Peter Morrison says industry must lose its “old boy’s club” image

The architectural industry is dominated by white middle aged men and needs to shed its “old boy’s club” image, according to the head of one of the largest architectural firms in the UK.

Peter Morrison, chief executive of RMJM, said the profession should become more open to women and people from black and ethnic minority groups.

Peter Morrison

He said: “I’m a white man approaching middle age and I had a comfortable upbringing - a lot like many of the architects working in the UK today. But the profession is not inclusive, it simply does not accurately reflect society in Britain today – as an industry we’re remarkably short on designers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.”

Morrison will call on the profession to become more inclusive this evening at the Stephen Lawrence Memorial Lecture when he announces the introduction of a £1m support package for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

The Trust was established in memory of a black student of architecture and a victim of knife crime, Stephen Lawrence, and promotes diversity in the architectural and related professions.

RMJM, which claims to be the eighth-largest architecture firm in the world, has launched a campaign with the Stephen Lawrence Memorial Trust, Architecture for Everyone, to run workshops in Britain’s inner cities to attract young people to the industry. The scheme will offer a scholarship to six young people to study architecture at Harvard University, Boston, USA.

This call comes as figures from the Organisation for Co-operation and Development showed that world investment in building and infrastructure will exceed £53,000bn over the next 20 years.

Morrison said the UK industry had to recruit from under represented groups so it could meet this global demand. According to the RIBA, only 2% of practising architects in the UK are from minority backgrounds.

Morrison added: “It takes seven years to train an architect and, if we don’t take a hard look at our profession and at how we recruit and train new talent from diverse backgrounds, UK firms won’t be in a position to close deals on the big ticket projects in 10 years’ time.”