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The new president of the RIBA talks to Elizabeth Hopkirk about knocking the institute into shape, the pressure architects are facing – and boxing. Photography by Jean Goldsmith
“By all means become an architect, just don’t get involved in the RIBA – the presidents all end up divorced or alcoholics.”
So ran the cautionary advice that Simon Allford’s father gave him after he announced he was going to follow his dad into architecture. This autumn, two months after turning 60, Allford Jr begins a two-year term as the 79th president of the RIBA. So, how did that happen?
“A couple of years ago I was criticising the institute, as every architect does,” he recalls. A friend challenged him to stop carping from the sidelines and get involved. So he stood for president and won, on a ticket of making the institute a nimbler, more outward-facing “House of Architecture”.
He was president-elect for a year – one of the trickiest in the institute’s history, and there is plenty of competition – but only took over from Alan Jones on 1 September. One month in, Building Design caught up with him in the president’s office at 66 Portland Place, the RIBA’s listed art deco headquarters in central London, to talk about the institute, the profession and the wider industry – and how he plans to avoid the fate his father warned him about. (Spoiler: it includes boxing.)
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