Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby pedropod » Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:31 am

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0720/breaking67.html?via=mr

Is this woman for real? - she claimed last night that the architecture and Engineering professions amongst others had yet to 'feel the chill winds of recession' and would need to do their bit to increase the country's competitiveness

She is a serious liability to the government every time she opens her mouth
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby henno » Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:44 am

this woman is serious out of touch with reality, if she thinks architects havent been touched by the recession, when they are probably the singular biggest profession hit....

idiot!
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby parka » Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:58 am

No mention of Architecture or Engineering in that article? :confused:

Having read other articles there is a mention of the Medical fields etc.

I'll just wait for the Smart economy to kick in
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby bitasean » Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:05 am

From what I heard on the radio she seems to think that if Solicitors, Accountants and other "highly paid" professionals (obviously not meaning architects) reduce their fees the economy will benefit from increased competition. I mean, by all means place higher tax on the higher earners but professionals are free to set whatever rates they want last I checked and those hungrier for work will offer price incentives to new customers. This surely raises the bar for politicians grasping at straws and proposing bullshit, lets tackle the fat cats, policies.
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby pedropod » Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:21 am

sorry here's the correct link where architects are mentioned

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2009/0721/1224250998236.html
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby parka » Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:54 am

pedropod wrote:sorry here's the correct link where architects are mentioned

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2009/0721/1224250998236.html


That's better - Like the rest of the Government, She is so out of touch with the real world
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby garethace » Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:01 am

You have to realize that the world they knew is tumbling down around them.

They have literally no paradigm to use in order to understand it.

It is all open now people.

Go out there and build yourselves a new country.

Thanks for the listenership and readership here at Archiseek all this time.

It has been very emotional for me.


Brian O' Hanlon
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby missarchi » Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:56 am

I'm curious if anyone has done people counts from 8am to 9am outside the biggest practices in Dublin? Value was a % then they wanted fixed prices...
Competition on quality is the one thing I would have to agree with...
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby parka » Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:07 pm

missarchi wrote: outside the biggest practices in Dublin? ..


What's considered big these days?
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby parka » Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:15 pm

Speech by Tánaiste to MacGill Summer School, 19 July 2009

In her speech, as reported in the Irish Times of 21 July, the Tánaiste warned a number of professions that the Government will not back down in its drive to increase competition and get better value as it tackles the economic crisis. Specifying “engineers, architects, the legal profession and others” she observed that there were sectors which had yet to feel “the chill winds of economic reality” and accused them of “economic conceit”. She also referred to Competition Authority reports on banking, utilities, and professional services such as engineers, architects, the legal profession, dentists and others.

The following is the text of a letter by the RIAI Director to the Irish Times on this extraordinary speech. The RIAI President will be making a more detailed response to the Minister. If Members would like to inform the Tánaiste of their own particular experiences of "the chill winds of economic reality", her department's email address is: info@entemp.ie (please copy the RIAI info@riai.ie in any correspondence).


Madam

The Tánaiste shows a worrying disconnect with reality when she referred to “architects” as being a sector which had yet to feel the “chill winds of economic reality”. As has been widely reported over 40% of architects have been made redundant. The RIAI has a significant number of members on Job Seekers Allowance or paying reduced charges because of financial hardship. Many architects in employment have experienced pay cuts and three day weeks. How chilly does it have to get to reach the Tánaiste’s attention?

For Public Sector projects the Tánaiste should be aware that architectural services are procured on a competitive basis in accordance with EU and Department of Finance procedures. She must also be aware that architects don’t have recommended, mandatory or minimum fee scales. On the Competition Authority Report, I would expect the Tánaiste or her Officials to have read the Report or at least the Executive Summary before making a public statement because the Report was very clear: “the Competition Authority has only a small number of concerns about how the architectural profession operates in Ireland. Unlike some other professions reviewed by the Competition Authority architects are not restricted by layers of unjustified or disproportionate restrictions or competition. Competition seems to be working well for consumers of architectural services and the economy as a whole”.

The Tánaiste might be better employed in examining the wide spread evasion by some Government Departments and State bodies generally of Prompt Payment Legislation and why her recent announcement of a fifteen days payment period by Government term was greeted by incredulity among architects.

