I am an architect with wide-ranging experience from a background in practice to my current career in teaching and planning. I have been involved with the RIBA from the start of my career; active at branch level, as President of RSAW and Vice-President of Membership of the RIBA. I have a particular interest in architectural practice.

On the following pages I have set out the areas of my experience and interests and what I would hope to achieve as President. I would be grateful for your support and contributions to the website and I will respond as the campaign progresses.

You can follow the links in the text or along the top of each page.

Emirates Business Feb 10

It is fashionable at the moment to talk of elephants in the room, but in Britain there are pachyderms outside as well. All too often architecture is the elephant in the city; an all pervading but unacknowledged influence on our daily lives. The lack of recognition of the importance of design in the built environment throughout the United Kingdom can inhibit the appointment of great designers to building projects that could transform our cityscapes and enhance our lives. So why is there this antipathy towards architecture? I suggest that one of the reasons is that whilst the fine arts are part of the curriculum, schoolchildren are given a very limited introduction to the applied arts and architecture in particular and that it becomes a graduate specialism, and as a consequence an expensive extra in the business of building not an inevitable consideration in the commissioning of construction work. I also consider that the lines of communication between the educators and the profession could be improved and we could all be better in explaining what architects and architecture can achieve in improving the quality of life.

Elsewhere in the world, as I saw in the Gulf, the importance of corporate and civic image promoted by landmark buildings is more evident so what can we do to reinforce the importance of good design here in the UK? As an academic, it is perhaps not surprising that I consider the solution lies within education.

Beginning with school children, we could do more to make the design of buildings a participatory process. Greater take-up of the architects in residence scheme within schools and similar initiatives would encourage active participation in the design of imaginary and real projects. The procurement of education buildings here through the Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) process distances the designers from the stakeholders of the new school including the school children. Their participation in the briefing process for their new accommodation has value for all parties; their unfettered imaginations can inspire the architects and by participating the children will have a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for the finished building.

In later life, the knowledge and understanding of design and architecture gained through school education will result in informed clients and decision-makers, as well as a more appreciative public. The values of good design – intangible benefits such as better place-making and cultural value as well as tangible increases in monetary value will be better understood and investment in quality in the built environment should be increased as a result.
The incorporation of architecture into the curriculum has an additional benefit; a wider and more diverse pool of talent will present itself as applicants for schools of architecture. The profession needs to be representative of the society that it serves, and racial and socio-economic diversity and sadly even gender mix currently do not reflect the wider public for whom we design the buildings. Raising aspiration amongst minorities is an important outcome of an inclusive education system and aspiration to join the profession needs to be encouraged.

Once enrolled, the student enters one of the best design educations in the world. This has been successfully exported through the international architecture schools validation system, with many architects who have graduated from British schools working all over the world, including the Gulf and international students a significant proportion of the cohorts here in Britain. The global nature of architectural education today, creates a melting pot of cultural influences and creativity. The opportunity of a career in architecture is open to more young men and women across the world than ever before, identifying and nurturing new talent from all corners of the Globe, the Gulf included. If we increase this inclusivity the profession will be well prepared to meet the increased globalisation which will be a key characteristic of the 21st Century.

The system is however not without its critics. There are some who feel that the academic approach to architectural education diminishes its relevance to practice, that an unfettered approach to the brief for studio schemes is unrealistic and does not teach students to design within the constraints that of the realities of practice such as building legislation, cost or materials supply. It is interesting that having had such a liberal environment in which to give free reign to the imagination our diploma courses do not fail deliver practical architects, however there is a problem with identifying and articulating what has been learned.

Many of the students that I tutor in their preparations for the final qualification within the British system, the Part III (which examines ability and knowledge of professional practice) are at a loss to explain the relevance of what they learned in the design studio when faced with the realities of practice. Many practitioners faced with a portfolio of exploratory schemes that go beyond buildings into realms of ecology, social science, even science fiction cannot appreciate what skills the potential employee is bringing with them. We need to give both student and employer more confidence in the education system to give them a greater understanding of the strengths of architectural education but also be prepared to give positive criticism and feedback to improve the courses.

Key to developing confidence is being able to understand and promote transferable skills; generic problem solving is the greatest asset that the graduate brings. It should be appreciated that the intellectual enquiry that underpins the diploma projects can equally be applied to the more grounded projects within the architect’s office. The lateral thinking that is developed in the student can be brought to bear on real construction projects and other decision and design processes throughout life. Students have also learned team working and a variety of communication methods, but they need to know that they know that they have acquired theses skills and be encouraged to demonstrate it in their applications for employment so that their employers understand it as well.

There are two areas in which I consider recent graduates from under-graduate and post-graduate courses lack tangible evidence of acquired skills, and which the schools should consider addressing: non-technical communication skills and perceived lack of resource. Like all professions, architects protect their identity and specialism with the use of jargon. The crit system in particular teaches us to describe our schemes verbally and graphically in the language of the profession, ill equipping us to present schemes to clients and planning committees once in practice. More exposure to non-architects during academic education would improve this.

The second is the loss of confidence by professional clients in particular in our ability to manage the resources of design and construction, which has resulted in the rise of project managers and the widening of the scope of the quantity surveyor. Resource is not just about the financial cost of building; architects also have to understand the limited availability of natural resources, such as energy and materials. While this should not constrain all studio design, an understanding of the limitations is necessary along with evidence of this learning outcome to convince employers and clients that we have this skill.

It is not too late for the rest of us to fill the gaps in our education: the greatest stimulus for me in architecture is that there is so much more that can be learned. The third stage of the education cycle after school and university is life-long learning. In fact, we could argue that there is an unrealistic expectation of what a recent graduate should know, because we seem to expect them to come out with the knowledge and wisdom of many years in practice. They should join the profession demonstrating an understanding that continuing learning in all aspects in architecture is expected of all architects. They can do this with a personal development plan showing how they will tailor their learning to their intended career path.

