RIAS Members and Fellows:
Mary Arnold Foster
Lauren Li Porter
Professor Christopher Platt
Architects and others – retired, non-members, interested and concerned:
William K Rankine
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'There has never been a more urgent time for architects to unite in pursuit of relevance and excellence. In order to do so, we require a membership body that is collegiate, inclusive and dynamic. A New Chapter formed in response to a series of straightforward, unanswered questions posed to our membership body over the past few months concerning governance and strategy. Whilst many members work tirelessly at Chapter level and on Council there are unquestionably deep-rooted cultural problems running through the RIAS. A New Chapter seeks to engender greater transparency, accountability, relevance and inclusivity within Scottish architecture. Those that have united as A New Chapter have been fortunate to take part in some early, impassioned and ambitious conversations to explore what a membership organisation in the 21st Century might look like, who it should represent, what it might do and how it should behave. These discussions sit in stark contrast to the closed doors, secrecy and patriarchy within Rutland Square. It has been a pleasure to work together such an immediate and collegiate way over the past few weeks and look forward to continued discussion, new opportunities and the positive impact of A New Chapter.'
Jude Barber, RIAS Member
Architecture in Scotland is beset with huge challenges and needs a new focus on our professionalism and responsibilities to society to face them. But the masonic secrecy and inbred gloom at the heart of the RIAS holds us back. This is a membership organisation – ours, paid for by us – but we are not allowed to know how it’s run, our representatives are told they cannot know the results of the Reviews paid for by our subs, into the matters of financial mismanagement and failures of governance that so concern us, or even divulge that a Special General Meeting was convened to tell them they can know nothing nor say anything, and we are threatened with legal and disciplinary action if we raise our voices.
We need to reinvigorate the profession in Scotland; but first we need to open-up and clean out our professional body.
Malcolm Fraser, RIAS Member
'The mosaic of architectural culture in Scotland relies on plurality and diversity. From community and civic organisations, forums and fringes, to practices, public bodies, academia and government. Central to this, as a profession, is the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.
An RIAS representative of and responsive to its membership, a membership that it owes its existence to, is critical to engender a dynamic and relevant organisation. In early 21st Century Scotland do we still need a professional membership body? I think we do. That existence, that need, does not, however, then negate the requirement to be open, transparent, reflective and accountable.
The response by the RIAS to the very reasonable questions that have recently been put to the Incorporation by a number of current members, retired members, ex-members and concerned individuals via letter has been acutely insightful. An organisation such as the RIAS needs to inspire the trust and support of its members, as well as induce the respect of the wider profession. It's current conduct and manner in response to these letters does not do this. The questions put need to be answered.
Andy Summers, a design tutor at Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) and a co-producer of the Architecture Fringe. He was a member of the RIAS 2004–2017.
‘I am interested in RIAS being the very best organisation it can possibly be, and being a huge credit to our profession. I think the latter part has to be that statement has to be at the heart of any public statement.
While of course we are now reacting to things which RIAS have done (or not done), the intention to affect positive change is the total sum of we are looking for as a group - we would hope all Architects in Scotland recognise the need for a proactive strategy and direction in helping to take the profession into an uncertain future - and this is, at present, almost completely absent. All RIAS members all pay a significant sum for our membership and we want to ensure that the incorporation offers its membership excellent value for money.
I, along with others, am culpable that RIAS is in the position it is now - we should have done more, earlier. However, our attempts to engage RIAS to date are exactly what engagement with the membership and profession looks like, and their response to our polite and positive questions should have been to listen and respond. Their response - to obfuscate and threaten is not becoming of a professional organisation, and runs exactly contrary to our expectations and aspirations.
It is, therefore, with a tremendously heavy heart for most of us that this has been made public - but the truth is simply that we do not feel represented by our professional organisation. - and they are not listening to our calls for transparency and our offer to help change it into the dynamic, wonderful organisation we all desperately want it to be
‘Scottish Architects have united to repair defects discovered in the Governance of their professional body the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Unqualified persons have been appointed and established moral principles have been overturned.’
Anne Duff, Retired Member RIAS, RIBA
"As a Fellow of the RIAS and someone regarded as having access to a number of media contacts, I've been approached in the past for advice and been given information about the inner workings of the RIAS, where apparently various alarming things appear to have been going on for a while, particularly regarding finances and accountability.
No-one however was willing to go on record and as the RIAS is governed by a confidentiality clause for its council members, nothing further could be done. I don't know if these approaches have had truth to them but if this open letter opens up the organisation to scrutiny and we find everything has been carried out with diligence and is all above board, I think that will be a very good thing and in my view about time."
Professor Alan Dunlop
‘I think there is a need for a wider rethink about the role of a professional institution at this stage in the 21st century particularly in relation to the ongoing challenges of how our professional expertise is evidenced and where opportunities to contribute that expertise exist to help us identify the key questions to building a better world. I haven’t perceived any RIAS vision in relation to this. In our practice at studioKAP, we have had great service from the RIAS Practice Services, but the ambassadorial and leadership role of the RIAS within society generally has been lacking for some time. The RIAS Festival generally dumbed down the subject of architecture for the public from one that is intrinsically intellectually and creatively challenging and difficult (which the public realise and understand in the way that they realise and understand that heart surgery is difficult) to one that the RIAS thought would be more ‘accessible’. The Festival also ignored the key issues of the day which the Architecture Fringe took up with energy and imagination. The recent exhibition and accompanying catalogue was amateurish and embarrassing. Publicly, I don’t think the RIAS speaks for the architectural profession on serious architectural matters (certainly not mine) and I sense (but cannot evidence) a general increase in trivialising and making more subjective aspects of that important ambassadorial role.’
Chris Platt, Director of studioKAP as well as Chair of Architecture at GSA
‘The RIAS is something that I really want to feel I could be a part of and something that I could inform and shape. The way in which it operates, the manner in which it conducts itself and the lack of quality in how it communicates Scottish architecture is however truly abysmal and difficult to associate with. There are some amazing members whose attempts to ask important and urgent questions and to advocate for reform have been met with a combination of indifference, ignorance and threats. A New Chapter is a means of showing a collective and considerable strength of purpose that will advocate and propose the type of change that is necessary to create an infrastructure and mechanism of support this is truly progressive and fit for purpose. A New Chapter is a critical and urgent voice that seeks to develop a culture of architecture in Scotland that can inspire the type of built environment that we all deserve.’
Lee Ivett, Director, Baxendale