AAI letter to RIAI-unpaid work

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    • #711366


      To whom it may concern,

      The Committee of the Architectural Association of Ireland is deeply concerned over the current level of recognition and reward given to those that make architecture happen.

      The AAI, which since 1896 has existed as a forum for those interested in the culture of architecture, sees some of our members who work within the profession exploited through low or no pay. This unacceptable behaviour carried out by employers appears concurrent with a trend in architects’ own acceptance of unsustainably low professional fees and the proliferation of ‘free-consultations’. Through this exploitation and the ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of fees the profession is complicit in nurturing a society where architecture is undervalued.

      Justification from some within the profession is that one must work without pay to gain experience. We disagree. If one’s work has a value, either as investment in a practice through competitions and research, or in the conventional production of design documents for paying clients, one should be fairly paid. If not, the message given to society at large is that the work required to make architecture happen has little or no value.

      While it is not in society’s interests that the practice of architecture in Ireland becomes exclusive to those from particular social strata, it would seem that due to the current tendency towards unpaid internships, only those with sufficient financial support have the opportunity to gain the experience required to progress. Those from lower-income backgrounds with understandable pressure to earn a wage following what is an already lengthy education, are excluded outright. Furthermore, young emerging practices cannot compete with those practices backed by years of very healthy yields, who are
      now offering a degree of free work or work ‘at a loss’.

      Thankfully one member of the RIAI, Dublin-born architect Angela Brady and President-Elect of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), is contesting this sub-culture and is standing up for better values in architecture. The current RIBA President, Ruth Reed is already overseeing the enforcement of statutory minimum pay for all working students from this July and President-Elect Brady has vowed to continue this work through a zero-tolerance approach to practices that break these rules.

      The AAI committee would welcome such development within the Irish profession. As such, we will be asking our members to sign a declaration on fair pay on their next submission to the annual AAI Awards. We call on the RIAI to join us in this stance for better values by ratifying and implementing the following:

      • Following immediate consultation with all stakeholders, to establish rules on minimum pay and hold to account those practitioners who ignore these rules
      • To make mandatory a signed declaration, for all competition and award submissions, that all employees used in the production of those submissions have been paid according to these rules
      • To actively publicise Architectural Graduate Member status to all students and reduce the prohibitive cost of graduate membership
      • Compile a complete register of all architectural graduates with the view to formalising all paid experience prior to professional examinations.

      In summary, the value of architecture in our society and the values within the profession are under threat. It is from all those values combined that a built legacy will emerge. Hopefully, that legacy will be considered as a great gift given to the generations to come rather than a burden to be borne by them.

      The architectural profession has a key responsibility in that story. We look forward to discussing how these proposals might be implemented at the next RIAI council meeting.

      Kind regards,

      The AAI Committee
      President: Douglas Carson
      Site Visits Officer: Fergus Naughton
      Hon. Treasurer: Joa Van Wyk
      Ex-Officio: Hugo Lamont
      Cultural Liaison Officer: Ellen Rowley
      Honorary Secretary: Conor McGowan
      2nd Year Competition Officer: Alice Clancy
      Programme Officer: Kate Gannon
      Membership Officer: Colm Dunbar
      Website Officer: Dariusz Cyparski
      Building Material Editor: Stephen Mulhall
      Awards & Exhibition Officer: Paddy Cahill

      kinda suprised this hasnt been posted here.
      some firms are trying paying where they can and its more casual part time work, but i know some people who are being completely screwed working longer than full time hours in a week and they are not doing any competitions, money is coming in.
      lets face it an apprentice is paid in every other line of work, arch students are not people you can grab of the street, even if they are not qualified they do have skills with computers and design knowledge the layman doesnt. about time something was done.
      personally i feel if someone is on a pay job they should get their pay too, competitions could be done as a- you get a share, as in whats a percentage of €0 if it doesnt go past stage 1. the comp entry should also be avaible for use in their portfolio as at least some sort of concession if it goes nowhere

    • #816836

      um – they could always say “no”. The minimum wage already exists for everyone – except those who choose to work for less. the alternative is that no-one will be taken on – better or worse?

      This is all very well but the fact is that architects aren’t getting paid their value at any level. Firms are doing more work to try and get work and when they do get work aren’t getting paid – even by (and especially by) state bodies. If more were done to ensure that companies got paid for work done then the benefits would and could filter down.


    • #816837


      architecture in Ireland becomes exclusive to those from particular social strata,

      again. the general reputation of architecture as rich out of touch d4s persists where only people on daddy’s buck can afford a internship. (lets face it how often do you hear fn architects). people continue to avoid architects… engineers and technologists and the local construction teacher get the work… better?
      i dont think i was calling for every intern to be on minium wage and full time employment, just given just rewards for what they do. a bit here and there if its a pay job. offices have people on 65hours a week, doing tenders documents etc for nothing. are you telling me that isnt exploitation? they were also at this before the recession so at least for some firms money drying up is not a excuse

    • #816838

      Can’t see the letter doing much, especially when I see free work experience being advertised on the RIAI job listings

    • #816839

      If not, the message given to society at large is that the work required to make architecture happen has little or no value.