CPD should embrace all aspects of architecture too often it is limited to the technical and pragmatic training requirements of practice. A good personal development plan should identify a programme of learning across design, technical skills and practice. It should be education as well as training and it should go beyond the boundaries of architecture into personal skills such as languages and other professional skills such as teaching. It also strengthens the connections between schools of architecture and the architectural communities in which they are located bringing practitioners back into a learning environment and in doing so providing the opportunity to give students a glimpse of the professional world outside.

Finally the strength of a profession is that at its core it has learned societies that receive and promulgate the acquired learning of all practitioners and academics in the field to the greater benefit of the profession and the wider public. Education is at the heart of the profession starting in the schools, developing in the universities and carried on throughout life. It is strengthened when it subject to critical review and is both reactive to the changing nature of practice but also leads development in technical and design thinking. We need to focus everyone’s attention on the elephants, we all need great design.

RIBA J Feb 10

One of the most satisfying aspects of CPD is that gives you the justification for indulging in a passion for architecture. As an architect in small practice the opportunity to go out meet other architects and listen to a visiting speaker was a highlight of my working month. The discussion in the pub afterwards on architecture that could be geographically and financially remote from the realities of the office set me up to meet the planners the next day and reinforced my belief in the benefits of good design.

The RIBA Trust, the regions and branches do a great job in bringing the debate to architects but what of the wider world? The Mission of the RIBA is to advance architecture by demonstrating public benefit and promoting excellence in the profession and it has at its disposal one of the best architectural libraries in the world, a world class drawing collection and a superb collection of photographs. Increasingly these are being used to inform the wider public about architecture, the Palladio exhibition at the Royal Academy last year is a good example of this.

We are now planning an exhibition which explores his legacy alongside the seminal influence of Palladio on American architecture. Palladio and his Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey which opens at the Morgan Library in New York on 2nd April and is centred on 31 original Palladio drawings and 6 books from the RIBA’s collections, alongside bas-reliefs and architectural models. It traces Palladio’s architectural development alongside the enormous impact his work had on the architecture of the United States, resulting in new and original interpretations from grand formal buildings to smaller utilitarian structures. The show will then travel to three further venues in the US hopefully attracting sponsorship and increased transatlantic interest in the Institute and its collections.

We could do more and investment in the promotion of the Institute’s assets is a direction that I would like to see as an outcome of the next round of business planning. As the mission statement implies we need to balance the internal requirements of the profession with the development of public understanding. In doing so we increase the public and politicians’ awareness of good design and thereby we enhance our value. Everyone needs to know that they need architects and that good buildings do not just happen by osmosis between clients and builders. Promotion of what we do at local, regional, national and international level using the examples of past and present architecture through use of the collections, lectures and exhibitions is a strength we can develop. We have the material. America is just the beginning.

RIBA J Dec 09

It has been a challenge to think of what unites the two groups of members I visited in October. There could not be greater contrast than between Stoke on Trent and Abu Dhabi. I visited Stoke on the West Midlands leg of my tour of the Regions and Abu Dhabi for the launch of the Gulf Chapter. Stoke is a story of regeneration opportunities missed. Abu Dhabi on the other hand is coming out of recession and alive with tower cranes and construction work.
There were however common issues. The members in both cities are enthusiastic and passionate about education. The architects in the Gulf have set up their Chapter primarily to meet their obligations for CPD and see events as an opportunity to get together as a community of architects and co-professionals. They are also keen to develop the provision of architectural education in the area and launched their chapter with a student competition. The architects of Stoke were concerned about the current conditions for students, worried about losing a generation of talent. They too saw the opportunities for cross professional working to strengthen the profession in difficult times.
In both cities there are innovative approaches to delivering sustainable buildings. Stoke is developing as a centre for distribution and the Blue Planet warehouse has been constructed as an exemplar for the building type. It is the first ever BREEAM warehouse rated as outstanding and it aims to provide 100% of heating and power from renewable energy from a biomass plant and kinetic energy plates at the site entry which will capture and store energy from HGVs. Overall green energy provision means that the building is projected to save up to £300k per year in reduced running costs. It is surprising therefore that it is still empty.

Masdar is a sustainable city in an essentially unsustainable location. Architects from Foster and Partners showed us around the site close to Abu Dhabi airport. The new city is predicated around scientific research and designed as a dense urban fabric capturing shade and desert breezes. Transportation is by pre-programmable electric cars connecting the multi-storey car parks with the entrances to the city in the undercroft. Key to making a sustainable settlement in the desert is electricity generated from massive arrays of photovoltaics. The challenge is to develop effective power storage for night time use.

It used to worry me that the demands of sustainability would mean a return to medieval technologies and that we would have to unlearn the advances of centuries to return to a low carbon existence. What I saw on my visits were examples of man’s endless ability to innovate and a vision that it was possible to design our way out of the problem. I saw the ability to channel wealth to focus research on sustainable design in the Gulf and the development of a warehouse in Stoke, thousands of miles apart but both demonstrating architectural innovation.

RIBA J Nov 09

It is a truism that when two or more architects meet within minutes the discussion will turn to planning so armed with this preconception I started my tour of the regions in London at three practices and Design for London and waited for the anecdotes to start. What actually transpired were wide-ranging discussions of issues, as well as planning, some positive feedback to the RIBA and suggestions for what else could be done. Low fee bids, public procurement pre-qualification and the need for education to adapt to make architectural skills more transferable were some of the issues discussed. All wanted the RIBA to continue lobbying to help the profession survive in the recession and there was recognition that it could only do this from the stance of promoting architecture not architects. Indeed all practices stressed that public outreach to clients, government, local authorities and the general public about the value of good design was vital and should be improved.

What also emerged was the identity of London as an RIBA Region. I had assumed in my view from beyond the M25 that sharing premises and activities with Headquarters blurred the distinction between the centre and the Region but what was apparent was that the community of architecture operates best at a regional and a branch level. The members we met wanted to participate in events and debates rather than join committee systems and found these within their region. They all wanted to contribute something towards the major issues identified.