If the Tánaiste’s address is indicative of the level of research and evidence based policy in her Department on matters of public record, as we face an unprecedented economic crisis, then it won’t just be architects who are made redundant but the entire Country.

Regards,

John Graby
Director
RIAI
8 Merrion Square
Dublin 2
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby BenK » Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:29 pm

You're quick off the mark there Parka, was just gonna put that up...
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby reddy » Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:59 pm

Thank you RIAI. That was a decent response. Mary Coughlan is appearing more and more to be well out of her depth.
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby sinnerboy » Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:59 pm

I have e mailed a protest to my 2 local FF TD's ( cc'd to my local FG TD ) and all my local FF LA councilors ( again cc'd to my local FG + LAB councillors )

Just in case any of you wish to take the matter up with your local TD

http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=12030&CatID=138
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby garethace » Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:34 pm

I understand now more than ever, that my services are going to be required to sort out matters at NAMA. It is not a job I ever wanted. I am a simple kind of guy, but I know I will somewhere stuck in the middle of things. I know how to bring both the architects and development community along together. Something that has never been done before in this country. But we will get there yet and blend these two cultures together in some sort of meaningful fashion. The Tánaiste is actually right in where she is coming from. There are a lot more efficiencies that can be rung out of the construction system, once architects get on board with the plan. It is my goal to introduce such a plan into this country for the first time ever. I know how to bring the architectural community on board, and I know how to do likewise with developers.

The problem with the Tánaiste's statements, even though I agree with them fully, is that she jumped the gun. We need to get the sequence correct. It is time to hand out the slaps that are necessary to the mean old nasty developers, and more particularly to the Irish banks who had their fingers up the asses of developers. Instead of having their fingers in their own pie and providing the country with some level of decent banking services. It is time for banks to stop being property developers and allow the architects to have their drawings boards back. The banks stole the drawings boards away from them effectively during Charles J. Haughey's tenure. Heck, during the Dublin docklands masterplanning stage, Sean O'Laoire and others were shafted. As soon as the masterplan was legalized, the developers (or more accurately the Irish banks) carved it up amongst themselves. Sean O'Laoire and company never got a look back in.

Something was instituted by Haughey back in the days when the country was in dire straits. A fast forwarding process to enable banks to become builders almost. Frank McDonald should not have called his book 'The Builders'. He should have called it 'The Bankers' instead. The banks should never be allowed to wield as much authority as they did for the last twenty years. It was Bertie Ahern's job to dismantle the plan that Haughey had put together in the time of an emergency. Bertie wasn't even near the kind of man capable of standing up to the financial institutions. The financial institutions were formidable oponents at that time, beefed up like Arnold Schwarzenegger on over valued property portfolios. The financial institutions are not muscle bound anymore. Now is the time for the politicians to step in and deal with them. When that is done, the architects will then come on board. But not until then.

I read Deaglan De Breadun's piece in the Irish Times today: Mistakes were made in Irish banking, says former AIB chairman. I think that Dermot Gleeson still believes he is Arnold Schwarzenegger. If Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen and Brian Lenehan cannot bite the bullet now and deal with this, the largest of all structural inefficiencies in the system will still remain. The current Fianna Fail government will not last if they don't tackle it. They are too used to thinking inside the old paradigm that Charles J. Haughey created in the 1980s. There has been no one who has done any serious political re-structuring since Haughey. The idea of telling people what to vote for in Europe is pure Haughey-ism. Cowen needs to stop doing it and give back the people their own voice.

One thing I am certain about, that unless Zoe developments and the rest are exposed for what they are, there is no going to be no cooperation from the architectural profession. In that, I would fully support them. The likes of Sean O'Laoire and company trying to make a practice work for years and years. While being shafted wholesale at every possible twist and turn. More transparency is required, more fair play and more opportunity for architects. The construction sector have to be brought around to working with architects and not against them. That is something that I want to see happen. There is too much money at stake nowadays. The future of the country depends on Ireland's ability to create sustainable master plans and execute them. To do both efficiently and effectively. Not either or.


