Portland Place should be a seat of learning not a fun palace

RIBA's 66 Portland Place headquarters

As the RIBA launches a competition for the £20m redevelopment of its HQ, Chris Williamson questions the whole direction of travel

I’m passionate about the RIBA. It was its brilliant book, Your Architect by Derek Senior with illustrations by David Rock, that convinced me to study architecture. I was the East Midlands student rep 45 years ago and I’ve had two stints on RIBA council, the last finishing three years ago on the board as RIBA international vice president.

I am concerned about the current direction of the institute. Severe job cuts endanger outreach and influence. Arb and others are filling the voids. 66 Portland Place should not be turned into an architectural fun palace. It should be a place of learning.

Proposals that I made when I was a vice president seem very different from the institute’s current direction. I believe we should ensure the letters RIBA are seen as an elite highly regarded qualification not an indication of belonging to a gentlemen’s club. To be members of the RIBA we all have to attain certain standards of education and training.

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