Which brings me back to planning. At the party conferences it was obvious that all the major political parties are discussing localism in some form or another and putting aside the cynical view that this is only a constituency canvassing ploy for the general election, it pushes the planning agenda right out to the smallest unit of governance, the local authority. Centrally the RIBA cannot hope to influence the adoption of good design across every one of nearly 400 local authorities in England alone but the launch of the guidance document DESIGN REVIEW – Principles and Practice jointly authored by CABE, the RTPI, the RIBA and the Landscape Institute offers a practical method of promoting good design at a local level. Design Review panels rely on the expert contributions of professionals to give disinterested advice to design teams before applications are submitted and in doing so give the lay councillors the confidence to support schemes once they reach the planning committee. Support for this system from architects across the country is essential to ensure its success. So with the risk of cliché ask not what the RIBA can do for you, join a review panel or help to instigate a new one, keep good design at the heart of the planning system.

Architecture Today October 2009

At the moment I have two homes, one in Birmingham where I have been for 3 years and one recently leased for me in central London by the RIBA. Most people given the opportunity to choose between the two would probably give London as their kind of city, I however chose Birmingham, not to detract from our great capital but out of a sense of belonging. It could be inherited, my Mother is a brummie, whatever the reason it has very rapidly become my home and like all good friends I love it for its flaws as much as its great qualities.

It is the vigour of the city that excites me. If you arrived at New Street blindfold you could not mistake where you have arrived. The sound of the city is one of many youthful voices and many cultures. One of the most culturally diverse cities in Britain and with the youngest demographic it is noisy and lively.

The defining noise is the squealing wheels of trains that tunnel under the very heart of the shopping centre which with the ozone scent of the electric cables are evidence of one of the transport hubs that define Birmingham’s existence. If you removed your blindfold you would realise that the heart of the city is past its best, the re-building of New Street Station is overdue and the Foreign Office proposal to bring daylight to the centre of the concourse and a building of strong architectural identity to the core of Birmingham’s centre is necessary to reinforce the city as a 21st century transport hub.

The canals were the first to make Birmingham the centre of their national network. They are now retired to genteel leisure at Gas Street Basin with remnants of their industrial past in their red engineering brick structures, satisfyingly utilitarian but with sculptural qualities to the arches and fairings of the tunnels. They stretch out from the centre into post-industrial landscapes, arteries of potential amid the profiled metal sheet clad sheds.

In the Twentieth Century Birmingham was the English Detroit, motor city, with a seamless web of underpasses and flyovers providing a non-stop route for your Austin Allegro and its component parts from Spaghetti Junction, in the motorway hub of England to the centre of the city and beyond to the production lines. The concrete collar of dual carriage ways that nearly choked the life out of the central 80 hectares may have been broken at Masshouse but it is still the route that gives the most coherent view of the structure of the city. Without a significant river to define it Birmingham could lack legibility, however it sits on a dome and to date its tall buildings policy has reinforced this topography giving the sense of arrival from the M6 that is normally associated with the American cities it aspired to be.

The city is on a constant cycle of renewal but manages to leave behind most of the best of its past so a walk from Brindleyplace, the first of the large-scale privately funded urban regeneration schemes, to the Bullring with Selfridges, a building so distinctive that it now defines the city, you pass through a series of public spaces and streets that describe the past two centuries of the city. The ICC and Symphony Hall are the confident statements of a resurgent late 20th civic pride. They lie at the head of Centenary Square a huge space, only partially contained, that will be the home of the new Mecanoo library to replace the Madin structure that lies between the Square and the city centre. It used to fascinate me as a child that you could walk through a building as you do the existing library. It is a pity that its sculptural quality is lost in the clutter of concessions, it is an important building of its time.

The 19th Century great city of commerce has a sturdy legacy in Victoria Square and the surrounding streets from the massive neo-classical Town Hall to the gothic of the Chamberlain era. Corporation Street carved through the medieval street pattern is the main element of his legacy and established a civic dimension to the townscape that matched the economic importance of the city. The main streets retain this character but behind the scenes the random nature of building heights, materials and styles can be disjointed. Birmingham needs a supporting cast of good everyday buildings to support the landmarks that define its image. The Big City Plan is an opportunity to address this and I hope it will not be missed.

Birmingham Forward 30.10.09

Thank you for inviting me tonight. There has been much press attention given to the fact that after 175 years I am the first woman president of the RIBA. Less attention has been given to the facts that I am the first academic and the first resident of Birmingham to have taken the role. The first women joined the Institute in 1898 so we have had 111 years in which to elect a woman and we still make up just 14% of the chartered profession. This trail-blazing carries with it some responsibility. It is my intention that not only Birmingham and the West Midlands should benefit from my presidency but that London should be enriched by the association too. The experience of the region in the recession greatly informs my campaigning on behalf the members of the RIBA but I can also take to London the story of a dynamic, young city leading out of an industrial past with a future built on education and the skills and enthusiasm of the next generation.

You have set a challenging agenda for my speech tonight that reflects the economic challenges that will define my two years in office. My answer to the first question you posed may surprise you. You asked that ‘Given the enormous pressure on the construction/property development sector how can we ensure that Birmingham and the region gets their fair share of ‘signature’ buildings’

The great strengths of Birmingham are the signature buildings of the past 2 centuries, and in my opinion improving the setting of these are as important as providing more new landmarks to add to a role call of honour that stretches in time from Town Hall and the Art School at Margaret Street of the 19th Century to Selfridges and the Mecanoo library of the 21st. Cities are defined by places as much as buildings and Birmingham has been sensitive to the need for excellent design in the public realm. Victoria Square with all its challenges of the changes in level has proved itself a place of European importance, the new library in Centenary Square is an exciting opportunity to renew this enormous public place.