Brian O' Hanlon
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby SirRaymondMang » Wed Jul 22, 2009 9:55 am

parka wrote:
If Members would like to inform the Tánaiste of their own particular experiences of "the chill winds of economic reality", her department's email address is: info@entemp.ie (please copy the RIAI info@riai.ie in any correspondence).


I have done so!
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby garethace » Thu Jul 23, 2009 9:04 am

Well done Ms. Coughlan. I have been waiting for some common sense in this matter for a long, long time. It is time to shake up the dusty old professions.

She said implementing these was "essential to remove competitiveness bottlenecks in the economy and to deliver better value and more innovation in these sectors".


http://www.independent.ie/national-news/coalition-challenged-to-reduce-fees-for-professions-1835701.html

What people need to realize is that a mere few individuals in Ireland control most of the revenue coming into the professional basket. What trickles down to the lowly graduates working at the bottom, is only enough to feed them and keeping them fighting with one another for what scraps they have. It doesn't buy for Ireland any development of advanced, modern team working experience and skills.The institutes attached to the various professions have known this for years. It is time a new central board was created to force the institutes into change. It is time that the fat cats of the Irish professions were knocked off their podiums.

I have listened to personal stories down through the years, of marriages and families that were broken, because promises were not kept by directors to their professional employees. It is no way for this country to operate. Anyone would be mad to enter the bond of marriage with an architect. You are condemning yourself to a life of misery and pain. We need to innovate our way out of that painful situation for good. Too many capital investment programs are jeopardised through lack of modernisation and sophistication in the consultants providing services.

What has been going on for years in the Irish professions has been disgraceful. A few vested interests have been allowed to bleed the system dry. Heck, old misus so-and-so, who hasn't had a member of the family working in a firm for decades is still drawing down 50% of the earnings of a prominent Irish architectural consultant. What does that leave in terms of scraps for the guys at the bottom? We have got really shitty service from the professions up until now. It is time for a new paradigm. The great thing about this, is government are pulling strings for a change. The banks aren't able to control every aspect of our lives.

http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2009/07/skirts-that-reveal-all.html

Turning on a Six Pence, was an expression used to describe the character of my boss at Zoe developments. We are a small country, that is to our advantage. We are smart, we are creative and educated. We also have access to talents pools from eastern Europe and elsewhere who wish to make a contribution. If we have the right plan, Ireland should be able to turn on a six pence and to beat this current downturn.

The problem since the days of Haughey has been, because we are small and submissive, we are easy to manipulate. It was almost possible for Ireland as a country to be controlled and run by a couple of bankers. In much the same way a few key individuals could operate any major British city. Because that is the scale of operations we are talking about in this country. Sure Ireland is more spread out than a major city in Britain. That is why we should look at a scheme like Conor Skehan's idea of an eastern corridor of development. We need those guys in the 'Urban Forum' to lead the way.


Brian O' Hanlon

Link:

http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2009/07/turning-on-six-pence.html
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby wearnicehats » Thu Jul 23, 2009 9:51 am

[quote="garethace

What has been going on for years in the Irish professions has been disgraceful. A few vested interests have been allowed to bleed the system dry. Heck, old misus so-and-so, who hasn't had a member of the family working in a firm for decades is still drawing down 50% of the earnings of a prominent Irish architectural consultant. What does that leave in terms of scraps for the guys at the bottom? We have got really shitty service from the professions up until now. It is time for a new paradigm. The great thing about this, is government are pulling strings for a change. The banks aren't able to control every aspect of our lives.
[/QUOTE"]

lower fees = tighter margins = job losses = less people working fewer hours on each project = watered down end product. How do you see that improving a "shitty service"?
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby pedropod » Thu Jul 23, 2009 9:55 am

Some replies to our dear tanaiste's most recent faux pas

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/letters/2009/0723/1224251144087.html
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby garethace » Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:19 am

lower fees = tighter margins = job losses = less people working fewer hours on each project = watered down end product. How do you see that improving a "shitty service"?


