I wanted to quickly follow up with something about the McCarthy Report. What it might mean for the architect. It expands upon the point I was making in the earllier post, Value for Money. http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2009/07/value-for-money.html
Brian O' Hanlon
I took a very good look at Frank Duffy's UK consultancy DEGW around last December and January. I was very interested in the package that Frank was offering to his client. The biggest client that Frank works with is the UK government, in looking at ways to better utilise the building stock to house the civil service. What are we currently looking to do in Ireland? The McCarthy report. The Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland needs to wake up fast. Or else the Irish state will be forced to go to the UK to find the level of skills in requires following the McCarthy report.
Architects could play a real part in that process if they only looked beyond their existing business model. But it requires architects to sell a package which goes beyond mere fancy colours, aesthetic use of glass and clean, crisp, modern lines. Those bits are certainly a help, but the architectural profession cannot seem to go beyond that. Architects need to get involved in business management and organisation theory. That is what the Irish state requires from architect as we go through the painful re-structuring of the civil service.
Building stock and running costs are going to have to be reviewed. Sketch designs are going to be needed. Please, look beyond your egos' and those clean, crisp modern lines. Re-modelling and re-use considered in a thoughtful way that makes the best use of the Irish state's money. Architects and engineers should be paid for finding ways to spend less money. Not the opposite.
This is what I hope Taoiseach Brian Cowen means by the expression, the Smart Economy. The quantity surveyors have known this for the last ten years. They watched helplessly as thousands of houses were built in the wrong place. They watched helplessly as factory units were built on IDA land that served no useful purpose. Builders were paid and professionals were paid to sign off.
The Irish state needs to sell this re-structuring process to its civil service as a positive step forward in a new direction for everyone. Architects could certainly play an important role in that. If only they began to explore outside of their own narrow field. In order for that to happen it requires the business model for architecture to fundamentally change. It seems like a real pity to me. Architects I know are the most intelligent and nice people. But they think that clients pay them for clean, crisp, lines. When in fact that is what people pay their tailor for.
That is why I reference the example of hospital projects. When I worked for clients such as Glanbia it was all about process flows, how things move throughout the food production plant. Indeed, many of the project options we drew up for clients never were built. We were still paid however, because we were able to put together a package which incorporated the 'food safe' food flows with some preliminary analysis for what different options would cost. We would include some cross disciplinary structural and architectural design and so forth.
The industrial clients had a good attitude, the more you spent at design stage the less you spent at build stage. But the engineering and project management consultancy I worked for had a fresh attitude about design too. I recently heard an architect from Norman Foster's office describe project managers as 'the enemy'. I suggest to that architect who was fortunate enough to pick up a lecturing position at Trinity college, that he should go and work for a project manager like I did and get out of his cocoon.
What I see happening in multi million euro hospital extension projects is the things is rushed forward and built by the architect. Only then is the food flow and process fitted into that by the hospital management and the thing doesn't work. Who's fault is that? Remember the architect had to build something in order make a salary and pay his or her staff. I humbly suggest that the health service, like the Irish developers would be financially better off if it didn't build half of what it built. At least not until they know what they are doing.
The Irish Architect magazine certainly isn't helping to highlight the problem of millions leaking out of the State's treasury because of botched up building projects. It tries to distract our attention to all of those nice clean, crisp and modern lines. The Irish Architect magazine needs to stop doing that now. Or you will permanently bankrupt the profession of both good ideas and jobs.
The architect's relationship with construction is one that went sour in this country a long, long time ago. From what I have seen of what architects describe as a construction document these days, the contractor is no longer gaining a useful service from his architect. The money simply isn't in the business anymore for the architect to know enough about construction. You see the examples of that all over when you look at public projects designed and built by architects. This requires further examination.