Dik Jarman Aff RAIA
There isn’t just a certain type of person who leaves their country to explore the world in search of new professional experiences and opportunities as these journeys start from all walks of life; but there are definitely certain aspects of personality that one must have to continue on this journey successfully for many years. Working overseas (and particularly practicing architecture) is a journey that requires resilience, a certain gregariousness and most of all, a sense of humour in order to survive.
With this in mind I looked forward to the annual Face to Face Meeting and Boarding Pass events of the International Area Committee (IAC) in London as I knew I would be catching up with a number of these interesting people and chewing the fat. Well not just chewing it but dissecting it, inverting it, commenting on other fats chewed elsewhere and laughing about it or crying inwardly at the gristle-like nature of it all. Practicing architecture overseas can be hard but it is something we do and the IAC was created to get those of us who do it together, and make it easier.
Our meeting was located at the headquarters of Arup in London, where we were treated to a magnificent talk about engineering and design by structural engineer Sophie Le Bourva. Part of the attraction of working overseas is getting to work on projects with consultants who have an extraordinarily long history with some of the great architecture of the world, and listening to the thoughts expressed in this talk reminded me to be excited about what we do and why; so it was a good start to the week.
The other good start to the week for me was that somehow (and quite unexpectedly), I was voted in as the new Chair of the IAC. I am absolutely delighted to take this post due to my belief in the importance of the IAC’s role in serving its members overseas and I am extremely keen to see its role grow as it has done so well in the relatively few years since its inception, recently under the excellent stewardship of last year’s Chair, Justin Hill.
To underscore the importance of the IAC, and in recognition of this in the eyes of the Institute’s senior staff, it was great to have both David Parken and Ross Clark, CEO and COO of the RAIA respectively, in London for our meeting. They each presented the committee with excellent information about current developments in the Institute, and answered our related questions ensuring that we’re well informed to help our international members.
Part of Ross’ presentation was about the viability and methodology of the maturing of the IAC into a Chapter in regards to its legal implications and position within the Institute. This is something the IAC has been keen to develop as it strengthens its image to members by coming into line with the structure of other institutions such as the AIA and the RIBA, but also gives strength to the members’ voices of the international area. During the meeting the issues were explored and a timetable established to propose to National Council changes to the IAC and international membership which we all felt was a great step forward, and I would like to thank Ross for the positive tone of the discussion and preparation of documents outlining the steps ahead.
Other items from our meeting included considering Fellowship applications, judging the William J. Mitchell Prize, selecting the jury for the International Awards, and seeking the approval of having a dedicated emerging architect position on the IAC to represent this demographic of the membership.
Part of our time in London was hosted by the RIBA where we met our counterparts and others with similar roles in their institute. Part of the mandate of the IAC is to improve the connectivity between members and one way of doing this is by developing links with other institutes and getting involved with their activities on the ground, be it professional, social or educational. The RIBA was very keen to develop these areas too.
One way through which the IAC improved the connectivity between members was the staging of a Boarding Pass event in London. This event was held at the RIBA in London where we had a great turnout of both international members of the Institute and RIBA members. This event was one of four put on by the IAC this year with others being in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong. The event was a panel discussion featuring 2013 Institute Gold Medallist Peter Wilson, Paris based architect Robert Grace and Singapore based architect and IAC member Fiona Nixon. The panellists offered frank insight of Australian sensibilities relating to the profession and of practicing architecture overseas, stripped of any of its gilt and left bare to see. Having spoken to a number of audience members after the event this was very well received and quotes of “it was a breath of fresh air” gave strength to the idea that our voice has value on the global stage.
One final piece of activity to emerge from the meeting is the desire to develop more activity on the ground all around the world. The committee itself is small but our membership base is big (larger than some state Chapters). We are calling for your assisting with establishing local groups that can report to the IAC, and in turn receive support from the Institute; if you’re interested, please let me know. We are already looking at establishing a group in the Middle East, so if you feel there could be more activities or outreach in your area please let us know.