Architects told to think green

November 29, 1996

ENGINEERS and architects should consult the public much more about their work, according to a report out next week.

Peter Carolin of Cambridge University and Peter Guthrie of structural civil engineers Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick argue that engineers and architects must find new roles.

They can no longer be the "great providers" of the built environment, but must also be its "great protectors", producing work that is sensitive to social, environmental, economic and political concerns.

Professor Carolin and Mr Guthrie will present their report at an Ove Arup seminar on education for the built environment at the Institution of Civil Engineers next week. They will argue that architects and engineers have not had enough say on complex issues surrounding projects such as the Channel Rail link, the Newbury bypass or the British Library.

"All too often, the insights and concerns of the engineers and architects do not appear to contribute much to the decision-making process," they say.

British engineers have lost their leadership of the car industry to salesmen and accountants. Architects have suffered a similar fate in the built environment industry. The study suggests that one reason for this is the inability of far too many engineers and architects to talk to industry managers.

Another reason is the fear architects and engineers often foist their own ideas on society. Professor Carolin, head of the architecture department at Cambridge, says: "We cannot talk in some sort of semi-private, technocratic language. We should be able to engage with society and help clarify the issues."

Mr Guthrie suggests that courses should concentrate on providing an education and not a training. This would mean fewer universities offering courses that are academically demanding and broad. "Linguistic skills and economic and cultural and political topics would be covered, closing out management and other subjects more suitable for subsequent training," he says.

For those not academically gifted at 18 but who reveal talent later, bridges to this career path, such as part-time masters courses should be made available.

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