Zoe developments managed to give everyone a fair salary, a salary which made sense for a country and property market such as Ireland. They did pay reviews each year. The never kept employees in at weekends or working until the small hours. We innovated new ways to cooperate with industry and other disciplines and professionals. We were 'smart' about budgets and value for money in all kinds of ways, the average architectural practice wouldn't understand. We didn't receive rubber medals from the RIAI. Altogether employees were satisfied, happy and improved themselves and their skill levels.

They were challenged rather than fooled and ripped off. Employees were exposed to a greater spectrum of trades, skills and specialities than you would in an architectural consultants. In the end, the bank(s), both Irish and from abroad had such a strangehold over our operations the dream died. No architects wanted to work at Zoe developments. Those who did were poached on purpose out from underneath Zoe architectural director's nose, so that Liam Carroll would be forced to pay €100,000.00 a week to TOT. The RIAI was in on that too, at the highest level. The current president of the RIAI demanded to know what I was doing working for that guy, the Zoe architectural director? I told the RIAI president that I wasn't part of his institute and to stick his rules up his arse.

The kind of ripping off that the RIAI took part in wasn't ripping off in money terms alone. The RIAI is the institute responsible for improving and developing the profession in this country. Instead they produce a magazine that doesn't contain one single shred of client feedback - only the designer's view on everything. That is what I mean by a shitty service. The ripping off the RIAI partook in, was to steal away opportunity for improvement and development, through alternative structures and work processes from the young Irish architect. The RIAI effectively has bankrupt the profession of it's rightful opportunity to learn and develop for the last 25 years or more.

A worrisome trend developed towards the end of the Celtic Tiger where many senior architects in firms left to and set up their own small boutique firm. What this meant is they were restricted in the size and sophistication of projects they could undertake. It was a sign that the traditional architectural consultant formula had reached the outer limits of what it was capable of doing. I was working for the Irish banks and Liam Carroll in Parnell Street spend millions per week on concrete and construction. But I was the all time record, flunk student in Bolton Street architectural college. My old school mates who were ten times better than me, were building peoples' extensions! That is what I mean by a shitty service. I cherish every million of Zoe's money that I spent on construction. That an RIAI member didn't get to screw around with.

There was always a silent partner in the equation of the large Irish practices. The RIAI know that. The silent partner diverted a bulk of the fees before it even got to director level. Whatever got past director level is what you saw on your pay slip at the end of the month. Be aware of that. In order to pay an average €40,000.00 salary to an employee, a principle director in an architectural consultancy had to find about half a billion euros worth of construction projects, every year in order to keep everyone employed.

Where was the concept of 'sustainable' development going to come into that? I have all the respect in the world for Paul Keogh, Tony Reddy, Sean O'Laoire, Jim Pike and so forth. They are consumate professionals and men with life times worth of skill, knowledge and experience. But they had to keep the € millions and € billions in construction going, in order to keep themselves going. For them to stand back now and say things weren't 'sustainable' is more than a bit rich. They weren't exactly applying the brakes or publishing their accounts and exposing the fact that their business model was un-sustainable too. Neither did the RIAI. Give me a break.

In the end, the principles weren't able to lend any of their skill or experience to the process. There only focus was on where do we get the next million in fees from. (Half of that going to pay old misus so-and-so, whose grandson started the practice in 1940 something) That is what I mean by a shitty service quite frankly. That and the fact that the director of the same firm who promised his family a good holiday had to tell them 'tough luck' because his boss screwed him over . . . again. End of marriage, etc, etc. Drink problems, . . . leakage of valuable talent from the profession. It was the same old cycle and it was rotten.

Brian O' Hanlon

Link:

http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2009/07/apathy-at-riai.html
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby wearnicehats » Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:54 am

garethace wrote:Zoe developments managed to give everyone a fair salary, a salary which made sense for a country and property market such as Ireland. They did pay reviews each year. The never kept employees in at weekends or working until the small hours. We innovated new ways to cooperate with industry and other disciplines and professionals. We were 'smart' about budgets and value for money in all kinds of ways, the average architectural practice wouldn't understand. We didn't receive rubber medals from the RIAI. Altogether employees were satisfied, happy and improved themselves and their skill levels.