      Even worse, the tolerance of such abuse cultivates an abusive strain among employers in general.

    • #816840

      The is the bitter fruit of the current, mealy-mouthed, short-sighted RIAI Strategy and I have posted about it before.
      The State lets anyone design buildings and the follow on statutory applications that arise from building design.

      Fools with no design training who do a three day course can now tout themselves as “passive haus designers”.
      Incompetent people with no business qualification or a trade are setting themselves up as Main Contractors.

      The RIAI strategy only tried cornering a shrinking market amongst people calling themselves architects.
      This failed to address the fact that the provision of architectural services is totally unregulated.

      This didn’t address the fact that self-certification – including that by many MRIAIs – is a joke.
      Add to this the fact that main contractors are not themselves required to be qualified

      The long term result is badly designed buildings built badly and improperly certified.
      People with a five year full time course behind them are working as “apprentices”.

      The RIAI are now *supposed* to be the “competent authority”.
      I expect better than a “Fás Course” Solution from them.

      But that would need a competent government too.
      And all I see is Fianna Fáil Lite – a muppet show.


    • #816841

      we can only hope that ODOS and Boyd Cody have been paying their staff otherwise the AAI awards will be chaos

    • #816842

      I fully endorse the letter from the AAI and I hope that the RIAI follow suit. Certain offices have benefitted considerably from the “under priced” and “over exploited” creative staff just out from college. The myth of the genius designer has long been the fog of war in architectural practice. This has lead to inequities in competition. Between the “factory” environments of larger practices and the “atelier” environment of the art practices it was and is hard to operate an ethical practice where juniors are rewarded proportionally for their input. If a proper competitive environment existed in Ireland amongst Architectural practices then there might be a chance that with access people would be valued. It is ironic that on one side the architectural profession would claim being misunderstood and undervalued while allowing such exploitative practices to exist within the profession.

    • #816843

      I think the AAI are missing the point in trying to pin the blame on “employer” Architects for asking “employee” Architects to work for free on Competitions when, as we all know, the Commissioning Client in an Architectural Competition is the real culprit. For millennia Architects have agreed to enter competitions for minor and major projects, effectively at no cost, with no guarantee even if they win of getting a decent reward or recognition for their efforts, or even of a commitment to build the winning scheme.
      If members of the AIA feel exploited let them submit their designs for these competitions for free under their own names. Otherwise don’t agree to take part.
      As for Architects Award schemes. Where do I start……….

    • #816844

      There is a crisis for graduates in this country. There is little or no work available for doing Case Studies- Architectural competitions are not suitable. How are Graduates going to get through the exams in the next 10 years? The RIAI through the Building Control Act are condemning Graduates to limbo and permanent unemployment/ underemployment. And to add insult to injury they are now exploiting them. This is appalling and must stop.

    • #816845

      So why don’t you boys raise this at the next RIAI or AAI meets ?

    • #816846

      The normal course of events in Ireland – Pre 1st May 2008 – was for many small practices to spring up during recessionary times fuelled by necessity and staffed by Graduates or those with ten years experience behind them whose cert’s would be accepted by banks, solicitors, lending institutions and whose work was good enough to obtain the necessary permissions and fire safety certificates, etc.

      Such persons were the subject of the Incorporated Law Society’s Good Practice Note to Members dated October 1994 which inter alia suggested that certificates from them were acceptable.

      On the other hand the same practice note suggested that certificates from the Members several professional institutes at the time, including the RIAI, were not acceptable if they relied for their authentication solely on the Membership – because they included unqualified persons with less than ten years experience and technician members within their ranks.

      In other words MRIAIs certs were only acceptable if they ALSO had ten years in practice OR a qualification from a recognised course, or both.

      Since 1st May 2008, the Building Control Act 2007 has prevented such persons from legally using the title architect – regardless of their qualification or experience or competence – in favour of those persons who were already Members of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland – also, regardless of their qualification or experience or competence.

      The reasoning as supplied by government and the RIAI is for the public good, that MRIAI’s were tested academically and over a minimum of two years supervised work under a Member of the Institute.

      The Architect’s Alliance of Ireland, counter-argument is that their work is out there having been tested in the school of hard knocks and having had to go through review by planners, building control officers, legal people and their own clients in use.


      Be that as it may, there is a shortage of new architects offices springing up at the moment, but a glut of people many of whom are NOT qualified offering architectural services.

      This is not in the public interest IMO, and points the finger at the flaw in the BCA 2007 – its doesn’t regulate the provision of Architectural Services to the public.