If the City has a weakness it lies not in a lack of signature buildings but in the streets behind the set pieces. What is needed is a better standard of ordinary in our buildings to support the landmark buildings that already exist. A slower economy would support this approach and the Big City Plan is the opportunity to enforce good design for all building in Birmingham. In many ways this is a greater challenge than finding the cash to build another Icon. High standards of design for all development in the 800 hectares could create a legacy as great as any individual building designed to compete with the other great English cities. It spreads the sense of civic responsibility across commercial, residential and public sectors alike and would retain a pride in the built environment that will sustain Birmingham through the recession and allow it to lead out of it as a European city of the highest standing.

The strength of Birmingham is its ability to renew itself constantly. At a photographic exhibition by Pogus Caesar charting the building of the Bullring I met a resident who had seen 4 incarnations of the Bullring in his lifetime; the Victorian market, the ruins after the bombing in the war, the sixties re-building and the current highly successful scheme. This is not uncommon for a site in central Birmingham and demonstrates that within a generation the city can reinvent itself. Its greatest strength is that it is not precious about its past, it retains some of the best and then starts again. However this rapid rate of redevelopment will have to slow down. With a greater demand than ever for sustainable development it becomes important to make the buildings we construct now a lasting legacy of high design quality that will transcend changing tastes in style. The buildings we build now we should want to keep for the future. As I said what we need is a better standard of ordinary.

Birmingham has three successful Universities contributing to the youngest demographic for any city in England unfortunately it also has one of the highest levels of unemployment at 10.5% in the country. Unemployment rates amongst the young including young graduates are the highest. This is a very testing time for the city because it undermines the basis of its recovery. On a personal level it is disheartening to teach people aspiring to be architects knowing that they face a market in which 30% of the profession are expected not to have a job within the next year – the figure is currently running at 17%.

There is no magic answer but for once I am not standing on the sidelines watching the sunami wave approach. BCU and the RIBA will do all they can to ensure our recent and current graduates don’t become a lost generation. It is not enough to berate architects for tendering suicidal fee bids in an attempt to win work despite the inevitable uneconomic future for their practices. I am lobbying government to make the construction industry the agent of economic renewal. At the party conference this week I joined up the thinking of several government ministers to consider the effect of a reduction in capital expenditure in housing, health and education all key areas of development within Birmingham. If we run down the construction industry to the levels it suffered in the early nineties it is not just a generation of architects that will be lost but plumbers, electricians and plasterers who will leave their trades or never start their training and I suspect most of here can remember the effect of that as the economy started to recover 15 years ago. The government and the next both need to be reminded of that and the same message will be going to the Tories in Manchester next week (just in case!)

It is not a short term act of economic expediency to cut capital expenditure for a couple of years to relieve the public sector borrowing requirement, it has a long term effect on skills in construction. This time the recovery in construction is held back by the complete standstill in the commercial sector due to the lack of investment lending. The government could do major damage to the construction industry if it cut spending now and it is a key area of the economy. The architects are the marker profession, if we are suffering high levels of unemployment a high percentage of 1.9 million construction workers will follow and the livelihoods of many indirectly employed in the industry as well.

You asked about our own students at the Birmingham School of Architecture, well there is still no shortage of young people wanting to study architecture and the standard of entry and level of enthusiasm is rising annually. We are still the only school in the West Midlands and we serve a local population providing an accessible course that reflects the cultural diversity of the region.

The state of the industry doesn’t really affect students of architecture until the year-out at the end of the first degree. As they graduate I encourage them to think on their feet, to understand the transferable skills inherent in their degree and to take them into parallel sectors; engineering, interiors even construction for the moment. Sadly some of the best will be diverted off at this stage but those that return for the Part II Diploma Course are committed to qualifying and their prospects are not good.

Where post part II students can get a job I am asking the RIBA to look again at how their experience is measured, to move away from a time–served basis to a record of competencies gained to make the final part III exam more flexible. At the moment it takes at least 8 years frequently 10, to qualify as an architect, 5 of them in full-time education, we should seek to bring this back down to a total of 7 years and remove some unrealistic expectation of what experience a young professional can achieve.

As for the RIBA it offers advice for students and graduates on everything from interview and job application tips to advice on working overseas. Student RIBA membership is free and at BCU we encourage them all to join from first year. For the year out students we are continuing to add to our portfolio of support and have just launched a scheme called Hostpractice whereby recent graduates are linked up with practices who have free office space in which the graduates can work on competitions or small commissions together; and benefit from the atmosphere of being alongside a practice while not having a formal relationship with it. Ideas, contacts, and opportunities can be traded freely, and working relationships developed to keep everyone faithful to their love of subject.

Your final question as to whether the profession is understood by business community is an interesting one. The role of an architect is so wide ranging, I am not surprised at all when I meet clients and stakeholders who don’t know the full extent of an architect’s role, or the constraints in which we deliver the best for them.

I don’t want to insult your intelligence with a root and branch description of an architect’s services but I would ask you to consider where in the industry the profession lies and draw your own conclusion as to its influence and relevance. We have traditionally been at fulcrum of the building process. On one side we have led the design team and the briefing process understanding, interpreting and developing the client’s brief to design a building that should meet and exceed the ambitions of funders and stakeholders. On the other we have overseen the delivery of buildings sometimes as contract administrator, but more commonly today, facilitating detail design and co-ordination for the constructor. To design a building we have to incorporate the social, economic, political and cultural values of the client and stakeholders so we need an understanding of the wider context for architecture beyond the site boundaries. To detail and deliver buildings we need negotiation and legal skills as well as technical knowledge. To enable to cover this range of skills and knowledge we belong to a professional institute that holds the common knowledge and places requirements for continuing professional development on every practising member.

What isn’t understood as widely as we’d like is the economic benefits of good design. As tax payers and consumers we should no longer accept poor design. Better designed buildings create a better financial return for their investors, and can maximise development value. Plus there is hard evidence that proves that good design can improve people’s lives – better health outcomes in well designed hospitals, better education attainment in well designed schools, less crime in well designed environments etc.

