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Headline

Serpentine Pavilion architect under fire over unpaid interns

Comment

Any architect can ‘move away from the RIBA’, simply by never joining it or resigning from it...it is just a private members’ club. The historical schism between the RIBA and ARB continues, with the former responsible, ostensibly, for education and the latter with a statutory duty to maintain the register of architects (protection of title only). The former institution has attempted to acquire the latter since its inception (1936), as control of the register conveys statutory power, and the levying of an obligatory annual fee from all practitioners. The approach of the RIBA attempts to mimic the much older legal profession, such as the four inns (Gray’s Inn; Lincolns Inn; Temple & Middle Temple) which contribute to the training of barristers (with the exception of the fact that barristers must be the member of an Inn, which calls them to the bar). The Bar Council levies an annual fee (on a sliding scale according to fee income) for barristers’ practise certificates. The legal profession has medieval roots, unlike the architectural profession which is a late-Victorian construct. Unfortunately, I think this historical distinction has led to a rather flawed approach for the architectural profession. Most successful professions attempt to limit their numbers to the best qualified, which usually ensures their sustainability and economic viability. Accountants do this and so do barristers, as there are only about 500 pupillages available for 1,500 ‘graduates’ of the BPTC each year (and the BPTC qualification is only valid for 5 years). This fact is conveyed transparently to aspirants in a ‘health warning’ about the competitive nature of the profession. I think a far more flexible and possibly lax approach has afflicted the architectural profession, in which no attempt is made to limit numbers, and new schools of architecture have proliferated in recent years. Not to mention the new RIBA apprenticeships. The withdrawal of RIBA Part I & II exemption from educational establishments is exceedingly rare (eg Hull College, recently). Consequently, we seem to have increasing numbers of acolytes entering a much diminished and marginalised profession, whose prospects and earnings are described as ‘mournful’ by practitioners in annual AJ surveys. The inequitable position of the aspirants and young professionals would seem to dictate against unionisation. Unions are weakened due to neoliberal legislation and diminished numbers anyway. The supply and demand dictates of this inelastic marketplace is leading, quite logically (if immorally) to exploitation and what can only be described as ‘workplace slavery’ in extreme examples. Internships are widespread, opportunities to some and exploitation to others, across many industries, with the carrot usually being a paid job at the end, or experience that might lead to the same elsewhere. Education and transparency, to allow aspirants to make more informed career choices, is one way to ameliorate some of the individual bad experiences. Legislation is another, and peer pressure yet another. Some people are well off enough to genuinely volunteer (eg some retirees), but are they denying an opportunity to a young aspirant or encouraging unpaid internships by doing that?

Posted date

27 March, 2019

Posted time

4:44 pm

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