They were challenged rather than fooled and ripped off. Employees were exposed to a greater spectrum of trades, skills and specialities than you would in an architectural consultants. In the end, the bank(s), both Irish and from abroad had such a strangehold over our operations the dream died. No architects wanted to work at Zoe developments. Those who did were poached on purpose out from underneath Zoe architectural director's nose, so that Liam Carroll would be forced to pay €100,000.00 a week to TOT. The RIAI was in on that too, at the highest level. The current president of the RIAI demanded to know what I was doing working for that guy, the Zoe architectural director? I told the RIAI president that I wasn't part of his institute and to stick his rules up his arse.

The kind of ripping off that the RIAI took part in wasn't ripping off in money terms alone. The RIAI is the institute responsible for improving and developing the profession in this country. Instead they produce a magazine that doesn't contain one single shred of client feedback - only the designer's view on everything. That is what I mean by a shitty service. The ripping off the RIAI partook in, was to steal away opportunity for improvement and development, through alternative structures and work processes from the young Irish architect. The RIAI effectively has bankrupt the profession of it's rightful opportunity to learn and develop for the last 25 years or more.

A worrisome trend developed towards the end of the Celtic Tiger where many senior architects in firms left to and set up their own small boutique firm. What this meant is they were restricted in the size and sophistication of projects they could undertake. It was a sign that the traditional architectural consultant formula had reached the outer limits of what it was capable of doing. I was working for the Irish banks and Liam Carroll in Parnell Street spend millions per week on concrete and construction. But I was the all time record, flunk student in Bolton Street architectural college. My old school mates who were ten times better than me, were building peoples' extensions! That is what I mean by a shitty service. I cherish every million of Zoe's money that I spent on construction. That an RIAI member didn't get to screw around with.

There was always a silent partner in the equation of the large Irish practices. The RIAI know that. The silent partner diverted a bulk of the fees before it even got to director level. Whatever got past director level is what you saw on your pay slip at the end of the month. Be aware of that. In order to pay an average €40,000.00 salary to an employee, a principle director in an architectural consultancy had to find about half a billion euros worth of construction projects, every year in order to keep everyone employed.

Where was the concept of 'sustainable' development going to come into that? I have all the respect in the world for Paul Keogh, Tony Reddy, Sean O'Laoire, Jim Pike and so forth. They are consumate professionals and men with life times worth of skill, knowledge and experience. But they had to keep the € millions and € billions in construction going, in order to keep themselves going. For them to stand back now and say things weren't 'sustainable' is more than a bit rich. They weren't exactly applying the brakes or publishing their accounts and exposing the fact that their business model was un-sustainable too. Neither did the RIAI. Give me a break.

In the end, the principles weren't able to lend any of their skill or experience to the process. There only focus was on where do we get the next million in fees from. (Half of that going to pay old misus so-and-so, whose grandson started the practice in 1940 something) That is what I mean by a shitty service quite frankly. That and the fact that the director of the same firm who promised his family a good holiday had to tell them 'tough luck' because his boss screwed him over . . . again. End of marriage, etc, etc. Drink problems, . . . leakage of valuable talent from the profession. It was the same old cycle and it was rotten.

Brian O' Hanlon

Link:

http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2009/07/apathy-at-riai.html


You write as if fine upstanding people like Liam O'Carroll treated architects fairly over the years. You write as if you think that architect's fees weren't ripped to shreds by companies like Zoe. The problem that muppets like Coghlan don't understand is that, despite what bitter people like you think, architects fees are already as low as they realistically go. On top of that they have to chase companies like Zoe for months in order to get those fees

I don't care for the RIAI and I don't believe they serve architects at all but please don't give us this crap about Zoe being a poor downtrodden human resource treated cruelly by the banks. If you want to write a treatise (which you do) about profiteering and sharp practice heal thyself first

Don't think that everybody in the architectural profession suddenly just opened their eyes and went "really? my boss earns more than me??? maybe that explains the big car outside. my god I've been so blind!!" I must run out and buy a hair shirt.
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby garethace » Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:57 am

pedropod wrote:Some replies to our dear tanaiste's most recent faux pas

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/letters/2009/0723/1224251144087.html



