Call for transparency at RIBA
RIBA members have continued to criticise the abolition of the RIBA Trust, describing the move as a ‘power play’ by the organisation’s newly incumbent chief executive Harry Rich
Dissenters have attacked institute chiefs for the ‘rushed’ handling of events which saw the organisation’s cultural wing scrapped last month as part of a package of streamlining measures.
Meanwhile, it is understood Trust director Charles Knevitt has already been made redundant and that librarian Irena Murray is also soon to stand down.
Archigram founder Peter Cook said: ‘The [RIBA Trust’s demise] is very sinister. It’s the thin end of the wedge in terms of the maintenance of its cultural realm. I’m suspicious whether it is just a cost-cutting exercise.’
At the heart of the criticism is a growing dissatisfaction with proceedings at RIBA council meetings with several members objecting to the power wielded by the organisation’s newly-created board.
An anonymous council member said: ‘The board is a completely new thing [but] it seems to be taking on more than we expected when we voted for its existence.’
Another long-serving member added: ‘When I sat on council under George Ferguson there was more discussion. Now it feels that the board is making all the decision and council’s role is simply to approve their decisions.’
A former RIBA council member said the move ‘sounded like a power play by the new director general seeking to establish himself’.
Former-trustee Roger Zogolovitch, who launched a campaign to revive the trust, this week revealed a counter-abolitionist motion – ‘That the council shall reinstate a board of trustees, the post of honorary librarian and the post of director’ – which he claims will undo the dissolution.
Zogolovitch needs 286 chartered member signatories (one per cent of the membership) in order to call a ‘special general meeting’ where the motion will be put to referendum.
RIBA president elect Angela Brady – who supports Rich’s reforms – criticised Zogolovitch for failing to talk the issues through properly with institute chiefs before launching his campaign. She said the campaigners could negotiate retaining the RIBA Trust name, but added: ‘Certain decisions you have to have faith in – and this will be better, the old system was too inefficient and complicated.’
Eric Parry, RIBA Library Committee member
‘International respect for the RIBA has steadily grown over the last decade (admittedly from a pretty low standing, which is easily forgotten). The culling of these creative parts of the RIBA seems extremely short sighted. Sitting on the library committee is at present like attending a wake. The perception of the RIBA library has been transformed through its education outreach programme.’
Anthony Hoete, principal, What Architecture
‘The purpose of the RIBA Trust was to advance architecture through public information and education and in doing so culturally offset the rampant commercial activities of the rest of the RIBA group. Now that the RIBA Trust is gone, who will take responsibility indeed even care about such engagement?’
Andrew Salter, RIBA Honorary Secretary
‘The end of the RIBA Trust doesn’t stop the RIBA’s cultural outreach, in fact the new structure brings culture to the heart of the organisation. Cultural programming and public outreach looks set to be delivered more efficiently by the RIBA in future. I am 100 [per cent] behind the restructuring of the RIBA; it is a positive change.’
Elena Tsolakis, RIBA Council graduate seat
‘It was unfortunate that council members were not given enough time to make an informed decision on RIBA Trust’s closure. We received a late paper that some members admitted to not being able to read because of the time available. I am interested in making our institute more effective; however, I do not think the right process was followed.’
Simon Allford, director, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
‘The sudden and extraordinary execution of the ill-considered plan of but a few to close the RIBA Trust would be disastrous except for the fact that it might galvanise the disaffected to finally engage with their institution. I hope the decision is overturned at the SGM if not the RIBA will be […] confirmed as an irrelevant anachronism.’
Sunand Prasad, former RIBA President
‘[The fact] that it was announced without sufficient information and consultation was clearly very unfortunate and has created an atmosphere of distrust. Until we have a detail of what will replace it we must keep calm and see what the arrangements will be. I do not assume this will be a bad thing. It wasn’t well handled however that doesn’t necessarily mean we should reinstate the trust.’
Chris Roche, RIBA council London representative
Council were not given sufficient time to consider a very late paper, and many, like myself, had not had time to read and reflect on the paper in advance of the vote. The decision on the Trust, and the manner in which it was driven through Council, is a cause for concern.
Owen Luder, RIBA council member and former RIBA president
As the elected RIBA Council now seems to be unable to exercise proper control over the Executive a Special General Meeting will provide the opportunity for all these issues to be discussed openly and members views on this damaging affair will be made clear to the executive.
Sam Webb, former RIBA councillor
It is so easy to destroy something which has taken so much time patience and careful diplomacy to build over many years . Isn’t that what vandals do? The RIBA is (or maybe it should read was) a member lead organisation. Without those members there is no RIBA. Those who are hellbent on changing that for whatever reason would be well advised to remember that.
Mark Power, Mark Power Architect
It is hard to believe that the real motivation for the abolition is not to cut high running costs. Whilst it may be true that outside trust the collections can now be more easily exploited commercially & internationally, and thereby reach a wider audience too, might this also mean that they are less frequently available as a resource to the membership and UK academics? Doesn’t this move also make these unique and valuable collections more vulnerable to being sold off and dispersed to raise cash?