RIBA politics took an unprecedented turn last week when the institute's Eastern region tried to bar presidential candidate Alex Reid from its list of members for not being a registered architect.
The region's chairman, Yasmin Shariff, told the AJlast week she had written to former RIBA director general Reid, the ARB, and even the institute's Professional Conduct Department to explain that she would not allow Reid, who now lives in Cambridge, to transfer his old London membership and join the Eastern region. She warned that since Reid is a corporate member of the institute, and is therefore able to use the letters RIBA after his name, there is an unacceptable contradiction - it was a 'serious matter' since he remains unregistered with ARB.
'It's the understanding of every member of RIBA that a corporate member is registered with ARB and can use the title architect, ' she said.
Shariff contends that because the corporate membership application form asks candidates for election for their ARB registration number, this proves the case. She e-mailed all Eastern region council members to that effect on Monday, referring to the Baden Hellard Case establishing the use of the initials RIBA as constituting use of title. 'To be eligible for corporate membership of the RIBA, all UK candidates must be registered with ARB, otherwise the RIBA would be conferring the title architect to non-registered persons in the UKand breaking the law, ' she wrote.
But although Reid took his Part 3 examination in 1996, and the two-year period in which prospective architects must register with the ARB has elapsed, RIBA's Eastern region has acted against institute rules. Although the majority of corporate members do practice as architects, some - such as academics - do not. 'Therefore, ' said Portland Place, 'it does not mean that they are registered with ARB or are a practising architect.'
Reid has now applied for ARB registration. He said he was clear in his mind that he had not breached either ARB or RIBA rules and that Shariff had simply made an 'honest mistake'. 'I am not in practice and not using the letters after my name, ' he said, adding that Shariff 's views were 180 degrees wrong', and that institute honorary secretary Roger Shrimplin had written to assure him there was no doubt over his membership.
ARB chief executive Robin Vaughan said people whose two years have elapsed are assessed to see whether they remain as 'competent' as when they passed their Part 3s. 'It would normally be the case for that to include a built component, but each case is judged on its merits', he said. It is understood that Portland Place will ask Shariff to withdraw the letter.
Shariff, who has not signed nomination forms for any of the candidates, remains undeterred but was adamant that it was 'not a vindictive campaign' against the former director general - the Eastern region reports about six similar cases per year. 'It's up to HQ to strike him off or regularise the situation' she said. 'Until then we can't accept him as a corporate member. I'm personally horrified that anyone who stands for president can take the law so lightly and not register. We act as the gatekeepers for registration.'
The news is the latest volley in a campaign already accused from some quarters of becoming overheated. Rival candidate Paul Hyett added more fuel this week by declaring that he felt RIBA presidents should be registered architects.
Voting in the election to replace Marco Goldschmied begins on Monday and will close on 26 January. The winner - Brian Goddfrey is the other candidate - will be announced in March.