The future of Archicentre is uncertain. Drawing on her own experience, Margaret Skilbeck, of Architelle, argues that it provides an important avenue for women to establish their own practices and thereby stay within the profession.

In 2000 I established my own practice at home, to allow me to work part-time with flexibility to accommodate my newly acquired children. I had tried working for the office where I was previously employed for a while, but that just didn’t provide the flexibility I needed and my role was diminished from previously being an associate and project architect to meaningless short-term tasks that under-utilised my skill.

Archicentre gave me the momentum to establish my practice, by giving me introductions to clients who I would not have the capacity to market to on my own, and by providing appropriate, cost effective PI insurance and training to get started.

I have been successfully operating my practice now for the past 15 years, growing from part time to full time as my children have grown and family life allows.

Without the kick start from Archicentre to establish my own practice, it is quite probable that I would have left the profession.

Archicentre provides opportunities for small practices in the residential sector. Traditionally it has been run as a co-operative with architects volunteering time to answer phones and doing work for reduced fees to facilitate the marketing that Archicentre undertakes, while the Australian Institute of Architects provides organisational and financial structure.

Archicentre provides a neutral, approachable way for the public to seek an introduction to the services that an architect can provide. Most of my Archicentre clients would probably not have used an architect if Archicentre wasn’t promoting the value of using an architect, and then providing the service to connect them with a local architect. Archicentre facilitates access to good design and impartial advice that architects provide. It would be a great loss to the public if this service wasn’t continued.

Archicentre’s structure and existence are currently under review by the Institute, who apparently see little or no value in it. One option they are promoting is to operate Archicentre as financial joint venture with a ‘privateer’. The only possible objective of that arrangement will be to generate profit for the ‘privateer’. This can only happen at the expense of architects, and the original objective of promoting architects to the public and generating work for members will therefore be diminished.

The loss or erosion of Archicentre represents:

  • a loss of one of the few ways that the Institute provides real support to an option for women to remain in the profession on their own terms.
  • a loss of one of the few ways that the Institute supports small practice in the residential sector
  • a loss of one of the few ways that the Institute engages with and markets to the public that is not focused on grand designs with big budgets.

I am now a member of the Archicentre State Consultative Committee for NSW, as I strongly believe Archicentre has an important role to play, and am willing to give my limited available time to support it.