The Institute promotes architecture not architects, it is a charter body with that as its remit. As such it can promote great architecture that is not about style but a holistic definition of design that encompasses how a building performs and how it is delivered as well as its layout, structure, interiors and envelope. The reputation of the RIBA places it in the top 200 brands and it is listened to by government and has influence in built environment policy.

So if you are considering using an architect please be aware that there as many types of architects as there are types of buildings and the right architect for you will understand your values and advise how these can best be achieved. The Clients Advisory Service at the RIBA can put you in touch with architects in your sector and our competitions office can arrange competitions to find the right skills for your project if you are spoiled for choice.

It is going to be a very difficult time for the profession and the industry during my presidency – I am cursed with interesting times – but I am looking forward to the challenge of the next two years. It would have been great to have ridden on the crest of a sustained wave of economic growth but in a perverse way the recession provides more opportunities make a positive impact on architecture. It becomes an even greater necessity to lobby to create the conditions for good design to flourish. A recession and a general election makes us all take stock and set out our long term objectives and in doing so it provides opportunities to influence the future direction of policy in the built environment.

I am visiting the regions of England to see how sustained economic growth and regeneration has re-shaped our cities, knowing that at home Birmingham is an exemplar for economic regeneration. As the first academic president I am unique in having the financial support of a university for my presidency. I see this as evidence of Birmingham’s engagement with the national agenda and I will do my best to reward that investment.

Thank you for having me tonight I have greatly enjoyed being here and I hope that I will meet many of you again soon

East Midlands Awards 29.10.09

Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to be part of your celebration of great architecture in the East Midlands. The buildings showcased here demonstrate how their excellent design has transformed the villages, towns and cities in which they have been built as well as the lives of the people that use them. The challenge for us all is to ensure that this standard can now be maintained in the recession we find ourselves in and beyond into the economic growth that lies ahead.

In the year that I served as President-elect the abrupt loss of finance from public and private development has had a devastating effect, initially felt by architects and the other design team professionals and now increasingly by construction teams. The economic climate for the RIBA has changed dramatically and Institute policy now has to be addressed in an era of economic constraint and increasingly limited financial resources.

The recession has forced us all to take stock and consider what we already have, the talk is now of adaptation and conversion, less of demolition and re-build. Adapt and survive is a very different ethos to invest and build and we are unlikely ever to return so wholeheartedly to the new-build boom of the past 15 years. My presidency inevitably will reflect this and our approach to policy making in planning, procurement and education will address making the best use of scarce financial resources, designing out waste in procurement as well as in construction and use.

The challenge of delivering low carbon buildings in an era of financial restraint will be one of technological advances and ingenuity. Architects are good at converting constraints into drivers for excellence in design and there are already plenty of examples of well-designed high-performing buildings that demonstrate the way forward. Some of which have been showcased here tonight.

I can see that buildings will become increasing appraised like cars, on their performance as much as their appearance. Architectural excellence will eventually be judged by clients, stakeholders and government by a more holistic definition of good design.

We need to reinforce the value of what we create – social, economic and aesthetic value – and not devalue ourselves as architects and the services we provide. We need to come out of this recession strongly, able to deliver the new paradigm not decimated by suicidal fee levels. We all eventually get what we pay for, clients included!

Understanding and promoting value is something that I want to communicate to the profession during my presidency to re-set the mind-set from immediate capital cost to long term value.

The value agenda is not a new idea, the work of Building Excellence earlier this decade resulted in ‘BE Valuable’ setting out the case for the definition, assessment and promotion of value in design, construction and use of buildings. In 2006 CABE issued the ‘Value Handbook’ which defined the various aspects of value which informed the building programmes of public bodies and now forms the framework of the new RIBA Value Toolkit.

In a recession the concept becomes even more important as clients attempt to define the necessary qualities that need to remain in cash-strapped construction programmes.

CABE identified 6 types of value:

Exchange value is the quantifiable value that all of the design and construction team understand, the completed building demonstrates an economic return that rewards the client’s investment. For some clients and building types this is the only value that that is consciously acknowledge in the brief. It is however the value that was immediately challenged by the credit crunch which under-mined the short-term benefit of basing development and regeneration on a single value agenda – that of profit.

It is still an essential part of the vocabulary of clients and designers for many types of building. Financial viability is still a necessary quality and even harder to achieve. However it should be remembered that well designed buildings do have greater exchange value, either for onward sale or in rental return. It is still a design outcome that can be promoted but it is much enhanced when expressed with the other values that good design can deliver.

On the wall of Einstein’s office was a sign that read:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

The remaining definitions of value are less tangible sometimes lacking ways in which they can be measured and not always expressed as required attributes by client or designer. Of these ‘Use Value’ is usually recognised and briefed for, particularly in public buildings where the client has an on-going interest in the building performing well for those that use it.

There are some ways of measuring the performance of the building in use however the evidence is largely from America and we lack the recent British data to support the case for retaining use values in our designs when under pressure to cut costs. What we understand is that well designed building enhance the performance of those that use them, whether it be learning, returning to health, staff performance and job satisfaction

Image value is similarly easier to define than to measure. Since Eiffel built his tower and later Bilboa re-defined itself with the Guggenheim, city fathers have understood the power of an iconic image to define a city. Companies also understand the power of the corporate image that their buildings embody. A well-designed landmark building can bring media coverage and re-position the brand of a city or a company. Clearly architecture has a powerful role to play in selling an image but this a value that can only be played out where it is appropriate. I have just returned from Abu Dhabi and Dubai where every building shouts look at me to the detriment of place making. The icon should be a targeted asset that makes not confuses a city image.

Social value is a quality that a client may need in their scheme but may not be explicit in requesting. Well-designed buildings and places retain civic pride, reduce crime and vandalism and promote prosperity and morale. Social value is an essential quality for housing, schools and public realm schemes. In times of recession quality of life and social cohesion are challenged, providing and maintaining the environment to retain our social values are essential elements of good design.

