It’s time to take a stand against local authorities’ expectations that architects will work for free
There is no such thing as a totally fair system for winning work and there never will be. But in order that archi-tects are not trampled all over by local authorities and others running design competitions they must refuse to do unreasonable amounts of work for free.
This has come about because there are too few jobs and too many architects. It’s also because at local government level — where procurement abuse is most rife — architects’ departments have been replaced by project managers.
It’s this new breed of client adviser that is spreading the word that archi-tects are sitting ducks: they’ll work for free, they’ll give up all copyright and — better still — they rarely complain.
Cabe, which worked hard trying to indoctrinate public bodies on how to be good clients, might not have bothered. Most local authorities do not know what an architect actually does.
This is why Witney Town Council thought it reasonable that architects on a design competition shortlist should provide three different options to RIBA Stage C and a 7,500-word report — all for free. The project manager advised that this was normal, and sadly it is.
What can be done? Naming and shaming is one route. The government has set up a website especially for this in a welcome initiative to help small and medium-sized businesses through the procurement process. BD also wants to hear of cases where councils are behaving badly.
Ian Ritchie, who was shortlisted but withdrew from the Witney competition, said it showed little respect to architects. That’s because respect for the profession is being eroded by project managers, so-called procurement advisers and others.
They are now closer to clients than architects are.
Procurement reform is all very well but it cannot hope to succeed until some of this respect has been restored.
6 July 2012
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