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· Robin Nicholson

Edge Commission Begins to Get Some Definition

Last evening the Edge held the third session of the Commission of Inquiry into Future Professionalism focussing on ‘Society’ with the President of the Landscape Institute, the Immediate Past Presidents of ICE and RTPI and Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA and formerly Head of Tony Blair’s Policy Unit at No 10.

The Commission is sponsored by the Ove Arup Trust and is chaired by Paul Morrell, the first UK Government Chief Construction Adviser (2009-12); he is supported by

  • Isabel MacAllister, Director of Sustainability at Mace
  • Barrister Jenny Baster, Arup
  • Architect Karen Rogers, currently acting as a major client
  • QS Tony Burton, incoming Chairman of CIC
  • Prof Alan Penn, Bartlett Dean (unable to attend this session)

We will need to wait for Denise Chevin’s write-up to be posted alongside the first two on the Edge website and for the final deliberations of the Commission, hopefully before the summer. The over-riding concern of the Edge is how to promote inter-disciplinary behaviour and collaboration between the institutions. They of course all have histories, some long and distinguished, and they have members who often disagree, making the development of policies difficult and shared policies more difficult.

This was brought to a head in a remarkably joined up and rapid response to the flooding in the Somerset Levels earlier this year. Sue Illman led the response from the Landscape Institute with an open letter to David Cameron with support from 16 Institutions but sadly not including the RIBA or RTPI! Her letter hit the magic spot of the first story on the Today programme and thus achieved wide coverage. Matthew Taylor pointed out collaborative action is essential but speed is not always a virtue as Chris Smith demonstrated by choosing the precise moment as Chair of the Environment Agency to intervene and shut up the red-meat politicians calling for the abolition of his Agency.

Matthew described a three tier theoretical framework within which our Institutions operate:

  • Leadership/followship that can control or can convene opinions
  • Solidarity through membership that can be exclusive or inclusive
  • Individualism/enterprise that could promote creativity or commercialism

And much else besides – read Denise to find out more  including what to do about the surplus of architects and the shortage of engineers; my long-standing position has been to reduce the architecture training to four years (+ practice) the first of which is a cross-disciplinary Foundation Year, so that more of us end up in the right place. Interestingly this hovered within the Farrell Review if not in the final Report. The Chairman had the best quote of the evening “architects are the nurses of the construction industry; it doesn’t matter how badly you treat them, there will always be more waiting to become one!"

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