Environmental value is one value that should not be compromised by reduced economic resources. The requirements of the sustainability agenda do not diminish with the reduction in available investment capitol. The planet still has finite resources that cannot be plundered but this is one area where financial and resource efficiency can work together, reducing waste can have cash benefits as well as ecological ones.

The one key area that requires continued and increasing investment is the low carbon agenda. The buildings constructed today will still be in use in 2050. Working towards 80% carbon reduction by 2050 requires a continuing enhancement of the performance of all new and refurbished buildings. Maintaining this momentum is one of the greatest challenges of the recession as improved performance carries with it capital cost.

This was one of the key messages that the RIBA team delivered to ministers and shadow ministers at the party conferences. They acknowledged the balancing act of maintaining a comprehensive building programme in health, education and housing while enhancing the performance requirements of all buildings, new and retro-fitted. It was a message that was reinforced by our call to make the construction industry the driver for growth out of recession with its direct influence over the jobs of 1.9 million construction workers and many more in associated industries.

The final definition is ‘Cultural Value’ and is the least tangible and measurable of all the definitions. It includes qualities such as aesthetics and context which can be highly controversial and as a result, like image value, can promote media coverage. It is a value that can grow or diminish within the life of the building, it is recognisable to all but it is subject to an overlay of social class, education even religious interpretation. It is the one value that architects struggle to define, it is also the reason why it takes at least 7 years of education and a lifetime of experience to educate an architect.

So why return to the value agenda? The economic climate in which we are now working demands that the architectural profession, together with the rest of the design team, understand and communicate good value to clients at the briefing stage and throughout the construction process. Good value rewards investment and meets the wider needs of society

As the quote from the wall of Albert Einstein’s study states not all can be easily quantified so the challenge is to communicate the qualities of good value.

Putting a priority on the client’s requirements for the project and maintaining this agenda in the face of the demands to cut cost – the frequently miss-named ‘value engineering process’ – is a skill that architects possess and need to promote whether engaged as Client Design Advisors with this as their core remit or as the design architect or as part of the delivery team. It links the design to the successful outcome.

A further incentive to consider value is that linking the work of consultants to the value they create is one way of ensuring that as buildings become more valuable after the recession, the design team work also increases in value. What is needed is more research to attach measurable values to this, taken throughout the whole-lifetime of the buildings.

The areas that I wish to address during my presidency include investigation into what more we can do to help our clients to achieve good value from their buildings; what further tools are needed to define value to clients; whether if value is linked to building performance can we promise or even guarantee how our buildings perform and whether the education of architects need to change to address resource and value?

It would be good if some of these excellent buildings awarded tonight contributed to this research by helping us to define why and how they demonstrate value to their clients. It is in the interests of us all, architects, building users and clients to carry forward this excellence into the next decade.

RIBA J Oct 09

With the return of the Indian summer and the students come the party conferences. Attending for the first time last year I found I really enjoyed them. The air of informality and the proximity of senior politicians provided opportunities to lobby and to expand on some of the detail behind the headline issues in a relaxed way. The one to one meeting with front bench spokesmen and women and the fringe events that consist of a panel of experts leading a debate gave directed but civilised opportunities to promote institute policy.

This year it may all be more driven, given the imminent general election this is the optimum moment to be launching the RIBA manifesto to influence the policy makers but we will need to fight to be heard as others will be doing the same. It helps that we hold our fringe meetings in partnership with other organisations with similar aims giving strength to our shared messages.

It also helps that the RIBA core message that buildings matter is a strong one. Underpinning all of the agenda is the message that we cannot relax the need to meet the challenges of climate change despite severe restrictions in financial resources. Limited finances should be targeted where they will be most effective and we are proposing that 4 million homes be retrofitted in the lifetime of the next parliament to raise their energy performance to that of new homes. We need to raise awareness of energy use so we are also calling for the introduction of smart energy meters in every building and the publication of carbon bills by energy companies.

To maintain a high standard of design and performance and to maximise the benefit of scarce financial resources in the program for new schools, hospitals and homes we believe that less wasteful procurement processes should be adopted. It is very important that as tough decisions are being made, standards of design and performance do not fall and we believe that minimum design standards should be set for all public buildings and their performance in use monitored.

The front line for these difficult decisions will be the local authorities and planning remains the most challenging area for applicants and decision makers alike. We want to see a stronger planning system that embraces and reinforces design quality with design review embedded in the process. We know that we are not alone in calling for a more effective planning system and we have had considerable success in promoting the importance of good design, we now need to see effective delivery of this policy.

I start my regional tour in London this month looking how a successful capitol city has redeveloped to meet rising social and economic expectations and how the recession is affecting practices and the buildings they are designing. I will report back next month.

Handover speech 03.09.09

Thank you Sunand and thank you all for coming and providing the perfect opportunity to publically express the RIBA’s appreciation of the work Sunand has done in his two years as President. He has just set out his achievements with typical modesty which leaves it to me to list the qualities he has brought to the role. The essential quality has been his deep intellect which combined with excellent communication skills and a strong ethical basis which combined with his personal morality has given a considered and articulate voice to the Institute and a strong media presence. He is also a great democrat giving equal weight and consideration to all voices at Council and the Board even if this meant frequently over-running time.

A superb designer in his own right he brings personal experience from his practice, Penoyre and Prasad in the key sectors of education and health to the design and procurement debate giving immediacy to his lobbying of Westminster. However it is his strong ethical stance on climate change that he will be remembered for most. He has championed the policy of contraction and convergence which was adopted as Institute policy and personally toured the country to take the message to architects. This will be a lasting legacy, most architects now recognise the urgent need to improve the performance of our buildings and change the way we use them in order to meet the low carbon agenda. However there are still some that remain to be convinced and I have asked Sunand to continue his campaign in the coming year as Immediate Past-President.