I worked for over a year with Finola Thompson at Thompsons Architects in Ballinacurra, Limerick. I really enjoyed my time there. The trouble is, I am a jumpy kind of guy. I want to see more out of life. I want to be exposed to the big outer world. I left Thompsons to go and work on an assembly line of 3,000 workers at Dell in Limerick. Best move I ever made, it opened my eyes to much greater possibilities. I have a lot of respect for the designers at Thompsons. I learned an lot there. Thompsons and similar old houses of the Irish architectural scene are a necessary part of the eco-system for fostering skills. I don't think I would ever have made it as far as I did, without the opportunity to work for Thompsons. Keep up the spirits guys, however you do it. However, Thompsons is also a good example of the failure to innovate in the Irish architectural scene. Finola herself gave me every opportunity to innovate within the environment she and fellow directors provided me at Thompsons. I even managed to break her computer server in summer of 2001 as I remember correctly. Don't give me a screwdriver whatever you do!

Thompsons is a bit like Zoe developments in ways. Old man Thompson, David's father was an engineer not an architect. So in the old days at Thompsons there was that clever inter-disciplinary thing going on. Thompsons were also friends with McInery home construction company who hailed from County Clare I believe. Liam Carroll was in the process of acquiring McInery stock in 2008. I was hoping that Thompsons path and mine, might have crossed again. I think what happened when David Thompson took over in his father's practice sometime in the 1970s was it reverted back to the usual RIAI model. David was a fully trained and qualified architect unlike his father. David was a sound man and followed the best guidance he received from the RIAI. That is where I feel Thompsons lost some of that original innovation spirit. The RIAI insisted that it was drained out of that company, like they insisted the same with my own company, Zoe developments.

I keep thinking about what John Shine, chief executive at ESB networks said about his business. A decade ago, a decision was made to split up the company. Which enabled capital to be invested in the network. A massive multi billion euro investment project was under taken to make the network 'smarter'. In fact, John Shine admits it was too large an undertaking, and in future would have to be approached in smaller stages. A competitive tendering process was used as part of the capital investment program. John Shine compared his situation in ESB networks with that in Telecom, where a model wasn't implemented that would allow investment in communications infrastructure to take place for the entire country. What we have in return is an out of date communications network according to any authority on the subject. (Think of all the Eircom city centre properties which could have been off loaded during the Celtic Tiger to pay for communications infrastructure upgrades)

We are looking at a similar juncture with regards to the Irish professions. New ideas simply have to be executed, which take on board the old 60 year old players such as Thompsons. But graft that DNA onto something that will carry Ireland forward into the future. I hope we can be successful there. I would like to be a part of that new process, either through involvement at NAMA or whatever else. Thanks for memories Finola, and sorry about the computer server!


Brian O' Hanlon
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby garethace » Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:02 am

You write as if fine upstanding people like Liam O'Carroll treated architects fairly over the years. You write as if you think that architect's fees weren't ripped to shreds by companies like Zoe. The problem that muppets like Coghlan don't understand is that, despite what bitter people like you think, architects fees are already as low as they realistically go. On top of that they have to chase companies like Zoe for months in order to get those fees.


All absolutely true, and I am ashamed of that now myself. Liam paid about €1,000 an apartment unit. But as I said in another post, Liam did that to everyone. Sub-contractors received €5,000.00 profit on completion of 50 apartments. My only closure on all of this, is that Liam was a bank employee all along, and what the Irish country received were terms drawn up by bankers, removed from the scene and without any knowlegde of what was going on in the country. I blame Dermot Gleeson etc for a lot. I blame Bertie for not constructing a new paradigm. I blame the people for voting him in for a decade. But where does it leave us?

You are absolutely correct. What Liam Carroll did to architects was a scandal. No one would like to see a sustainable business model for architecture than myself. I have been struggling while providing itinerant architectural services to whoever will pay for the last 10 years. But all because I didn't want to go with the flow. I didn't want to be submissive and take it on the chin, like the 12-20 other hard working employees at Thompsons in Ballincurra. I wanted to take the fight to the enemy, and that is what I intend to do. Whoever that enemy might turn out to be. The main point, is that we get excellence for architectural design firmly established in Ireland and develop that market for skills. Much like Kilkenny design in Nassau Street did so many years ago.

