Paul Crowe’s speech on increasing the relevance of the RSUA

This is a copy of the speech delivered by Paul Crowe, RSUA President, at the RSUA Annual General Meeting held at the Girdwood Community Hub on 31 May 2016.

I feel very humbled and very honoured to be installed today as the President of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects.  Those are words that I never thought I would utter for this is not my ‘natural habitat’ as anyone who knows me well will confirm.

Certainly any speeches that I have to make will be short and to the point, starting with today.

I wanted to start with a few words of thanks.

Firstly to the RSUA Council and our members for entrusting this important role in me.  I have been on/off council for around 15 years now, serving in various positions including Convenor of Design Awards and Hon. Secretary and more recently as Vice President and now look forward to taking up the mantle as President.

I would also like to thank my colleagues in TODD Architects for creating the space and without those blessings and support I could not and would not have been in the position to take this role on.

The team know that when I agree to do something, that I will commit absolutely to the challenge and in this case I really appreciate everyone’s encouragement and offers of assistance.

Finally I would like to express my appreciations to one person who has mentored me and provided help, advice and opportunity to me throughout my career.  I know for sure that I would not be standing here today as President without his influence and friendship.

My thanks and gratitude for that goes to Barrie Todd.

I want to pay tribute to the outgoing president, Martin Hare.  Martin has brought some real energy and focus to the RSUA and leaves a legacy of important achievements.

I’m delighted that he has agreed to remain involved in a number of initiatives and that he will be joining me on the RIBA Council.

In fact, I met the RIBA President Jane Duncan recently who suggested that I would have ‘very big boots’ to fill in following Martin (as if I wasn’t apprehensive enough!)

Martin, thank you for asking me to serve as Vice President in your team and for your unquestionable commitment to the RSUA during your presidency.  If I can achieve anywhere near as much as you have during my time I will be delighted.

I met with Martin and our Director Ciaran Fox recently to discuss what ‘being a president’ really meant.

Apart from ‘scaring me’ I did take away the fact that the more you put in, the more you get out so that is certainly my intention.

Thanks Martin, and I appreciate your support.

I have been thinking about my vision and objectives for some time now and in doing so over the last 6 months or so, I have sought the advice of a number of Past Presidents of the RSUA – most of it helpful and some of it even repeatable.

There has been a debate for some time now about the promotion of Architecture or Architects in the public interest.  I don’t see this as contradictory, in fact the two are inextricably linked.

As such I have distilled the theme of my Presidency down into a very simply word – RELEVANT.

My goal is to improve and increase the relevance and visibility of the RSUA in both the public arena as much as to our own membership.

There is ultimately a lot of work to be done on all aspects of the RSUA business and I think that our council is becoming more diverse and representative both regionally around the province and in terms of its general make up – hopefully that trend in itself will continue over the coming years.

In achieveing greater RELEVANCE, I have targeted 3 areas to focus on (no doubt you will all have thoughts and opinions around these and I am more than happy to listen).

The first of these I have called simply ‘Getting Out There’.

This is about increasing the awareness of the RSUA to a wider audience.
– It is about influencing issues that impact on the Environment and on our profession.
– It is about lobbying Government, Council and other stakeholders.
– It is about getting Design Quality back high on the agenda. (look at what can be achieved when we see the wonderful array of projects of last weeks ‘showcase’ Design Awards).
– It is about public awareness of the value of an Architect.

However, in order to do this, we need to have ‘something to say’.  We need to develop a number of policies and positions which are sanctioned by our membership and which are truly representative.

We, the RSUA, need to become the ‘go to’ organisation for comment on Environmental or Architectural issues of Public Interest.

I do plan to develop some strategy around this work in the early part of my Presidency and will be looking forward to a number of small ‘project based’ teams to develop the different positions and themes to take forward.

The second area is Member Engagement – ‘Getting in there!’

One of the main criticisms of the RSUA from members has been around lack of communication and genuine engagement.  It is clear to me that we need to make our Society more relevant to our own members.

We have already started this work with the establishment of an RSUA ‘Group’ within each Council area in the province.  It is my intention to get round each of those as soon as possible and discuss and agree objectives.

I also intend to issue de-briefing notes from my perspective on key meetings including RIBA and RSUA Council – a kind of President’s Diary.

I also think it is time that I properly embraced Social Media.  So, as of today, I will have a presence on Twitter and we will circulate those details to all of our members (and beyond) so that you can follow what I am up to on a regular basis.

I think one of the things that has been lost by the RSUA over the years in a ‘social dimension’ (if that is the correct term).

This tends to happen around events and gatherings. (I am not sure what the collective term for a group of Architects is but can imagine where that could lead!)

With this in mind there are a number of activities either in planning or proposed:
– The re-introduction of what I am calling ‘The Big Lecture’ (possibly in the Autumn).
– The re-thinking of The Autumn Dinner.
– The introduction of an ‘Annual Debate’ following on from the successful political husting’s event in the run up to our Assembly Election.
– To build on the successful ‘Quiz Night’ event.
– Finally, I want to announce that following the successful study trip to Rome last year, that I plan to take a delegation to the city of Copenhagen in May 2017 (not only including Architects but also civic leaders and decision makers where we can see and discuss, and influence the views on how we address the built environment in NI.

The third area is Growth ‘Getting Up There’ (Note: Barrie and the 3 G’s of Business!)

During my time as President we will be revisiting the RSUA Development Plan and setting out our objectives for the period of 2017/2020.

I will be canvassing for opinions and ideas around this so that we have a collaborative vision which we all will ‘own’.

A new and very positive financial agreement has been reached with RIBA around our funding which embeds a number of growth targets for increasing membership – the more we can grow, the more we can do.

Part of that will involve discussions with our colleagues at RIAI with whom I look forward to working closely and with an idea to develop at least one joint event per year.

I will also be focusing on developing the cross section profile of members – and specifically younger architects but not forgetting about how we may harness the experience and wealth of knowledge amongst our older and retired members.  All of this may entail a close look at ‘brand RSUA’.

I hope this gives you an overview of my interests and intentions which will guide my time as President.  I hope that they strike a chord with you and that together we can make the RSUA RELEVANT.

Thank you and I look forward to representing you all to the best of my ability.