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RIAS presidential contenders submit to member grilling

May 26 2020

RIAS presidential contenders submit to member grilling
Three candidates vying to be the next president of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) are to participate in a web-based hustings on Thursday 28 May at 1300.
Up for consideration is Christina Gaiger of Helen Lucas Architects who has vowed to continue reforms introduced by Robin Webster while building a new architectural network to promote a pan-profession agenda and establish a 'role models' programme in support of new entrants to the profession while vowing to lobby for VAT applied to retrofit refurbishment to be brought in line with new builds.
Gaiger said: "It's not been so long that I don't remember what it's like to be at university or find that first job and I'm not in an elevated career position. I'm a passionate architect passionate about design and the creative re-use of buildings.
"I'm someone who will listen, reason, lead and hopefully inspire."
Karen Pickering of Page\Park will also be fielding questions on the day, having vowed to bring her business acumen to the body by lobbying for changes in procurement to prevent the right architects from being disadvantaged in her pitch for votes.
In a bid to oversee a more inclusive approach Pickering would also reach out to schools to involve students at a younger age in the work of the incorporation. Pickering will also push for the regulation of CPD training to be undertaken in Scotland in an effort to bring the science of architecture to the fore - not just the art and craft.
Pickering said: "I've been at Page\Park now for 28 years, I'm chair of the board of directors and so I understand what skills and governance are required to run a successful organisation.
"It's not being in this role, it's actually about doing something in this role."
Presenting himself as an established voice within the RIAS Gordon Smith has vowed to put the climate crisis to the forefront of his election campaign, while decentralising operations away from the Edinburgh/Glasgow duopoly and pushing for the RIAS to play a more defined role as an architects union.
Smith has also pledged to make working in architecture a positive career choice for everyone by stamping out sexism, discrimination, long hours and unpaid overtime.
He said: "The post requires an individual willing to spend time engaging with members. Over 35 years in practice and 20 years of experience serving the RIAS I have an understanding of the particular challenges facing architects."
The successful candidate will be named during the RIAS AGM on 30 June.


Nairn's Bairn
#1 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 26 May 2020 at 14:12 PM
Good luck to one and all. Lots of noises about encouraging people to the profession - perhaps they could expand on the Office-Based Examination and bring it up to Scotland? This would better enable those already within the industry to progress while working?

Also - excellent mustard/blurred/absurd lockdown photographs there, David Bailey eat your heart out.
robert menzies
#2 Posted by robert menzies on 27 May 2020 at 13:36 PM
"Karen Pickering of Page\Park will also be fielding questions on the day, having vowed to bring her business acumen to the body by lobbying for changes in procurement to prevent the right architects from being disadvantaged in her pitch for votes".

I have major concerns when I see phrases such as "the right architect" being used as it implies a discriminatory standard. Who determines what a "right" architect is ?

The whole basis of EU procurement is based on non-discrimination and the rules for assessing bids are based on that. (I've already pointed out to the RIAS that trying to limit participation to locally based architects in some design competitions breaches current procurement legislation if its a public project).

Is it too much to ask that we have people in place who know what they are doing before coming out with such proposals ?

It's also frankly appalling to watch the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and see how Studio E Architects manipulated EU rules so as to be awarded a contract that they were unfit to execute. Did we get the "right" architect there because they were a design studio ?

I fear more of the same will happen when we leave the EU regardless of any promises made. The presumption that there are "right" and "wrong" architects cannot be proved because to do so you would have to demolish any unsatisfactory building and try again with no guarantee that the outcome would be any different.

You are essentially gerrymandering the process to suit a personal agenda, regardless as to how worthwhile the perceived objective is.

I could not vote for this candidate.
#3 Posted by mick on 27 May 2020 at 17:38 PM
Imagine for a moment being a recently graduated, or indeed post Part 111, architecture student viewing the statements from the three RIAS candidates. I suggest that the comments of all three are wholly inadequate in vision, understanding and aspiration.
Gaiger, issues hollow mutterings for perpetuation of discredited institutional continuity with micro adjustments.

Pickering on the other hand obviously is primarily focussed on procurement adjustments seemingly unaware of the much bigger picture of rampant professional impotency.