Thanks for the response.

Brian O' Hanlon
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby reddy » Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:19 am

garethace wrote:Zoe developments managed to give everyone a fair salary, a salary which made sense for a country and property market such as Ireland. They did pay reviews each year. The never kept employees in at weekends or working until the small hours. We innovated new ways to cooperate with industry and other disciplines and professionals. We were 'smart' about budgets and value for money in all kinds of ways, the average architectural practice wouldn't understand. We didn't receive rubber medals from the RIAI. Altogether employees were satisfied, happy and improved themselves and their skill levels.

They were challenged rather than fooled and ripped off. Employees were exposed to a greater spectrum of trades, skills and specialities than you would in an architectural consultants. In the end, the bank(s), both Irish and from abroad had such a strangehold over our operations the dream died. No architects wanted to work at Zoe developments. Those who did were poached on purpose out from underneath Zoe architectural director's nose, so that Liam Carroll would be forced to pay €100,000.00 a week to TOT. The RIAI was in on that too, at the highest level. The current president of the RIAI demanded to know what I was doing working for that guy, the Zoe architectural director? I told the RIAI president that I wasn't part of his institute and to stick his rules up his arse.

The kind of ripping off that the RIAI took part in wasn't ripping off in money terms alone. The RIAI is the institute responsible for improving and developing the profession in this country. Instead they produce a magazine that doesn't contain one single shred of client feedback - only the designer's view on everything. That is what I mean by a shitty service. The ripping off the RIAI partook in, was to steal away opportunity for improvement and development, through alternative structures and work processes from the young Irish architect. The RIAI effectively has bankrupt the profession of it's rightful opportunity to learn and develop for the last 25 years or more.

A worrisome trend developed towards the end of the Celtic Tiger where many senior architects in firms left to and set up their own small boutique firm. What this meant is they were restricted in the size and sophistication of projects they could undertake. It was a sign that the traditional architectural consultant formula had reached the outer limits of what it was capable of doing. I was working for the Irish banks and Liam Carroll in Parnell Street spend millions per week on concrete and construction. But I was the all time record, flunk student in Bolton Street architectural college. My old school mates who were ten times better than me, were building peoples' extensions! That is what I mean by a shitty service. I cherish every million of Zoe's money that I spent on construction. That an RIAI member didn't get to screw around with.

There was always a silent partner in the equation of the large Irish practices. The RIAI know that. The silent partner diverted a bulk of the fees before it even got to director level. Whatever got past director level is what you saw on your pay slip at the end of the month. Be aware of that. In order to pay an average €40,000.00 salary to an employee, a principle director in an architectural consultancy had to find about half a billion euros worth of construction projects, every year in order to keep everyone employed.

Where was the concept of 'sustainable' development going to come into that? I have all the respect in the world for Paul Keogh, Tony Reddy, Sean O'Laoire, Jim Pike and so forth. They are consumate professionals and men with life times worth of skill, knowledge and experience. But they had to keep the € millions and € billions in construction going, in order to keep themselves going. For them to stand back now and say things weren't 'sustainable' is more than a bit rich. They weren't exactly applying the brakes or publishing their accounts and exposing the fact that their business model was un-sustainable too. Neither did the RIAI. Give me a break.

In the end, the principles weren't able to lend any of their skill or experience to the process. There only focus was on where do we get the next million in fees from. (Half of that going to pay old misus so-and-so, whose grandson started the practice in 1940 something) That is what I mean by a shitty service quite frankly. That and the fact that the director of the same firm who promised his family a good holiday had to tell them 'tough luck' because his boss screwed him over . . . again. End of marriage, etc, etc. Drink problems, . . . leakage of valuable talent from the profession. It was the same old cycle and it was rotten.

Brian O' Hanlon


I can't understand why you hold Zoe up as a paragon of business virtue. I think the events of the last couple of weeks testify strongly to the contrary.

