Unit 0 / RIBA #takeover

A couple of weeks ago Studio Bark was approached by the RIBA to do a week-long Instagram ‘takeover’. The timing of the takeover coincided with the events and ongoing protests following the murder of George Floyd. We (and the RIBA) reflected that a pro-active approach to the takeover, one that celebrates and promotes diversity, was the way forward.

What we are seeing in Architecture

We are all too aware of the lack of racial justice in this country and believe that neither race nor gender should hinder the progress of talented young practitioners. We also see the lack of representation in the Architectural profession, which is 72% male (ARB figures, 2019) and under 1% black (ARB figures). Equally, in universities, only 1% of professors are from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, despite the UK population being roughly 14% BAME (the Guardian). In addition, the University of East London, where we teach a unit on the MArch course, recorded a race pay gap of 11% mean (6% median) in its Race Equality Charter application form (Feb 2019, since redacted). Where are the BAME role models for our students, and what message does this inequality tell them about their value within our institutional structures?

Yet, our group of 15 Unit 0 architecture students from the University of East London (UEL) does represent the diversity of the city as a whole. The majority are final year students who will enter the workplace over the coming months, having just finished their studies in what has been an unprecedentedly turbulent year. As the figures above show, this will be a move from one under-represented and undervalued sphere, into another. Our students are faced with the unfair task of forging successful careers in an industry where systemic racism has not yet been properly addressed.

RIBA Instagram Takeover

It feels appropriate that instead of continuing our own RIBA takeover, we invite the students to take this opportunity to show off their own work. The people at the RIBA agreed.

The site is in the East London borough of Newham, and the Unit 0 brief  was to explore the links between social justice and environmental justice. With an old chemical works already on the site, the students had to grapple with questions of reuse or circular economy approach, as well as addressing some of the local needs within this statistically most deprived borough of London (ref).

In the student’s own words: “A homogeneous workforce may indirectly stifle architectural education, causing lack of innovation and cultural representation. Without a diverse workforce, we will never experience a diverse architectural sector.”

We invite you to support our students by the none-too-arduous task of taking a look at how they’ve spent the year by checking out the RIBA’s instagram account here.

Here’s a snapshot of work, in order of appearance, by:

Sahar Pathan, 5th year (internal view)
Wadzanai Chanel Mhuka, 5th year (section)
Nuriyah Malik, 5th year (ground floor plan)
Moses Lutahakana, 5th year (model)
Sarah Serrano-Bello, 5th year (collage perspective)
Jun Yap, 4th year (internal view)
Paulius Vaizgenis, 4th year (internal view)
News feed cover image: Nuriyah Malik

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