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Friday25 July 2014

New rules at Arb to prevent repeat of Piano gaffe

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Body admits email risked “reputational damage”

The Architects Registration Board has been forced to tighten up its procedures in the wake of the Renzo Piano fiasco when it asked BD to stop calling the Italian designer of the Shard an architect.

Registrar Alison Carr had to apologise after BD received an email from Arb last month asking the paper to stop referring to Piano (pictured) and New York-based Daniel Libeskind as architects.

Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano

Explaining its request, Arb said it was acting on a complaint from a registered architect who said the pair were not on its register.

In agenda papers released ahead of its latest board meeting on Thursday, the body admitted: “The BD coverage of the email created a significant amount of commentary on BD and networking sites such as LinkedIn, creating potential reputational damage to Arb. The email did not help achieve Arb’s aims of raising awareness [of the title of architect].”

It has since introduced new policies in dealing with the press and added: “No contact with the press is currently permitted within Arb without the text being considered by either the registrar or the HR and communications coordinator [Sue Young].”

And it added: “Since the BD coverage, we have put on hold any approach to the press so that we can take stock and identify the best methods of raising awareness and obtaining support in reflecting the UK legal position.”

But it admitted that it might act if complaints – like those against Piano and Libeskind – are made in the future and will be issuing an updated policy on the topic next February. “We will be advising complainants who raise enquiries about the press that we will hold the details on file and may use the information at a later date,” it added.

The Arb said it had received five complaints about the email with another resigning from its register in protest.

The Arb’s email saw a number of former Riba presidents, including Sunand Prasad and newly elected Bristol mayor George Ferguson, say the functions currently carried out by Arb should be transferred across to the Riba. “Arb should not exist as a separate entity,” Prasad added.

In its papers, Arb also revealed that in the nine months to the end of September it had begun 276 investigations into the misuse of the title architect – an increase of 85% on the same period in 2011.

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Readers' comments (22)

  • zecks_marquise

    On the bbc news last night they called lord coe "the architect of the games". I fully expect the ARB to politely let them know.

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  • Citizen One

    Surely they are becoming the "Architects" of their own demise.

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  • ARB continue to muddy the waters.
    As I have been at pains to point out elsewhere, the problem is not that they have made a PR gaffe, it is that they are wrong IN LAW. Just because a registered member complains, this does not mean that the architects concerned cannot refer to themselves as such and the media should not describe them as such.
    The "reputational damage" to ARB is the result of being given responsibility for upholding the law and failing to so miserably.

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  • I wonder if the 'registered architect' who made a formal complaint about Piano and Libeskind is worth the title - is even educated to an acceptable standard?

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  • As RS says ARB do not understand the law : Resignations are necessary. And the idea they might pursue further such complaints is idiotic.

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  • @Robert Wakeham:

    Clearly the original complaint was frivolous and should never have been taken seriously. Perhaps the complainant was taking the p****. If so, s/he is to be congratulated for unmasking the ignorance that reigns at ARB.

    I would now like to see an investigation into how this all happened.

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  • ARB is hampered by a fundamental problem in that the appelation "architect" is widely used in IT and other job functions where ARB cannot prosecute.
    In my view the general public is not interested in the fine distinctions advanced by ARB as to why IT persons (landscape architects, naval architects etc) not on ARB's register can still legitimately call themselves "Architect" whilst some building professionals cannot.

    Pandora's "Architect" box is open and no amount of internal censorship at ARB or "trying to get the right message across" will change the fact that protection of title now has little value to architects.
    Conversely, ARB's own income is wholly dependent on maintaining the fiction that title protection is worth £98.50 pa.

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  • Have to agree with DB on this, but perhaps it isn't ARB, but one or more key individuals?
    Don't agree with any of the ex-presidents - if they were to cast stones at their own organisation, the noise of shattering glass would be deafening. And they should.
    "Protection" (I prefer restriction, more accurate) of title is the penultimate step towards full professional status - so getting rid of that is not a good idea. Unless architecture is considered a pseudo-profession?

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  • it's really annoying to hear people replying to this subject with the example of "yeah but what about enterprise architects" who basically set up computer systems and infrastructure.

    Look, it's simple. This is applicable to anyone who calls themselves any architect and is working as an architect, taking work away from architects.

    So it should be the role of architect as well as job title. I don't understand why people are not for this, we have to protect the profession, it's already marginalised enough as it is.

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  • zecks_marquise

    @LunaVC please define exactly what service an architect provides, which no other professional is able to provide. You will find that it is a very short list. Now write a list of the services that most successful architecture practices provide. Much longer. If we became locked to a few specialist services, we would be committing financial suicide.

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