I know it is what all incoming presidents will say but Sunand really will be a tough act to follow. Thankfully there are some obvious differences between us and although there will be continuity – a highly desirable attribute for a successful institute such as the RIBA – there will be a change of emphasis. This is now inevitable regardless of where we set out from. The economic climate has changed dramatically and Institute policy now has to be addressed in an era of economic constraint and increasingly limited financial resources. In the year that I have served as President-elect the abrupt loss of finance from public and private development has had a devastating effect, initially felt by architects and the other design team professionals and now increasingly by construction teams.

The recession has forced us all to take stock and consider what we already have, the talk is now of adaptation and conversion, less of demolition and re-build. Adapt and survive is a very different ethos to invest and build and we are unlikely ever to return so wholeheartedly to the new-build boom of the past 15 years. My presidency inevitably will reflect this and our approach to policy making in planning, procurement and education will address making the best use of scarce financial resources, designing out waste in procurement as well as in construction and use. We need to reinforce the value of what we create – social, economic and aesthetic value – and not devalue ourselves as architects and the services we provide. We need to come out of this recession strongly, able to deliver the new paradigm not decimated by suicidal fee levels.

The challenge of delivering low carbon buildings in an era of financial restraint will be one of technological advances and ingenuity. Architects are good at converting constraints into drivers for excellence in design and there are already plenty of examples of well-designed high-performing buildings that demonstrate the way forward. I can see that buildings will become increasing appraised like cars, on their performance as much as their appearance. Architectural excellence will eventually be judged by clients, stakeholders and government by a more holistic definition of good design.

I am looking forward to the challenge of the next two years. It would have been great to have ridden on the crest of a sustained wave of economic growth but in a perverse way the recession provides more opportunities make a positive impact on architecture. It becomes an even greater necessity to lobby to create the conditions for good design to flourish. A recession and a general election makes us all take stock and set out our long term objectives and in doing so it provides opportunities to influence the future direction of policy in the built environment.

We will campaign hard with the existing government and with its successor for design quality, economic restraint should not result in reductions in standards particularly as the buildings we build now will still be in existence in 40 years time and will have to perform to a standard of carbon use set for 2050. We cannot achieve the legislated targets if we reduce our standards now. We must also build on the quality emerging in our public places, our confidence in ourselves is reflected in the quality of our environments. The RIBA will continue to lobby for the highest standards of public architecture.

The assessment of the changing landscape will not just influence external policy, the RIBA will have a ‘Way Ahead Review’, as outlined by Sunand, that will inform our long term policies for the structure of the Institute, its relationship to others in the industry and the emerging requirements for practice and education as construction adapts to the new building performance requirements.

My presidency will also see the arrival of Harry Rich as our new Chief Executive and the retirement of Richard Hastilow, something that I will view with some sadness as Richard has been instrumental in giving the RIBA its public profile, creating a top brand that has been the foundation for our efficacy in public affairs and made us synonymous with great architecture across culture and media and with commerce and consumers. Harry will also have a tough act to follow but I know he is the right man for the job.

Harry comes to us from a role of Chief Executive of Enterprise Insight which promotes entrepreneurship in the UK. Before that he was Deputy Chief Executive at the Design Council an effective mix of business acumen in a creative environment. A lawyer by training, his non-executive roles include being governor at the University for the Creative Arts and on the Press Complaint Commission’s Charter Compliance Panel, essential experience of the challenges of governance and regulation to be brought to bear on the review of the structure and direction of the RIBA.

Some changes are already in progress, within a year the structure of the RIBA will have changed with a Board of Trustees overseeing the fiduciary governance of the Institute and Council fully embracing its primary role of setting architectural policy making it much more effective in debating the changing conditions of practice. I may be alone amongst incoming presidents in actually looking forward to chairing Council!

The year ahead will not just be about serious debate and review. We are still in the year of our significant Birthday, 175 year old and the celebrations continue. I have been asked to introduce one of the films of the Architecture in Film season held in partnership with the British Film Institute throughout November to celebrate 175. Rather ominously the film on the night will be the Belly of an Architect linking architecture and pregnancy not something I was planning ever to do again!

Being a woman president is not the only first for the RIBA, I am also the first academic and first resident of Birmingham to have held the post. So with the dubious honour of being the first person to wear a skirt in the role (or so I am told) I carry the aspirations of several constituencies. I hope I can meet their expectations.

For the RIBA to have a woman president really is long overdue and to be a role model for other women is something I take very seriously. The recession will yet again result in the loss of more women than men from practice and with it much talent. If my tenure of the presidency will in any way stem that tide, I will have achieved something worthwhile.

My connections with education are something I also take seriously and I want to have a meaningful dialogue with the schools about their concerns and aspirations and what they consider the RIBA’s role should be in the future of education.

The regions too will feature strongly in my agenda and I am about to embark on visits to each as part of a dialogue with the membership to redress the accusations of poor communication that have been levelled at the Institute. Although I don’t believe the message was not going out it doesn’t always seem to have been received and it would be good to find out why.

As I said I am looking forward to the next two years, I like a challenge and this may be the greatest one I have faced so far in my career. I am unlikely to ever make an Oscar acceptance speech so forgive me for indulging in a few heartfelt thanks, without tears of course. Thank you to my family and to the many friends who have supported and nominated me in my election campaign and had the imagination to believe that I could be president and have supported me this far, I will try to exceed your expectations. Thank you also to the staff of the RIBA here in London and across the Home Nations and Regions who have embraced my presidency with enthusiasm. But most of all thank you again to Sunand for two excellent years as president.

Enjoy the evening, just a gentle reminder that we will need to draw proceedings to a close at 8.00 o’clock.

If I don’t get a chance to speak to you tonight I hope that I will see you again soon. Thank you for coming.

