Richard Murphy: Scotland one of ‘worst countries in Europe’ to be an architect

Richard Murphy
Richard Murphy

One of Scotland’s leading architects Richard Murphy has declared the country as one of the worst in Europe to be in the profession and urged young designers to leave the country to further their careers.

Speaking to The Herald on Friday, Murphy, whose Edinburgh home was last week named 2016 RIBA House of the Year, criticised the Scottish Government’s procurement strategy, told young designers to leave the country and warned of a ‘big slow down’ in work for architects.

“The big problem with the public sector is that the government has set up a procurement system it doesn’t matter how good you are, you cannot get a job – they favour the big commercial practices, and this has spread to universities,” he said.

“There is an enormous hypocrisy in Scotland; you have an architecture policy, an architecture unit , and at the same time a policy which is putting design practices out of business.”

He added: “You cannot do a good building without a good client, so Scotland is one of the worst countries in Europe to be an architect now.”

Murphy also advised young architects: “Leave, get out – there is no future. I am sorry to say that because there are some really talented young architects. We find it really tough.”

Murphy, who was elected to RIBA Council earlier this year, also told the Architects’ Journal that he would use his position on the practice and profession committee to lobby for a new procurement code.

Speaking to the AJ, he said: “We now have a system in place – both in Scotland and the rest of the UK – which has now got virtually nothing to do with selecting architects for their skills.

“You will go to an interview now, and 90 per cent of the points are on project management skills – with just 10 per cent on design experience. I feel very sorry for young architects; they can’t now progress past small-scale small domestic work.”

Murphy also criticised the growing practice of only allowing architects to mention their projects completed in the past three years.

“Our biggest building was five years ago, but we are not allowed to mention it,” he said.

“What they should really be asking is whether the person in charge has experience of doing another building at any point of their career.”

Murphy praised other European countries – including Iceland and Germany – for their procurement systems, which he said do more to promote open competition.

Neil Baxter, Secretary and Treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), said there was a still a lot of work to be done on making procurement rules “sensible and fair” but progress has been made in recent years.

He said Mr Murphy was an architect of “very considerable skill” but disagreed with him on the state of architecture in Scotland, adding that there are practices that are “very busy and the moment, although it is a very competitive sector”.

Mr Baxter added: “There was some very heavy handed procurement language but in the last few years that has been phased out.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is currently implementing The Review of Scottish Public Sector Procurement in Construction, in which RIAS and other architecture bodies were involved. This sets out a vision of design-led procurement in Scotland.”

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