The buildings (can't really call it architecture) produced by most developers were pretty abysmal and perhaps the only reason they could afford the good salaries you're speaking of was due to the peddling of tiny, substandard units to desperate buyers who paid well over the odds for cramped, poorly built and poorly designed shoeboxes, all justified by inflated land prices, propped up by rampant speculation and hoarding.

On one hand you complain about the rip offs involved in architects fees and then also complain that the same architects didn't lend any of their skill or experience to the creation of a sustainable environment. We can't do this for free. If you value design you have to be willing to pay for it. Our fees are massively competitive, as borne out by the competition authority report on professional fees and all the way through the boom years design team fees formed a tiny percentage of the massive amounts of money being made off the back of their designs.

I think Mary Coughlan and your own comments on architects fee levels are seriously misdirected.
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby garethace » Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:28 am

I can't understand why you hold Zoe up as a paragon of business virtue. I think the events of the last couple of weeks testify strongly to the contrary.


I know Reddy, it sounds dodgy in the extreme. But I left the architectural world to work in project management and got involved in capital investment programs for building works at companies like Keelings, Glanbia, Green Isle foods and so forth. My last project in that experience, Glanbia Edenderry burned to the ground. So you can understand why those clients thought of buildings as an investment in construction on a piece of land. When I went to Zoe developments I hit the ground running, because I was already used to the multi-disciplinary approach employed to build industrial projects.

I believe that architects need to work outside of their usual circle. You can only get better by playing a better oponent. I can tell you this much, if I hadn't be a flunk out student at Bolton Street, I would never have touched a job in project management or at Zoe developments. It was out of having no choice I did so. I remember working in both situations, that I learned to understand them. I began to like what I was learning. It wasn't a reduction in my awareness of architecture and design but an expansion of it. Like I say, you can only get better by playing a better opponent. In an architectural consultancy, you are limited in the chess partners you can play.

Don't worry Reddy, we will work it out.

We are a small, clever and agile nation. We need to start fighting back like that. We have the ability to turn on a six pence.

http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2009/07/turning-on-six-pence.html

Brian O' Hanlon

Added paragraph on ESB Networks.

I keep thinking about what John Shine, chief executive at ESB networks said about his business. A decade ago, a decision was made to split up the company. Which enabled capital to be invested in the network. A massive multi billion euro investment project was under taken to make the network 'smarter'. In fact, John Shine admits it was too large an undertaking, and in future would have to be approached in smaller stages. A competitive tendering process was used as part of the capital investment program. John Shine compared his situation in ESB networks with that in Telecom, where a model wasn't implemented that would allow investment in communications infrastructure to take place for the entire country. What we have in return is an out of date communications network according to any authority on the subject. (Think of all the Eircom city centre properties which could have been off loaded during the Celtic Tiger to pay for communications infrastructure upgrades)

We are looking at a similar juncture with regards to the Irish professions. New ideas simply have to be executed, which take on board the old 60 year old players such as Thompsons. But graft that DNA onto something that will carry Ireland forward into the future. I hope we can be successful there. I would like to be a part of that new process, either through involvement at NAMA or whatever else.
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Re: Mary Coughlan - criticises Architecture & engineering professions

Postby garethace » Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:34 am

Our fees are massively competitive, as borne out by the competition authority report on professional fees and all the way through the boom years design team fees formed a tiny percentage of the massive amounts of money being made off the back of their designs.


That is the trouble too, Liam and others screwed you down way too much. You have to remember that Liam or many of his directors did not have architectural training. I would have worked tirelessly inside of Zoe developments to ensure a better deal on behalf of architecture. The question is, when the larger portions start to flow your way, what are you going to do with it?

Reddy, you need to study my essays published here about the really innovative and good things that happened inside Zoe developments. How their collaborating system between architects and engineers worked in particular. To that end, you really need to chase down Zoe's past architectural director Michael Tweed and fully pick his brains. He is the guy with the ultimate answers, not me.

Michael holds the key to the way forward in this country for architects. Michael is the only world class architect we have. Sean O'Laoire made a grievous mistake in under estimating him. To hell with it, I would make Michael Tweed the next RIAI president and really see some sparks begin to fly! Your institute has his address and phone number. Michael is Norman Foster standard, I can guarantee you.

Brian O' Hanlon
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