Institution’s regional director for London claims she saw only two black people among 400-strong attendance at regional awards event
RIBA president Simon Allford has urged architects to “take responsibility” for increasing diversity in the profession following criticism over a lack of black attendees at the institution’s regional awards ceremony this week.
His intervention comes after RIBA’s regional London director said she saw only two black people at Tuesday night’s awards, an event which was attended by around 400 people.
In a LinkedIn post on Wednesday, Dian Small said practices should have made more of an effort to invite black employees and told the architectural profession that it “can do better”.
HOK principal Femi Oresanya replied to the post saying he attended the event and was “disappointed by the make-up of the audience”.
Responding to Small’s post, Allford told Building Design: “Following commentary on social media we must respond that we know that to best serve our diverse society we must work to ensure our profession is more representative of it, and this remains a key focus.”
He said: “It will take time for these changes to feed through to the profession.
”It’s important that we all take responsibility for this vital work and we will continue to provide guidance and resources that support our members in doing this.”
Allford added that RIBA is working with other organisations, practices and individual members on education initiatives to address diversity issues.
Criticism has been levelled at the architectural profession in recent years for failing to do enough to improve diversity and inclusion. A report by the Architects Registration Board last year suggested that little progress was being made to increase the number of black architects in the UK.
Just 1% of those who shared their ethnic group with the regulator identified as black, a percentage which was unchanged on the previous year.
Shortlisted teams invited to attend Tuesday’s awards, which were held at RIBA’s Marylebone headquarters, were allotted four tickets each, two for the design team and two for their clients.
Regional RIBA jurors and group members for the institution’s national awards were also in attendance, along with selected RIBA staff and sponsors.
Small said that practices could have invited underrepresented groups “at the cost of a train ticket” and criticised the “audacity” of those in the sector who she said blame diversity issues on a lack of available black talent.
She added: “Imagine what valuable conversations you could [have] had, and what you could [have] learned about them (reverse mentoring) on that three hours journey there and back.
“Imagine… the inspirational and motivational drive they could [have] gained to aspire to one day be on stage collecting their own awards.”
She added: “We should be doing more than imagining. You can all do better!”
The show saw RIBA announce the winning projects of ten English regions drawn from shortlists unveiled earlier this month.
Projects to have won awards included Heatherwick’s Maggie’s Centre in Leeds, in the Yorkshire category, and Alison Brooks Architects’ Cohen Quadrangle at Exeter College in Oxford, in the South category.
Other winners included Acanthus Clews Architects, Undercroft Learning Centre, Worcester Cathedral, in the West Midlands, and Mæ Architects’ Sands End Arts and Community Centre, in London.
Simon Allford’s response in full
“On Tuesday evening the 2022 RIBA Regional Award winning practices came together to celebrate their achievements – with projects ranging from major civic schemes to smaller community led builds.
Following commentary on social media we must respond that we know that to best serve our diverse society we must work to ensure our profession is more representative of it, and, this remains a key focus. The RIBA is collaborating with other institutes, schools, practices and individual members on targeted initiatives that seek to address underrepresentation at education level, to ensure that those who want to, can access a career in architecture. It will take time for these changes to feed through to the profession.
It’s important that we all take responsibility for this vital work and we will continue to provide guidance and resources that support our members in doing this.”