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New era for the RIAS as Christina Gaiger is elected president

June 29 2020

New era for the RIAS as Christina Gaiger is elected president

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland has undergone a generational shift with the appointment of Christina Gaiger as president, the youngest person ever to hold the role.

Gaiger went head-to-head with Karen Pickering and Gordon Smith for the position, having set out her stall as a champion of reform in areas such as establishing a ‘role models’ programme to encourage young architects and lobbying for VAT applied  to retrofit and refurbishment to be brought in line with new build.

Gaiger commented:“I am delighted and honoured to become the next President of the RIAS and lead the incorporation into a more engaging, relevant and forward-thinking future.
“Those who know me, are aware that I am rarely lost for words. The support from the membership was overwhelming and the clear message for a bolder direction left me speechless and filled with hope. I wish to thank everyone who supported me and took the time to vote. I also wish to thank our outgoing President Robin Webster for laying the groundwork for reform, alongside Gordon Smith and Karen Pickering for an engaging campaign and election process.

“The hard work begins now. I look forward to building a supportive architectural network and to use our platform for stronger advocacy. To publicly stand up for architecture, architects, quality and diversity across Scotland.”

Gaiger has enjoyed a cosmpolitan career, working for Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Paris and TsAO & McKOWN Architects in New York before returning to Edinburgh in 2014 to work for Helen Lucas Architects, building a specialism in architectural conservation.


Photograph by Angus Bremner


#1 Posted by mick on 30 Jun 2020 at 17:09 PM
My serious advice to this young lady is : A If you really wish to change this moribund institute flush that bloody chain of office down the nearest toilet. It is a constant reminder of a bygone and irrelevant badge culture.
B Halt the illusion of ability distinction by scrapping the pseudo Fellow categorisation. C Be innovative, stand up and challenge both the RIBA and Government by demonstrating that present infantile procurement systems are damaging outputs, methods and any future relevance for this profession
D Pro actively avoid all 'construction or development ' sector nonsense events and photo opportunities. They merely perpetuate gross BS to a wide audience.
E Commence a strategy to sell off the HQ building, and the dubious portraits and fittings within so as to invest the proceeds in a 20c self funding building of holistic relevance.
F Constantly remind yourself that this country deserves a professional voice of challenging relevance rather than continuing advocacy of conformity.
#2 Posted by Matt on 30 Jun 2020 at 21:14 PM
What Mick said.....all of it.
Chris Stewart
#3 Posted by Chris Stewart on 1 Jul 2020 at 06:44 AM
Having joined the RIAS Sustainable Working Group (SWG) I am becoming more aware of some of the great work the RIAS do, a lot of it is behind the scenes. I know there is a lot of hard work being carried out (often well into the night) to submit informed submissions to the Scottish Goverment on issues such as Climate Emergency, ensuring the construction industry is heard. There is though a lot to be done and it is great to see Christina being elected (from a strong field of candidates), I for one will be giving her all the support I can.
Neil Munro
#4 Posted by Neil Munro on 1 Jul 2020 at 12:36 PM
"My serious advice to this young lady is..." - sounds like you're part of the problem here Mick. What a condescending, patronising thing to write...
Well done Christina.
Rodding Eye
#5 Posted by Rodding Eye on 1 Jul 2020 at 14:52 PM
UR - do you think its appropriate to moderate and then post the toxic fist comment on this thread. What happened to being nice and supporting others? I'm all up for healthy debate but this is not that. We should be proud we have a fresh face to lead and advocate for architects in Scotland. At least give her a chance eh Mick and Matt.
#6 Posted by FHM on 1 Jul 2020 at 14:57 PM
#4 "sounds like you're part of the problem here Mick. What a condescending, patronising thing to write..."

What on earth was condescending or patronising about what Mick wrote?

The article makes it clear that Christina is "the youngest person ever to hold the role".

I think you are looking for problems where they don't exist.

Congratulations Christina on being the youngest person ever to be elected as RIAS President. Well done.
Big Jim
#7 Posted by Big Jim on 1 Jul 2020 at 16:43 PM
#6 Opening with 'young lady' IS problematic, in the same way that describing a candidate as an 'old man' or describing somebody by their race would be. It is condescending and unnecessary.

I find it really sad that for all this woman’s achievements, she is referred to not as 'leading architect' or 'New RIAS President' but as 'young lady'. The implication that she is somehow lesser, there to make the tea or something. I hope she does not take 'Mic's' advice; she is clearly doing pretty well on her own. Who knows, she might even start with clamping down on some good old fashioned sexism in the industry.
#8 Posted by UR on 1 Jul 2020 at 16:50 PM
@4 The post is combative but the replies given in this thread speak louder.
George Buchanan
#9 Posted by George Buchanan on 1 Jul 2020 at 17:30 PM
Congratulations on your appointment, Christina!

Great news for the profession in Scotland.
Snap to grid
#10 Posted by Snap to grid on 1 Jul 2020 at 22:25 PM
#7 leading architect.. what even is that.. I would guest that any real leading 'Architect' wouldn't be someone who would take this role as they would have an office or such. She is however linked closely to the old boys club and is no doubt influenced and backed highly by the usual suspects. I hope she will do well and not be a puppet, one can hope.