      For Graduates the future is bleak.

      Unless they already have sufficient high quality work to attain their Part III’s (and IMO “monitoring” a job over someone’s shoulder is not a great way to get this experience) then they are in a catch-22 set up by the former disgraced government in response to 20 years of lobbying by the RIAI.

      They cannot ply their trade as architects legally in Ireland.
      (this is despite their six years of study – five plus a year out)
      They cannot find gainful employment in larger practices.
      They are competing with technicians and draughtsmen.

      For scraps.

      In some cases, they are competing with large offices for scraps!

      I cannot state definitively that the shrewder Members of the Institute with larger offices failed to foresee this terrible state of events.

      But they are the undoubted beneficiaries of it.

      For persons like me, with many years of experience behind me signing certs and acting as an expert witness, I can apply to be registered, despite the high fees, scrabbling the cash together somehow.

      For others, going abroad to get accreditation at Part III level in Britain they will face the same indentured servitude that the BCA 2007 has brought in here.

      So the real question is still the one I asked of the Joint Oireachtas Committee in 18th May 2010 – “Who Benefits?”

      You know who.


    • #816847

      @teak wrote:

      So why don’t you boys raise this at the next RIAI or AAI meets ?

      I’ve already met one government Minister and will be meeting another shortly.


    • #816848

      Angela Brady – incoming RIBA president – said that they were going to strike off any firms that don’t pay their interns minimum wage from the RIBA. This is an extremely strong move.

      She also said that firms don’t have to hire students for 40 hours a week and pay them as such – just to pay them for the work that they do. In London, many offices allow students to use a spare desk for working on competition entries and all that kind of stuff – so they might get drafted in 2-3 days a week for some support work.

      Basically, she told about 120 students not to work for free but agreed there is a vicious circle in Ireland between getting part III examination/experience and sticking up for what is in the common good.

    • #816849

      Its good to see Angela Brady is aware of some of the issues, but she conveniently misses the point and espouses time-sharing of part time work as opposed to encouraging proper jobs yielding a living wage.

      In Ireland, prior to May 1st 2008 people who had completed (5 + 1) 6 year courses and achieved prescribed qualifications were entitled to use the Title archtiect all over Europe and set up practice on their own in Ireland if they so chose.

      Since that date they cannot even call themselves “architect” legally in their own country.
      Not being able to do that means they cannot start small practices and offer competitive service to the public.
      Them not being able start small practices promotes indentured service – they MUST work for for an MRIAI to gain suitable, supervised work experience.

      I ask again – “Who benefits?”

      De Members of De Public?

      It is arguable that the prime beneficiaries are the directors of larger architectural companies who need the support of underpaid gradautes.

      Some of them are genuinely trying to preserve jobs and win work abroad – because there is little or nothing happening here – and I would support them in such an endeavour.

      However, this recession has exposed continuing unprofessional practice amongst SOME OF those who were given an automatic right of registration.

      I am sure that many – if not most – MRIAI’s follow good practice re employment but there will be some who expect indentured service.
      This goes back in time several decades in this country, where such service was the apprenticeship route to qualification.
      It was in fact one of the main grievances that the Archtiect’s Alliance held against Institute Members.
      Many who had “served their time” with MRIAI practices felt the rug had been pulled by the BCA 2007.
      They felt that the people who their work had supported were elevated above them unjustly.

      Now Graduates are experiencing what I foretold a year ago tomorrow.

      May 18th 2010 – Submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment.



      Vice Chairman: I ask Mr. O’Neill to be brief as the RIAI must make its presentation.

      Mr. Michael O’Neill: My name is Michael O’Neill and I am a qualified architect of 20 years’ standing having qualified from Bolton Street DIT in 1990.

      I appear before the committee to address the rights of graduate architects which have not been supported by the Building Control Act 2007. I understand the registrar’s position is that one standard should be applied and that it should be MRIAI. To apply this standard universally will be divisive, retrograde and undermine existing established and statutory rights. It fails to support adequately the right to earn a living to which postgraduate and self-taught architects are entitled under Irish law.

      The basic standard that entitles Irish persons to call themselves “architect” under EU Law is well known to the RIAI and is not that of MRIAI. Four kinds of persons were specifically referred to in the architects directive DIR 85/384/EEC, two persons with qualifications and two persons affiliated to the RIAI

      • Dipl. Arch. DIT
      • B. Arch. NUI
      • ARIAI
      • MRIAI

      This was written into the architects directive DIR 85/384/EEC and the mutual recognition of qualifications directive DIR 2005/36/EC. Irish Statute SI 15 of 1989 transposed the architects directive into Irish law.

      The first two persons named, the holders of Dipl. Arch. DIT and B. Arch. NUI, set the bar at the level of graduate. These are people who have passed a full-time five year course. Allow me to spell this out — graduates are entitled to call themselves “architect”.