Smith has unfortunately not wakened up to the fact that he and his like actually epitomise what is wrong with our profession.
To all three individuals I would say wake up and recognise that our professional bodies are, in their present form, an irrelevant intrusion into a world where the landscape of responsibilities, continuity and financial understanding prevail. Committee structures present little hope for awakening or improvement.
To the three I would say please reconsider your position and drop the ego now.
#4 Posted by StyleCouncil on 27 May 2020 at 20:45 PM
The regressive suggestion of an ‘Architects Union’, combined with THAT shirt has really put me off no3, and I am bored to tears by the other two already.
Is there a fourth candidate?... please
#5 Posted by mick on 29 May 2020 at 14:07 PM
The remarkable paucity of reader response to this subject must surely demonstrate to the three potential candidates how irrelevant the RIAS actually is. Stand down now, read some more, start drawing again and redirect your life to something meaningful.
Fin controller
#6 Posted by Fin controller on 29 May 2020 at 19:34 PM
#5 Mick! Is that you?
#7 Posted by mick on 29 May 2020 at 21:33 PM
#6 Yes it is as I am clearly aggrieved concerning the subject involved.
#8 Posted by Geoff on 30 May 2020 at 10:51 AM
#2 it would be funny if it wasn’t so true, I’m not sure political awareness has ever registered there. #blush

Christina Gaiger came across very well in my eyes. A very articulate and confident young woman. Out with the old and in with the new. #GaigerforPresident.

robert menzies
#9 Posted by robert menzies on 30 May 2020 at 11:30 AM
I was frankly expecting to be pilloried for daring to criticise those who seek to be 'El Presidente'. The fact that my views are being endorsed rather than challenged speaks volumes for 'the paucity' of choice as put by one respondent.
As an architect who worked on a building awarded a carbuncle by persons unknown I presume that I must be one of the 'wrong' architects.
Yet the anonymous people who gave us this award never toured the building, nor asked to see the brief, nor even picked up a 'phone to vent their spleen. We never even got handed the alleged award. We only read about it in the press.
In the wake of this criticism, the planners sent us a letter from the Royal Fine Arts Commission regretting that "the delight" of our original design (their words) had been lost due to savage cost cutting. Indeed I wrote many letters to the main contractor complaining that the alterations he was making to reduce costs were 'simply unacceptable' in a public building (it was D&B). Needless to say I was always overruled. None of this was of course published ("commercially confidential" so not even our client saw my complaints) so there was no context when the "award" was made.
Yet I understood where the main contractor was coming from as his team were under severe pressure to contain costs.
I was looking at it from our clients' point of view in that the long term costs would be much higher due to the greater maintenance and shorter life span of the materials used as substitutes. But he too was only interested in delivering on time and to cost regardless to meet political considerations.
The contractor's lead project manager advised in turn that his bosses were accountants who were under pressure from shareholders to contain losses. Few if any were qualified in construction. They'd been installed to contain costs and were not given to listening to those at the coalface with construction experience. Those of us at the coalface were left trying to synchronise our efforts whilst the head honchos sat in isolation defending their legal positions.
The idea that changing the procurement process by installing the "right" architect is for the birds because it fails to face the fact that architecture is a team effort and claiming that buildings that you find unsatisfactory are the result of D&B or PFI are a distraction and does not explain why some procured this way get nominated for awards e.g Rab Benett's Brighton library.
Procurement needs reform yes, but you won't get that by merely re-arranging the deck chairs within the process. From my 50 years of experience it tends to be people as much as process that cause issue to arise.
Equally I fail to see the point of having a 'design champion' appended to the team when they have no experience of designing the building type in question nor are they able to cost their "improvements". What is the point of their presence other than to tick a box for achieving compliance with the design equivalent of gesture politics ?
Until we get people who can reconcile the competing processes involved in delivering a building then voting for any of the above is indeed pointless.
Neil McAllister
#10 Posted by Neil McAllister on 31 May 2020 at 19:10 PM
If any of you thought there were better candidates out there you were free to nominate them. These are the candidates who are available to vote for because these are the people who decided to do something, get involved and stand for election rather than moaning from the sidelines.

If you have better policies, I hope to read your statement at the next election.
robert menzies
#11 Posted by robert menzies on 1 Jun 2020 at 00:25 AM
What is the point in standing for election when views like the ones highlighted are entrenched within so much of the profession ?

I have been an RIAS member for 50 years and have attended the annual conference till it got to the point where I was drowning in disillusionment.

Endless pontificating about the future of architecture but precious little in the way of initiatives to counter fee scales being driven down to the point where you are doing well to break even.

I sat at a meeting where the M&E consultant announced he would not be attending any more meetings as he'd used up his fee scale !

And he didn't - leaving me to sort out electrical issues with the sub-contractor. As head of the design team I couldn't do the same without risking a professional misconduct charge.

So we lost money. Something I warned our chairman about when I heard he'd agreed a fee scale of only 4.5% for a very complex build. We went bust not long afterwards, just after I was made redundant in fact.

But hey, don't let me stop you waffling on about 'space' and 'context'. And good luck with the 2m separation at conference.......

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