Matt & Mick are right RIAS and RIBA are unfit to represent Architects & Architectural design without a kick up the preverbal which changes the very nature of their being, currently it isn't in their self interest to be so.

#3 RIAS Sustainable Working Group 'ensuring the construction industry is heard' case in point, not Architects but industry, sorry but thats half the issue isn't it. They guys represent the industry and are not a society of Architects, the interests will relate to big firms and construction screwing the role of the Architect and thus Architecture.
eg. RIBA actively pushing for the Architects to be in a skill shortage list post brexit.. first thing to mind but it really sums up the point in these organisations being to cut costs for industry and degrade the roll, and certainly not to help Architects and Architecture, eg. #3 greenwash in the name of Architects.
Bill S
#11 Posted by Bill S on 2 Jul 2020 at 07:54 AM
Well done Christina. Judging by some of the comments above there is a lot of work still to be done in the RIAS! Best of luck.
Chris Stewart
#12 Posted by Chris Stewart on 2 Jul 2020 at 08:24 AM
Dear Snap to grid,
Thank you for your message. I think it is important that Architects do see themselves as part of a wider integrated industry and not just as one part of that industry. How we collaborate not just with the construction industry but with the wider public is crucial. I had not meant to suggest a context anything more than that.
Regarding your point that the RIAS represent the Industry, unfortuntely my impression is the opposite and our role is being diminished. I think we have to engage now more than ever and do our best to represent the Construction Industry more. Surely this is more likely to help the Architectural Profession.
Regarding your comments about professional bodies only representing big companies, I do not know the exact statistics however I know that a large part of the RIAS is made up of sole practioners / small companies and agree their voice should be heard more loudly (although there a number who are very vocal in the RIAS). I think it is harder for smaller companies due to resource. The current pandemic has shown that a focus on being local is becoming more important. This could lead to more local focused supply chains, use of local materials and hopefully to more opportunities for smaller practices. This could bring great carbon saving benefits which would most definetely not be greenwash.
Thank you again for your comments I enjoyed reading them.
nathan wright
#13 Posted by nathan wright on 2 Jul 2020 at 22:03 PM
"I think we have to engage now more than ever and do our best to represent the Construction Industry more. Surely this is more likely to help the Architectural Profession".

Only 22.7% of the RIAS membership could be bothered to vote which means 73% rejected all three candidates. What does that say about both the RIAS and the 'Architectural Profession'.

We were not given a breakdown of the figures but if she got say 36% of the vote and the other two got 32%, then she won with the support of a meagre 8% of the RIAS membership. Yet she will no doubt be claiming to be speaking for all of us. Don't think so.

If ever there was an indication as to how irrelevant architects are becoming then this election is a surely it.

Incidentally I refused to vote because none of the candidates met my requirements. Seems I was not alone.
nathan wright
#14 Posted by nathan wright on 3 Jul 2020 at 13:10 PM
Oh, and by the way she qualified as an architect in 2016 yet is already FRIAS. I was always told that I had to be in practice for over ten years before I stood a chance of getting these letters after my name.
So she's essentially an administrator who's not apparently built much of significant value yet who will be providing the RIAS response to issues such as procurement.
In her acceptance speech she says :- "“Those who know me, are aware that I am rarely lost for words. The support from the membership was overwhelming and the clear message for a bolder direction left me speechless and filled with hope".
So an 8% vote now equals "overwhelming support" whilst somebody who is "rarely lost for words" admits she's now "speechless". For somebody who's cv says she was a 'director of communication' I'm already speechless myself.
It now begs the question - what exactly is the point of the RIAS ??????
devilish advocaat
#15 Posted by devilish advocaat on 3 Jul 2020 at 14:19 PM
Genuinely interested to know what those that decry the relevance of RIBA/RIAS/etc have done to change things. Also interested to hear from the anti-old boys' club brigade now that we have some young blood in a position of significance.
nathan wright
#16 Posted by nathan wright on 4 Jul 2020 at 23:04 PM
Spent forty years trying to change things in the RIAS, even writing reports for them. Lots of enthusiasm but no real political clout. When you start asking awkward questions they clam up. Same with the RIBA. Complained to them about a senior architect breaching their Code of Conduct. Declined to take action.
Past president there famously said that young architects should be prepared to work for no money whilst simultaneously complaining about low fee levels.
RIAS the same. Go to their website and you will find that it warns those thinking of studying architecture that they may require to work overtime unpaid. What kind of moral vacuum does this represent ?
I've worked colossal amounts of unpaid overtime over the years because I'm not prepared to walk away from a project when my bosses simply withdraw resource because they went in on too low a fee bid. I've actually had clients complaining about the excessive hours I was putting in and the lack of support I was getting. Yet the RIAS response is to shrug their shoulders and say "Sorry, but that's the way it is."
Good luck to Ms Gaiger - but I think she will only succeed in making the profession even more irrelevant regardless of how visionary she sees herself.

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