Friday, August 7, 2009

More responses to the "chill winds" comment

Not sure how I missed this:
Sean O Laoire's letter to the Tanaiste.

Engineers Response to the Tanaiste's comments

The response of Engineers Ireland to the Tanaiste's choice comments are below. This was sent out to all members.

While I applaud them for lobbying the Minister and making their position clear, I think they may have missed an opportunity. They took the opposite tactic to the RIAI, but maybe a little of both would have been better? Perception is key, and perceived inaction can be as damaging as actual inaction.

Dear _____,

You may have heard or read An Tánaiste Mary Coughlan T.D.’s comments last week regarding certain professions, including engineering, increasing their competitiveness and delivering better value for the benefit of the economy
You may have also read the subsequent letters from architects and engineers that have been published in the national media since.

As the representative body of all engineers in Ireland, we have regular meetings with Government ministers where we keep them updated on issues within the profession. Just 36 hours after the Tanaiste’s comments, I met with Minister for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary T.D. to brief him on our CPD Accredited Employer Scheme, the contribution that engineers make to Ireland’s economic well being and the key role that the profession will play in achieving the Government’s objectives in relation to the Smart Economy. I showed the Minister the clean bill of health letter we received from the Competition Authority following their analysis of our Profession as well as speaking with him about our belief that the regulation / licensing of the profession is necessary in order to maintain standards. I also took the opportunity to express my dismay at An Tanaiste’s remarks and our disappointment that she was so poorly informed.
I did stress to Minister Calleary that we will engineer our way out of this recession.

We have chosen not to respond to the comments in the newspapers via the letters pages of the national media nor write directly to An Tanaiste at this time, primarily because of the timing of our meeting with Minister Calleary. We have a plan in place that will help us achieve our overall goals and we believe that we should stick to this path, using private meetings with ministers to further our cause. However we will continue to use the media, in all its facets, when the occasion requires and circumstances allow.

I do hope this clarifies our position.

John Power
Director General
Engineers Ireland

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Architects respond to Tanaiste gaffe

If you haven't taken the survey yet, please click

The Irish Times letters page today is very interesting, with lots of responses from architects (and one dentist!) to the Tanaiste's comments, including one from John Graby in the RIAI.

There was also one letter representing an office in Limerick, expanding on how they have been affected. Most offices are reluctant to broadcast how bad things currently are, so it was refreshing to read an honest account of the current situation facing their practice.

Many of us wonder at how the general public can be unaware of just how widespread unemployment & 3 day weeks amongst architects are at the moment, but as most people on reduced hours are instructed not to tell clients or others about it, perhaps this is not such a surprise.

Hats off to those who wrote in and were unafraid to put their names in ink.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In case things weren't bad enough already

Front page of the Irish Times today...

THE TÁNAISTE has warned a number of professions that the Government will not back down in its drive to increase competition and get better value as it tackles the economic crisis.

Specifying “engineers, architects, the legal profession, dentists and others”, Mary Coughlan told the MacGill Summer School at Glenties, Co Donegal, last night she would be submitting a report to Government on the issue before the end of the year.

Observing that there were sectors which had yet to feel the “chill winds of economic reality”, the Tánaiste said “certain professions” had yet to reveal how they intended to reduce fees and charges and she went on to accuse them of “economic conceit”.

Link to Irish Times article

I think architects have felt the "chill winds of economic reality" already, judging by the results on the survey so far. Only 24% of respondents have had neither a pay cut nor a reduction in hours. I suspect that most of that 24% are public sector architects.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


If you haven't taken the survey yet, please click

There are ostensibly three architectural organisations in Ireland, the RIAI, the AAI and the IAF.

In their own words:

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, founded in 1839, is the representative body for professionally qualified architects in Ireland.
The objects of the RIAI are the advancement of Architecture and the associated Arts and Sciences, the promotion of high standards of professional conduct and practice and the protection of the interests of architectural training and education.

The Architectural Association of Ireland was founded in 1896 ‘to promote and afford facilities for the study of architecture and the allied sciences and arts, and to provide a medium of friendly communication between members and others interested in the progress of architecture’.

