Black Designers could help beat terror

16 Sep 2005 - Viewpoint

By Yasmin Shariff on 16 September 2005 Building Design cover story

A member of the Architects’ Registration Board has linked the lack of black and minority ethnic architects with the recent terror attacks on London. Yasmin Shariff has called on the regulator to encourage young BMEs to become architects, claiming that their exclusion from the profession leads to the kind of frustration that was behind the attacks that killed 52 people in the capital on July 7.

“The increasing number of talented youths we exclude breeds frustration and that frustration is vented in things like the bombings,” she said. “The architects register highlights the prejudice we have. The Arb is the only body that holds all the figures that can highlight the level of inclusivity in the profession!’

Sharrif says that the board should collect and publish data on ethnicity and gender in the   profession   for   the   use of academics. Her comments were supported by architects involved in projects in Muslim communities.

Ali Mangera, director of Mangera Yvars Architects, is designing a mosque in West Ham and agreed there was a link between diversity in the profession and the recent bombings. “Of course, there is a link, but each profession needs to take its own steps. There is a lot of alienation in the community and people haven’t got the opportunity to express themselves and contribute in any meaningful way,” he said. “I think she [Shariff] is right.”

The call was also backed by fellow board member Michael Starling, who wants the Arb to consider a special research unit to analyse the data produced by the register. But others were more skeptical about the alleged link. Andrew Day of Allen Tod Architecture, who works in Leeds, said: “It is a bit of a stretch.”

The proposals were dismissed by board member Alan Crane as· outside the Arb’s remit. “We are a registration body and therefore there is very little facility to address these imbalances,” he said. “‘Where we can do something, we do.” Shariff also vented frustration at the Arb’s slow progress in tackling the issue.

She said: “‘When things happen, I am amazed, but when things don’t happen I don’t get frustrated anymore because if I did l would be dead by now. Arb chief executive Robin Vaughan’ declined to comment.

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