Architecture and Ethics

AJ ethicsPiers Taylor’s comments were included in an article on architectural ethics in the Architect’s Journal. Taylor’s edited comments are above – his whole comment is reproduced here:

“There are almost no ethical guidelines provided by the RIBA. The RIBA considers ethics to be serving your client, keeping your mouth shut and not queering your pitch with any concern with wider moral issues. In short, take your clients money, give him what he wants and don’t ask any questions. 

If architects do talk about morality, it is often a phoney morality structured around architectural concerns – as if producing a building that is architecturally inspired and formally well considered absolves them from any deeper engagement with either the motivations of a client, the needs of a user or indeed the needs of their own staff. 

Sadly very few privately funded projects have any ambition beyond the short term view and needs of a client, and many architects see no easy way not to subjugate their own moral positions in fear of losing valuable fee paying work. I’ve been guilty of this too, and I’ve done all sorts of things in architecture that fill me with self loathing. 

Now, my practice generally attempts not take on any privately funded projects and certainly no private houses, as they almost never engage with any wider issues beyond the superficialities of their own physical actuality and their clients vanities. Regardless of Mies’ banal and self serving ‘God in the Details’ meditation, there is never any substance in architectural concerns that are solely material. 

Ideals are typically considered naive by the bulk of the profession, and certainly by the RIBA, who remain utterly toothless, spineless and cringingly corporate. Once, practice was critical as a matter of course. Now, it is usually unthinkingly commercial by design, encouraged as we are by a feeble RIBA to serve clients needs in a simpering and obedient manner.

Practice is hard enough. But architects need more from their professional body than sandcastle competitions and self congratulatory awards. The RIBA has never demonstrated architects value beyond the commercial. Terrified of controversy, it has never fought our corner, and helped champion the role of thinking, feeling practitioners who want to create change.”

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3 Comments

  1. Jean Grant
    Posted October 10, 2015 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I totally agree. I am an ecological artist working with communities wanting to control their own processes of regeneration.
    I renovated a house in Liverpool 8 in the 1970’s our architect, who does have an eye for detail advised asbestos for various areas of the house as the cheapest insulation
    as site manager I questioned the decision, asbestos was beginning to receive bad publicity but we were reassured by the architect. I cannot sell with all this pollution and cannot afford because of health and safety costs to remove

    I love the design of the place where I live, the site is ireeplaceable it looks out over Paxtons first park which I established as a grade 2* listed park. I want to leave my children such a beautiful home but how can with such a polluting legacy
    Ihave to live with this nightmare knowledge my 4 children crawled round in the dust.
    my ex husband has just been diagnosed as having asbestos damage to his lungs
    the architect and his collegues all RIBA and LAAS members, shrug their shoulders.

  2. alan elkan
    Posted February 14, 2016 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Piers, it is appalling to read criticisms of the RIBA which forced me to resign from it about 35 years ago, due to its lack of impact on public design standards by exhibiting in less hallowed quarters as was its wont, aqnd shouting from the rooftops whenever possible about the value of so many small practices and that good design doesn’t cost anymore. I recently criticised it for it pronouncement about small house sizes, at last being “improved” by long overdue Govt standards (advisory not legal). I got a somewhat supportive and long reply from the SW regional sec, but that’s it.

    By the way I am so glad you are doing “my £100,000 house” on your own- you don’t need any assistance at all!! Great to see your talented colleagues strutting their stuff. Will the RIBA wite to congratulate you on doing their job for them/ Doubt it.

  3. Percio Carvalho
    Posted June 4, 2017 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    I’m glad to “see” someone else – overseas – is thinking & working like myself…
    I still take a private client as a ” Human Race ” INTO a “Nature’s Sanctuary”…
    So, I BELIEVE, we, as Architects, MUST DO ours best for theme Both: The Human Race & Nature, by a single word: HARMONY…
    . I can’t see that proposals in any one of these: AIA, RIBA, CAU ( the Brazilian Architect’s ) and so on…
    . So, I must CONGRATULATE you for this purpose & position, and overall yours acting.
    . I still believe that ” there’s a light at the end of the tunnel “…

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