It is interesting that the Royal Institute of British Architects is urging its members to get involved in local politics in the run up to the General Election. By engaging with parliamentary candidates at a time of unprecedented change on the ballot sheet, it says, architects could influence a new generation of politicians.
It is an ambitious plan to launch a national action campaign, and you have to admire the RIBA for its efforts.
Design’s representative bodies are battling on behind closed doors on various ‘causes’, but tend to shy away from public engagement. The Chartered Society of Designers is forging ahead with its bid to bring chartered status to designers (see News Analysis, page 9), without much consultation outside its own membership. The Design Business Association is, meanwhile, working with parliamentary lobbyist Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group to facilitate Government procurement of design, with a report due on 2 March.
Both these ventures have merits – though the CSD’s plan for ‘creativity’ to be a criterion for certification raises serious questions. But both have been conducted in relative isolation, with the mass of the design community not party to the debate.
The RIBA no doubt also has undercover initiatives to help its members, but there is a sense that it operates with greater transparency, on major issues such as climate change, not just within the profession but with external audiences. It helps that it effectively combines the services of the CSD and the DBA, representing both individual architects and architectural practices, and so speaks for the entire profession.
With the variety of representative bodies in design, including the CSD, DBA, British Design Innovation and D&AD, a single voice isn’t an option. But a harmonious chorus on issues of mutual interest could wield greater influence in the wider world than a single body can achieve. It would be great to see them agreeing an agenda and collaborating openly.
LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR