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Politics and profit the focus as RIBA councillor Valerie Owen launches presidential campaign

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Architect Valerie Owen has thrown down a presidential challenge by vowing to make the RIBA a hardcore political and profit-making machine.

The RIBA councillor launched her campaign in front of construction minister Nigel Griffiths at the international property fair MIPIM, insisting the institute was 'at a crossroads'.

Owen is squaring up against firebrand Chris Roche, who may drop the RIBA's royal charter and move its headquarters to King's Cross, Brian Godfrey, Simon Foxell, Richard Saxon, Ian Salisbury and Jack Pringle.

'The RIBA needs to raise its political profile and standing, deliver a more businesslike and profitable profession, and place design at the heart of sustainable development, ' she said.

'It has a good brand, international reach and a new, more competitive structure. But the architectural profession is probably facing more challenges today than at any other time since it began.'

The institute needed to 'square up' to its challenges and make the most of its restructuring and Labour's sustainable-communities agenda. RIBA needed a 'new and different type of president', who could create opportunity from challenge, she added.

Owen said outreach programmes by the RIBA Trust should champion good design through innovation in sustainable developments. She was awarded an OBE in 2001 for running communityeducation programmes for disadvantaged women.

Owen has worked for Shenstone and Partners, been an architect director for property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle, and more recently a managing director at London First, a business group working to promote the capital. She was chair of RIBA London from 1998 to 2000 and elected a national councillor in 2001.

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