Page 2, 24th November 1961

24th November 1961
Page 2
Page 2, 24th November 1961 — 'Establishment' Architects

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Locations: Surrey


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'Establishment' Architects


SIR,-"Catholic Architect's" estimate of 300 advertised vacancies each week in the technical press is a gross exaggeration.

As an example, for the week's issue of the 8th November, 1961, the Architect's Journal list 51 vacancies in Local Authority Departments (including Quantity Surveyors, Planners and other grades) of which approximately 5U per cent of the architectural vacancies are for architects and the remainder for architectural assistants. The private section advertises approximately 90 advertisements of vacancies, of which approximately 25 per cent are for architects or assistant architects as against architectural assistants, (The main distinction being it is presumed qualified as against nonqualified.) This gives us a total, if we include the publicity type block advertisements, of 150 say. As some of these are duplicated in the Builder and the Architect and Building News. let us say that there are approximately 170-180 vacancies available of which, say, 70 vacancies are for architects.

Of these 70 there will probably be 10-20 where the appointee will be employed in a position with responsibility, intelligently delegated according to his capability and experience, benefiting both principal and client. As far as the R.1.13.A, appointments bureau is concerned, most members are agreed that as a method of securing staff or employment it is largely a waste of time.

No one doubts, least of all myself, that there are many examples to be seen abroad of designs to be avoided and methods to abhor. That the purpose of travel is to learn is indisputable, to compare and distinguish the good from the had It is also true that there are successes in the design of churches (Catholic) in this country and for these, we give thanks for small mercies.

Your correspondent failed to define the quantity of quality. The design of Catholic Churches (and schools) in Britain is among the worst in Europe. In fact, I would go so far as to estimate that in no country•has it sunk so low. The fault most often seen is the inability of the designers to distinguish modern design from "modern" style. Modern • design implies full integration of plan and elevations, function and form, feeling and usage. Dolling up an archaic plan in the trappings of modern clichés has inevitably had disastrous results.

If there are 20 firms of architects employed in each of the Dioceses mentioned, as your correspondent avers, how many of these are duplicated in each diocese? How much work does each do as a proportion of the whole available? As far as other dioceses are concerned, l know personally of two in N. England where 95 per cent of the church and school building is handled by three firms.

No one expects the Diocesan Authorities to hand out commissions for Churches to every new arrival into the profession. Also, no one expects that the Diocesan Authorities should continue to recommend practitioners to Parish Priests when the self-same practitioners have been found wanting. In addition no-one expects to find the sort of contractor financing Of churches and schools which appears to have taken place with detrimental results.

The funds concerned are largely not Diocesan but subscribed by us all at great labour by P.P,s, clergy and laity. When one sees these funds having to be expended to right basic errors in construction and design, one wonders if a certain gamble has not occurred.

I personally know of one church, two years open, which is in the process of expending money on making the tiled roof watertight, and on a loud-speaker system because of the inability of the congregation seated three or four rows back to distinguish anything uttered from the pulpit. A school. three years old requiring replastering and suffering from bad constructional and functional defects. Both these were designed by an "Establishment" Architect.

If the younger architects are to be attracted to reinforce the firms already engaged, they roust offer better remuneration, better prospects and opportunity. Most of the firms I have encountered, over 15 years past, who are engaged in Catholic work, are just not interested in employing responsible qualified staff with adequate recompense and opportunity. There is no need for further comment on design.

J. F. Quin

18 Somerset Close, New Malden, Surrey.

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