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Rogers rubbishes 'ineffectual' RIBA

Lord Rogers has launched an astonishing attack on the RIBA and demanded a huge overhaul of the way it works.

He shocked members and staff by calling for more power to be given to the RIBA president and for a new institution to be set up involving other building industry professions.

Reading from a written statement at the RIBA 's annual conference in Manchester last weekend, the RIBA gold medallist and Labour peer branded the institute 'a cross between a nineteenth-century union and a gentleman's club'. He accused it of being too involved with internal politics and professional issues to be effective in implementing an urban renaissance for British cities.

Among his demands was that the President be given the power to appoint a 'cabinet' of policy advisers from outside the profession.He suggested that the RIBA should become part of a wider institute of groups gathered under one roof, representing urban design and architecture rather than just architects.

'We must rethink the structure of the RIBA because by putting the profession and the institute before architecture we have marginalised ourselves, ' Lord Rogers said. 'I have watched as Marco [Goldschmied] and other excellent presidents struggle to make changes, but with limited success. We architects have failed to reach and, more importantly, involve either the public or government in our vision.'

He is frustrated at the lack of political action on the Urban Task Force report although architect and MP, Sir Sydney Chapman is tabling an early day motion in the House of Commons for the early publication of the Urban White Paper. But Rogers said he was fed up with seeing representatives of other built environment professions having influence at Parliament while architects had none.

To remedy this he called for a small commission, comprising at least half architects, to draw up a new architecture charter and RIBA structure to increase its influence and change its focus towards promoting architecture rather than managing professional issues for architects.

The statement appeared to be co-ordinated with Rogers' colleague and RIBA president, Marco Goldschmied. Minutes before Rogers called for the president to be given powers to pick a cabinet including representatives from other professions, Goldschmied told the AJ that he would like to start a presidential advisory panel.

He suggested figures such as developer Tom Bloxham, arts patron Doris Saatchi and culture secretary Chris Smith, all recently appointed honorary fellows. He also supported Rogers on improving the RIBA's leadership role. 'The RIBA needs to re-establish leadership of the whole process of urban regeneration', Goldschmied said.

'We in the profession can't be insular.We have to broaden out into what urban regeneration means.' Before the speech Goldschmied complained that the RIBA is like a 'juggernaught that is hard to turn round.'

The speech received a mixed reaction from architects.

Former president David Rock welcomed Rogers' concern for the RIBA but said that the formation of a new institute to represent urban design and architecture, rather than architects, would be a backward step.

'It is good that Rogers is thinking about the RIBA because it needs input from nationally known architects, ' Rock said.'We need architects who are respected by government in charge. What a difference it would make if Foster were president.' He pointed out that an umbrella organisation already exists in the form of the Urban Design Alliance, which consists of all the major professional bodies involved in the built environment. The RIBA Council will next week consider whether to give this a permanent home at its headquarters and Rock supports this motion.

Another senior architect at the conference said: 'My colleagues and I were disappointed with the planted speech and I don't like all the RIBA politicking. We are back to reorganising the institute and I can see long debates in council ahead.'

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