Thursday24 July 2014

Reed blasts RIBA with London bias jibe

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Presidential hopeful courts regions with outspoken attack on “London-centric” institute


‘A centralised RIBA is not informing the membership what it does’ - Ruth Reed
‘A centralised RIBA is not informing the membership what it does’ - Ruth Reed
Ruth Reed has dramatically upped the ante in her bid to be the next RIBA president with a stinging attack on the RIBA’s “London-centric” nature.

In an exclusive interview with BD, Reed — who is positioning herself as the “regional” candidate against rival and RIBA London chairman Andrew Hanson — said members outside the capital were “completely disaffected” and “don’t get a huge amount” from the institute.

The comments followed news that almost all regional candidates for election to the RIBA Council from outside London will stand unopposed because so few architects have put themselves forward.

In marked contrast to the situation in the capital, where 15 people are contesting eight seats, eight seats in the regions have only one person standing, while members in the Wessex region will choose two representatives from three candidates.

Reed told BD this dearth of candidates showed the institute is failing to connect with non-London members. “There has been a very disappointing set of nominations for the regions,” she said.

“Regional members feel completely disaffected. To be honest, they don’t get a huge amount [from the RIBA]. I see a centralised RIBA that is not informing the membership what it does.”

Hanson described the lack of candidates as “pathetic”, and said he would roll out the model he has overseen in London across the country if elected. “In London we’ve got a new set of people — a broad mix — standing. I made a big effort to persuade people to stand,” he said. “I want to do in the regions what we’ve achieved in London.”

Current RIBA president Sunand Prasad also said the lack of candidates was disappointing. “The RIBA is much more visible in London,” he said. “It’s a London-centrism that plagues all institutions.

“A lot of time was spent talking in the 1990s, and in many ways we have a more efficient, more effective RIBA, but it has come at the cost of member involvement.”

But past president George Ferguson insisted Reed was wrong, claiming the institute boasts “the most thorough network” of any professional organisation he has come across. “The RIBA’s directors in the regions are a remarkable talent,” he said. “They’re among the best things the RIBA’s got.

“You could read [these election figures] either way — you could equally say it was because people were happy with the situation.”

As well as the 18 regional seats, seven candidates are standing for six national seats for 2008/09.


Readers' comments (2)

Does RIBA do enough for the regions?

  • I would love to have the opportunity to have more use of our local RIBA office (south), but the region is so big that it extends from the south coast to past Milton Keynes. With the regional office in Reading, why should i go there, when London is quicker to get to and feels more local to me? Perhaps the regions are to big to be effective on a local level?

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  • Yes, the regions are populated by architects wised up to the reality of what their institute can actually achieve and yes, the general direction is positive, the regions have seen an improvement but they also look on as the Institute seems to continue to ignore their concerns Location is staffed by estate agents for god’s sake and they are the heroes of the show! For some of the time at least the RIBA should get over its constant state of awe about starchitecture and introduce us to the public as professionals who can actually do something and who care and know about the projects they get involved with. It’s a small step but it could begin to re-address the public perception of the profession and who knows where that might lead?

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