      The Building Control Act 2007 fails to acknowledge this. It adopts instead the standard of a private organisation. The Building Control Act 2007, and by implication the registrar, is not working to the standards agreed with the EU.

      Who benefits from this?

      ARIAI is the associate affix and this can include some non-qualified persons. MRIAI outranks ARIAI in the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland and the member affix also includes some non-qualified persons. Not only is the MRIAI standard not the right standard, its ranks are known to include non-qualified persons as well. Despite this, the RIAI registrar and the Building Control Act 2007 fail to recognise adequately the rights of self-taught architects.

      Who benefits from this?

      DIR 2005/36/EC does not allow the raising of the bar. It consolidates directives on the mutual recognition of qualifications. Within its well-worded provisions is a means of updating the core skills to cater for scientific and technical progress. This does not allow the registrar to prevent natural persons with the required qualifications from accessing the profession. This process of raising the bar above the requirement of the EU directive is known as gold plating and I have written to the EU about it.

      Who benefits from this?

      Are there questions to answer at Government level? Yes.

      How was the Government persuaded to ignore the rights of graduates to use the title and so fail to allow them to be automatically registered?

      How was the Government persuaded to ignore the rights of established, self-taught architects to use the title and so place their livelihoods and families’ well-being at risk?

      A simple transposition of the persons named in the EU directive into the Act would have addressed the former and the insertion of a grandfather clause would have dealt with the latter issue.

      Who benefits from the fact that this was not done?

      These are the questions that must be answered. Failing to answer them and provide the necessary remedies will leave many competent professionals disenfranchised.


      So well done to Douglas Carson and the AAI for joining the fray but they are a year late and matters are are already turning out as I had feared.
      Still, better late than never and hopefully this current concern will lead to a formulation of employment policy for RIAI members that may influence the way the ARB and RIBA does business.

      What I do NOT want to see is a knee jerk response from the RIAI and the Registrar – simply transposing whatever Angela Brady proposes to the RIBA – just becasue Britain has ruined its profession and seen architects lose the pre-eminence they used occupy in the building industry in favour of Architectural Technoligists, CDM specialists, Passive Haus Designers and Project Managersn, should mean we should follow suit.

      I am particularly incensed by those who foreswear learning how to build and seem to think we are all Desoiners or some other nonsense.
      We design AND BUILD buildings, controlling the contractors and co-ordinating the design team.
      We certify – its our call and its our responsibility!
      I’m not seeing that being diluted in Ireland.



    • #816850

      @Zygnoth wrote:

      Angela Brady – incoming RIBA president – said that they were going to strike off any firms that don’t pay their interns minimum wage from the RIBA. This is an extremely strong move.

      Basically, she told about 120 students not to work for free but agreed there is a vicious circle in Ireland between getting part III examination/experience and sticking up for what is in the common good.

      I remember reading an article where she said that Irish Architects were upbeat even with the recession!

    • #816851

      @onq wrote:

      What I do NOT want to see is a knee jerk response from the RIAI and the Registrar – simply transposing whatever Angela Brady proposes to the RIBA

      Hopefully this won’t be the case, but when I see public sector bodies jumping on the unpaid bandwagon and meet an Architect in Arnotts, I do wonder if it’s time to jump ship

    • #816852

      In todays AJPlus

      The Architectural Association of Ireland (AAI) has blocked practices that use unpaid interns from entering its prestigious annual awards programme

      After 26 years of running the AAI Awards, the association now requires practices in the Republic of Ireland to sign a declaration that all submitted projects have been produced by paid employees.

      According to the AAI, the move is aimed at preventing practices from exploiting student architects and recent graduates.

      A letter sent by the association to the profession’s representative body in Ireland, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), explained that the measure had been taken to combat the widespread problem of unpaid internships, which exclude lower-income students from the profession.

      The letter added: ‘Emerging practices cannot compete with those backed by years of very healthy yields, who are now offering a degree of free work or “work at a loss”.’

      Dublin-born Angela Brady, the RIBA’s president-elect, said she wanted the RIBA to adopt a similar policy. She said unpaid internships had become ‘endemic’. Regarding contest bids, she added: ‘Competitions need to be properly resourced and paid for, so practices aren’t encouraged to recklessly speculate on “free” staff time or to win work at unrealistically low rates.’

      Leading Irish practices and recent AAI award-winners Scott Tallon Walker, DTA and de Blacam and Meagher were unwilling to comment. But John Graby, director of the RIAI, said he had no problem with the declaration against internships.

      He said, ‘We accept there is a difficulty that graduates face in gaining work experience, but we want to see everyone in the profession being properly paid.’

    • #816853
    • #816854

      What’s the position since the letter was sent – is there a published reply from the RIAI that we can link to here?


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