The new kid on the block is the Irish Architectural Foundation
Established in 2005, the IAF is all about promoting a better built environment for everyone’s benefit. We strive for an Ireland in which the importance of architecture is widely acknowledged, and in which people are able to relate to and influence the built world around them, and where high standards of architectural design are appreciated by all.

A loose synopsis is that the RIAI represents its members and the promotion of architecture generally, the AAI promotes education for architects and discussion mainly amongst architects, and the IAF promotes architecture for non-architects.

With the recent change in legislation, the title Architect is protected. The RIAI maintains the Register of Architects™, or at least will do when it is set up. The question is will the RIAI then represent only its members, or also those who choose to join the Register only? If they decide to represent only the RIAI members, who will represent those on the Register who are not members?

There are three organisations, and my feeling is that such a small country does not need another, but there are currently areas which are not being covered by anyone. I think that the RIAI needs to look hard at its role now that it has finally 'got' registration, and what that in turn means for its stated role as the "representative body for professionally qualified architects".

The recent and very successful Now What? initiative in Richview highlights how slow to react long established organisations are.

What do you suggest the RIAI could do at this time that would be useful to struggling architects? Is there anything you would suggest that they do differently? What do you think their role is? Leave a comment...

Friday, July 17, 2009


Thanks to the AAI for including the in its recent mailshot to members. There was also a mention in last Sunday's Tribune about the site.

Many thanks also to all who have responded so far. I will keep the survey open for another 10 days or so before putting up the results.

A couple of comments about the questions - I put up the survey very quickly and with hindsight I would have re-worded a lot of the questions, and added a few more. A couple of people have said that the questions in the survey are more suited towards employees than employers, which is of course a very valid point. Another bias is that it is largely aimed at architects, and didn't really take account of the many architectural technicians who are equally affected by the recession and who have responded. If you have any comments about things I may not have addressed fully in the survey, please leave a comment or email me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The response so far...

Click if you haven't taken part in the survey.

Just a brief update - there has been a great response so far. Many thanks to all who took the time to partake. There has been a diverse range of people commenting, and interestingly only half of respondents are members of the RIAI. A good few have expressed frustration with their apparent inaction, but according to a colleague, they have been more active than I or anyone else is aware of. If anyone has more info on the RIAI initiatives, leave a comment or email me. John Graby was on the RTE Today Show yesterday, discussing the current climate for architects link (and archipocalypse got a mention by Myles Dungan!) but I was again struck by the lack of numbers about how many architects are affected.

If you haven't taken the survey, please do so and forward it on to anybody you think may be interested.

Some responses below:

The loss of trained and experienced architects overseas and to other careers will be a huge loss to the country as it tries to recover from this economic meltdown. The "braindrain" of architects is one which may be felt for the next 20+ years, and far more starkly than in any other profession I can think of. Architects are a versatile bunch of people and while I struggle with reduced pay, work and hours and watch many of my colleagues and friends in similar situations, none are sitting around doing nothing about their own personal circumstances. Be it further education, upskilling, retraining, second jobs, or travel, few architects are just drawing unemployment benefit for protracted periods. Architects can be seen doing a vast spectrum of jobs now - but they are out there and doing other things. I would suggest that the training architects have received gives them strength to diversify and move on, the built landscape of now and the future is what will suffer the most.

"I was absolutely furious when I read Sean O'Laoire's address to members in last June or July's Irish architect - he seemed to think the impending recession was a time for amusement & his attitude summed up perfectly the RIAI".

"While it has been very demotivating to finish college and not walk straight into an architecture job - as all of my friends did in previous years - it has also had some positive effects. I think if the economy hadn't collapsed I would have started in an architecture job and never really considered any other options".

"I would suggest that the training architects have received gives them strength to diversify and move on, the built landscape of now and the future is what will suffer the most".

"The traditional order of the profession will be changed to a much more fluid and transient operation. We really don't know what shape or form it will take but it will be dramatically different. Being adaptable and quick to respond is essential to survival".