Precis of RSUA President Joan McCoy’s Speech

Architects understand the importance of the relationship we have with clients; we know that our designs impact their daily lives, and, we take care and effort to make places which are both functional and beautiful. 

I believe we should focus on why we do what we do – the impact our work has on society and the benefits we deliver.  I also believe that the RSUA is the best voice to communicate this, which is why I agreed to take on the challenge of President.

We must always assert and articulate the value of architecture.  Northern Ireland needs buildings of beauty and we deserve great places, and I believe the role of architecture in delivering those is crucial.  As a practitioner, I want to see our profession continue to flourish and shape the debate around what makes this place home.

Naturally, we tend to discuss our work in terms of design and what constitutes “good design” and whilst there will be a degree of subjectivity we need to communicate the impact of our work.  Whilst clients might not necessarily appreciate the process they certainly appreciate the practical benefits of good design in their homes, workplaces, and civic spaces.  What we produce should be our focus more so than how we do it.

Architects do two crucial things that everyone else in the construction process relies upon:

  1. Along with the client we create the vision – we define the need, identify the constraints, and shape this into the vision.  We create places that go beyond the simple satisfaction of need.
  2. We communicate the vision – from sketches, drawings, renderings, and models, all the way through to specifications, contract instructions, and schedules.

One of the paradoxes around good design and architecture is that its simplicity often belies its complexity – that which appears simple and beautiful is often complex and intricate.  As architects, we are approached for our creative expertise and many of us give of it selflessly to better our communities, sometimes to our own detriment.

As the key voice for architecture in Northern Ireland, the RSUA will play a leading role in the debate around the issues and challenges facing our profession.  Collectively, we are growing in strength, reputation and reach.  In my term as President, I am fortunate to have inherited an organisation in rude health.  My predecessor Paul Crowe leaves big boots to fill, but I know that with the support of the RSUA Director, Ciarán, the Council, staff and committee volunteers I will be able to build on this legacy.   The RSUA is increasingly being heard at the highest levels in policy debates and our local groups across Northern Ireland are having an impact. 

This is all made possible, of course, because of your efforts and I want to pay tribute to those of you who give so generously of your time to do the work of the RSUA.  In particular, I want to thank previous Council members who are standing down this year, many of whom have given long service.  I also want to welcome those of you who have been elected to Council and it is a testament to our growing relevance to members at least that these elections were contested.  Also, to those who were not successful on this occasion I want to harness your expertise and input and I would encourage you to join committees and task groups and to share with us the benefit of your views on the issues which matter.

I want to thank my colleagues in White Ink, Claude and Sean, their support and generosity has made this opportunity possible for me.  They have allowed me the space and freedom to take on the role of RSUA President. 

It is an exciting time to belong to the RSUA, never mind being President.  We are growing our core team in Mount Charles and with the addition of a new Communications and Events Officer we will be able to free up our Director, Ciarán, to undertake an increasingly strategic and political role. 

Working with the staff team, I hope to increase further the RSUA’s input into debates around the built environment in Northern Ireland, and to be able to communicate the value of architecture in improving peoples lives.  It is important that we continue to raise the status of architecture and those who create it.  I want us to become the leading voice and authority within the built environment. 

Finally, I want to re-iterate my call to action.  The RSUA belongs to you and we will only succeed with your support.  I urge you to get involved, to express your views at our general meetings, to join task groups for the issues which matter, to respond to our surveys and lastly, to tell us your stories.  Your stories help us articulate the value of architecture and I look forward to the projects – current or delivered – that you will share with us.