Livery company speech 14.09.09

I am honoured to be asked to respond on behalf of the guests. This is the second time I have enjoyed the hospitality of the livery company and has been a delight to be here again. I am particularly honoured to be asked to speak at the lunch following the installation of Roger France as Master. I met Roger a few weeks ago and we soon discovered a number of things that we had in common, preeminent amongst them is that we are both academics and both the first academics to have led our respective bodies. Roger has enjoyed another notable first being the first architect to have qualified as a transportation engineer a combination of skills that I would have thought very relevant to informing the context for architectural design.

It has not gone un-noticed by the media that I am the first woman president of the RIBA but I am also the first inhabitant of Birmingham to have held the post and I have never lived in London so a bonus for me has been getting to know this capital city. Being invited to these livery halls has been a discovery of some of the hidden gems of the city. It has also been a wonderful opportunity to meet people with much experience of working here sadly at a time when commercial architecture in particular has been savagely hit by the recession.

In the year that I have served as President-elect the abrupt loss of finance from public and private development has had a devastating effect, initially felt by architects and the other design team professionals and now increasingly by construction teams. The economic climate for the RIBA has changed dramatically and Institute policy now has to be addressed in an era of economic constraint and increasingly limited financial resources.

The recession has forced us all to take stock and consider what we already have, the talk is now of adaptation and conversion, less of demolition and re-build. Adapt and survive is a very different ethos to invest and build and we are unlikely ever to return so wholeheartedly to the new-build boom of the past 15 years. My presidency inevitably will reflect this and our approach to policy making in planning, procurement and education will address making the best use of scarce financial resources, designing out waste in procurement as well as in construction and use. We need to reinforce the value of what we create – social, economic and aesthetic value – and not devalue ourselves as architects and the services we provide. We need to come out of this recession strongly, able to deliver the new paradigm not decimated by suicidal fee levels.

The challenge of delivering low carbon buildings in an era of financial restraint will be one of technological advances and ingenuity. Architects are good at converting constraints into drivers for excellence in design and there are already plenty of examples of well-designed high-performing buildings that demonstrate the way forward. I can see that buildings will become increasing appraised like cars, on their performance as much as their appearance. Architectural excellence will eventually be judged by clients, stakeholders and government by a more holistic definition of good design.

I am looking forward to the challenge of the next two years. It would have been great to have ridden on the crest of a sustained wave of economic growth but in a perverse way the recession provides more opportunities make a positive impact on architecture. It becomes an even greater necessity to lobby to create the conditions for good design to flourish. A recession and a general election makes us all take stock and set out our long term objectives and in doing so it provides opportunities to influence the future direction of policy in the built environment.

We will campaign hard with the existing government and with its successor for design quality, economic restraint should not result in reductions in standards particularly as the buildings we build now will still be in existence in 40 years time and will have to perform to a standard of carbon use set for 2050. We cannot achieve the legislated targets if we reduce our standards now. We must also build on the quality emerging in our public places, our confidence in ourselves is reflected in the quality of our environments. The RIBA will continue to lobby for the highest standards of public architecture.

The party conference season is underway and the RIBA will hosting fringe events and I will be meeting key front bench spokesmen and women. In the informal atmosphere they provide an excellent opportunity to put across the RIBA manifesto policies on sustainable design, procurement and inevitably the planning system.

The assessment of the changing landscape will not just influence external policy, the RIBA will have a ‘Way Ahead Review’ that will inform our long term policies for the structure of the Institute, its relationship to others in the industry and the emerging requirements for practice and education as construction adapts to the new building performance requirements.

My presidency will also see the arrival of Harry Rich as our new Chief Executive and the retirement of Richard Hastilow, something that I will view with some sadness as Richard has been instrumental in giving the RIBA its public profile, creating a top brand that has been the foundation for our efficacy in public affairs and made us synonymous with great architecture across culture and media and with commerce and consumers.

Harry comes to us from a role of Chief Executive of Enterprise Insight which promotes entrepreneurship in the UK. Before that he was Deputy Chief Executive at the Design Council an effective mix of business acumen in a creative environment. A lawyer by training, his non-executive roles include being governor at the University for the Creative Arts and on the Press Complaint Commission’s Charter Compliance Panel, essential experience of the challenges of governance and regulation to be brought to bear on the review of the structure and direction of the RIBA.

Some changes are already in progress, within a year the structure of the RIBA will have changed with a Board of Trustees overseeing the fiduciary governance of the Institute and Council fully embracing its primary role of setting architectural policy making it much more effective in debating the changing conditions of practice. I may be alone amongst incoming presidents in actually looking forward to chairing Council!

For the RIBA to have a woman president really is long overdue and to be a role model for other women is something I take very seriously. The recession will yet again result in the loss of more women than men from practice and with it much talent. If my tenure of the presidency will in any way stem that tide, I will have achieved something worthwhile.

The regions too will feature strongly in my agenda and I am about to embark on visits to each as part of a dialogue with the membership to redress the accusations of poor communication that have been levelled at the Institute. Although I don’t believe the message was not going out it doesn’t always seem to have been received and it would be good to find out why. I am beginning my tour in London and this lunch invitation is the first engagement so thank you for the very timely invitation. As well meeting you here today and visiting practices to gauge the impact of the recession and their issues and concerns I am also visiting regeneration projects in Greenwich and north London to see how London has benefitted from years of sustained growth and how this has translated into social housing in particular.

My connections with education are something I also take seriously and I want to have a meaningful dialogue with the schools about their concerns and aspirations and what they consider the RIBA’s role should be in the future of education. As a tutor to students on their year out and taking part III I can see at second hand the effect of the recession on their career options and as fees rise they face increasing debt when they complete their education. The RIBA are exceedingly grateful for the support given to students of architecture by the Worship Company of Chartered Architects particularly in such difficult times.

Although an ancient concept the role of the livery company has great relevance today and I know that Roger will bring his considered and academic perspective to his role as Master of the company. I have not had the benefit of knowing him for long but he has demonstrated to me a keen perspective of the opportunities that the Company presents and is whole-hearted in his support for its ideals.

I am sure that guests would like to join me in raising their glasses in a toast………………………

To the Worshipful Company of Architects and the Master