25 Jul 2008


... led to this

I’m sorry for my lack of opinionating in the past few days. Truth is, I’ve been up to my neck in stuff and just haven’t had as much time as I’d like. But I do have a few pieces nearly ready to go on a range of topics including hospital co-locations in Dublin and Nenagh v An Bord Planala, the Clarence Hotel, Gormley’s plans to devolve more power to local communities by paradoxically dedevolving it, as well as that whole situation in Wicklow where the council is both threatening to demolish part of a garden centre while at the same time encouraging the owner to keep using it, and so on, which I’ll polish up and post next week. 

But I can’t pass up the opportunity to express my disappointment at how the RIAI’s survey from last week caused so much less of a stir than it should have and has already dropped off our radars.

This, remember, was a survey of about 400 members of the architect’s professional representative body. Now, I’m not going to bore you by trawling through its complicated findings all over again, but I will remind you that nearly 90% of those who responded thought that the planning system, as it stands, is not having a beneficial effect on the built environment in this country; Clare County Council received a satisfaction rating of 3 out of 10 for the provision of its planning service; the same Council put out a press statement to the effect that it simply didn’t accept the results of the survey – a complete spit in the eye for the Institute, if you ask me, and worthy of stern rebuke.

My problem is this: having gone to the trouble and expense of putting the survey together in the first place and having then discovered that Institute members were raising serious, serious concerns about the role of the Local Authority in our system of planning and development, and having then heard the Local Authorities use spurious arguments in the media to defend themselves against points raised in the survey, the Institute didn’t do a tougher job in defending its own work. In various snippets of interviews I happened to catch in the days after publication, some institute voices seemed to me almost apologetic for the findings of their organisation’s survey leading in one case – RTE’s Morning Ireland – for the show’s host to bring a discussion to an end because the pro-survey architect and the anti-survey local authority planner were engaging in a ‘lovefest’ (presenter’s phrase, not mine). Another radio station didn’t cover the issue in one of their news shows because, according to them, in pre-recorded interviews there didn’t appear to be enough areas of disagreement between the participants. If they’d called me first, I don’t think they would have had the problem.

I realise that diplomacy is the route many of us, especially when speaking publicly, are inclined to take when dealing with issues of potential conflict. However, on matters of public import sometimes a more Machiavellian approach is necessary. First, state the nature of your problem in uncompromising terms; then, once there are no more prisoners left to take, adopt your diplomatic tone.   

We architects are not really a confrontational bunch and, I suppose, a certain naivety in public discourse is to be expected from a group of people so unused to defending their corner in the media. But the problem we have now created is that for the likes of you and me, people with real fight and motivation on the planning debate, the steam has somewhat been taken out of the argument. My fear is that future efforts made by people like us to bring planning problems to a wider public audience will be hampered by the fact that the Institute’s own survey failed to be taken seriously. We'll be like Chicken Licken.  

How do you all feel about this?


But, hey, forget your planning skirmishes, stop worrying about the fact that the banks are threatening to repossess your computers, curse  the client who’s refusing to honour your invoice as he ignores your calls to him at the golfcourse in the Algarve, and turn your mind to more appropriate Friday-like diversions…

Do you know that programme on the BBC called Room 101 where people get a chance to talk about the ten things that really get up their noses and which, if they had the power, they’d banish forever? I’d love to go on that show.

But how to limit my peeves to ten? Here’s my current list but I’m much more interested in hearing what yours would be. Go on. Give us all a laugh.

1   Terry Wogan.
Nothing in my karma tool kit protects me from the psychological distress of seeing Sir Terry unexpectedly pop up on TV sitting in the Royal Box at some event which gets wall to wall coverage on UK telly but which, meanwhile, the rest of the world has never even heard of. Like the Badminton Horse Trials. 

2   Apple computers.
All that stuff about ‘stickies’ and ‘choosers’? That’s for geeks who’ve always resented not being as popular as jocks. And the design isn’t as great as they say it is. It’s not German.

3   Organ grinder music.
Makes me sad.

4   BBC weather forecasts.
The best of the weather will again be in the south east where temperatures will soar to 24, but feeling decidedly chillier in Glasgow where temperatures will struggle to reach 23… ‘

5   Clowns.
Give me nightmares.

6   Guff sent home to you in your child’s schoolbag
about the school’s new healthy eating policy as the kids, meanwhile, are being educated in Portakabins

7   David Bowie.
What did we ever see in him? If his parents had given him a more normal upbringing he’d be in Abba.

8   BBC game shows which
have one team on either side and the presenter in the middle reading jokes from a teleprompter in a sing-songy voice while canned laughter links one unfunny segment with the next (They Think Its All Over, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and such.)

9   Weekend newspaper magazines which
have close-up photographs of unnaturally tarted up food and/or photographs of bottles of wine lying artfully vertically and/or lists of things which are Going Up and things which are Going Down. Sort of like what you see in the Irish Times, which is (like everything else in the Times – themes, opinions, etc) ripped off from the Guardian.

10   That colour hair dye which
is most accurately described as ‘Male TV Presenter/Politician Brown But Which Has Glints Of Copper Under Studio Lights ’ (apparently you find it on the impulse-purchase rack by the cashier in the RTE canteen.)

This will distract you


Friday, July 25, 2008 1:54:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
4 x 4 drivers.... Not the brightest- a lot of them. (I didn't say all... Just a lot)
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