn’t just about upping the fees architects earn. It’s about the public duty of trust that every architect carries who passes RIBA Part III. If we remain a marginalized player entering a post pandemic world, how on earth are architects to properly and comprehensively discharge their public duties of trust and be properly compensated for the value they deliver? These duties pertain to human habitat and the places and environments that play such a profound role in the health and wellbeing of people and their ability to experience fulfilled, productive lives. These considerations, cascading out into scopes of work, continuing education, codes of professional conduct, advanced technology, accreditation and licensing etc., should be central to what the RIBA does. It should be among a small group of institutes that function as THE go-to professional bodies for advice and counsel on the remaking and re-shaping of society as we face massive challenges, many of-which, from pandemics, economic high rises built on decks of credit cards, and accelerating climate change, are of our species’ own making.
It’s very clear new leadership at the RIBA is long overdue and this includes leadership in governance too. Not every architect pursues a career designing buildings, core to our value, though, this most definitely is. Some, as I have, go into business, investment banking, manufacturing, engineering, public health, computational design, or other fields. But all of them, I’d venture to say, harbor a dedication to their original field - architecture - and are capable of delivering enduring value to the governance and business operations of the RIBA. There is a great deal more value to the RIBA in Its 40,000+ “Chartered Membership” than just annual revenues. It’s time to tap into this broad membership base of expertise and experience, and bring it’s value to bear on the mission, governance and operations of The RIBA
Reshaping the RIBA and its global role is, more than ever, a critical need. It has to be done by architects - not just for architects but for the public duty of care each of us carries. We cannot help to steer the ship if we are not on the bridge sharing the navigation of our species’ ways of living and the places we inhabit with other allied professionals and elected representatives.
It’s long past time for the RIBA to move the profession into a position where it is able to do more and to earn the trust of those we serve - not just the clients who pay us. The Institue should embody and reflect the wide variety of roles its Chartered Members play, and champion very directly the profound (and measurable) economic, social and ecological value they are able to deliver to society. Both the opportunity and the need exist right now to reshape the RIBA top to bottom so that the value of architects and the educational marathon each of us had to undergo can be delivered to society to the fullest extent possible.
The health and wellbeing of billions of lives depend on it.
Phil Allsopp, D.Arch, M.S.(public health), RIBA FRSA, CSBA
President, RIBA-USA, inc.
Chair, Phoenix and Southwestern USA Chapter
Its very hard to make a judgement call on good, bad or indifferent as far as RIBA Presidents go. We have an ineffective system of bringing in practitioners to serve for a short two year period during which time they appear to have little power or time to exert proper executive control over a bureaucracy which too often seems out of touch with the business and professional realities faced by architects and also by students.
I would advocate for a major change in governance whereby the President & Chief Executive Officer is a single role elected for a period much longer than the 2 year revolving door that currently exists; maybe a 5 year properly compensated term. The elected person would have the power to reshape the innards of the RIBA, and also the Institute's position relative to policy-making and legislation impacting human health and wellbeing, where built environments play a decisive role in almost all cases. Under the control of that Chief Executive/President role would also be education; an area in need of major overhaul in my mind so that graduates are significantly better equipped in the future in the sciences, the physics of built environments, human wellbeing and the design of human habitats, a deep knowledge and expertise in BIM and new laser scanning and digital photogrammetry technologies and business. If architects want to operate as orchestra conductors, they had better be able to read music and play a large number of the instruments before them.
My comments may to some be off topic but the question of whether or not a particular RIBA President was good or bad has a great deal to do with their ability and tenacity to shape governance changes, corporate strategy, education and public policy, all of which depend on talent, experience and the ability to occupy the role for more than the very short two year tenure as it stands today.
Frei Otto was a great architect and engineer. His structures are indeed inspiring in many ways - much more so than much of our built environment these days.
However, the great man deserves better than an obituary laced with dreadful archi-babble as exmplified by "His ‘form finding’ methodology of not only learning from nature but of directly harnessing nature via models that channel the forces of physics and materiality into morphogenetic processes was an amazing breakthrough that disrupted 3000 years of architectural reliance on simple geometric figures"...
Really? No wonder many in the general public and allied professions regard architects as out of touch, inarticulate people incapable of plain talk and obsessed with their precious creations.
Philip D. Allsopp, D.Arch, RIBA, FRSA
During my four-year tenure as President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (FLWF) and as President of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, I had to deal with the debilitating presence of competing Frank Lloyd Wright named charities. Many of these engaged in egregious violations of FLWF copyrights and trademarks, claiming falsely to be the true organization that Wright founded - which he most certainly did not. This situation meant that fund-raising for the FLWF was extremely difficult, not least because donors had a very hard time indeed understanding why there would be, for example, a "Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust" - created in Chicago around his home and studio historic house in Oak Park, and the "Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation", which was and remains the only entity that Wright himself created to preserve his works.
Harry Rich's idea of setting up a competing entity (now apparently ratified by the RIBA Board) is naive in the extreme and will create great confusion among potential US donors as to which entity is the "real" entity worthy of their support. The last thing donors want is to have their money "managed" by one entity. which takes a percentage off the top, and then sends a portion of their donation on to the entity the donors actually thought their money was supporting.
Collectively, the RIBA-USA Region has deep and enduring personal and professional connections in the United States born out of many decades of RIBA-USA members living and working here. Harry Rich's adventure in the United States to set up an organization intended to funnel money from US donors to the United Kingdom will most likely compromise extant RIBA-USA relationships. Just as I saw with the numerous "Frank Lloyd Wright" named organizations, a great deal of time-wasting, legal costs and confusion will likely result by the RIBA in London sanctioning the creation of another entity in the United States bearing the RIBA name and claiming to be something that it most certainly is not.
Phil Allsopp, RIBA, FRSA
Vice President, RIBA-USA Board of Directors