Hodder’s presidential agenda derailed by dysfunctional RIBA
Emergency task group to be set up to tackle ‘legal and management mess’; Derbyshire, Assael and von Bradsky stand for election on shake-up ticket
President Stephen Hodder has been unable to implement the ‘ambitious programme’ of reform he planned for the RIBA because of serious problems with its governance, he has admitted.
Ten months into his two-year term and speaking following an RIBA Council meeting largely held in secret last week, Hodder said issues with the way the organisation is run dating back to Ruth Reed’s presidency between 2009 and 2011 had ‘just not been addressed’.
His admission came as the institute agreed to set up an emergency task group, headed by ‘an experienced lawyer’, to sort out ongoing problems with the way the organisation is run.
The RIBA did not comment on why it is choosing a lawyer to lead the process, but council member and former president Owen Luder said after the council meeting: ‘It is now clear the RIBA has not been run in accordance with charity law over the past four years, which has created a legal and management mess that must be rectified without delay.’
Speaking about the difficulties facing him, Hodder said: ‘My time as president has been very hard so far. There are a lot of issues which have been going on since [previous president] Angela [Brady]’s time, even dating back to Ruth Reed, which have just not been addressed - issues of governance within the RIBA. ‘These have meant I have not been able to tackle what I originally set out to do. But I want to get them sorted.’
Hodder’s manifesto promised procurement reform and an improvement in RIBA’s communications. He had previously promised that the council meeting would be open to press and public, including sessions on the institute’s controversial Israeli and a report into architectural competitions.
Jane Duncan, who is standing in the current RIBA presidential elections, said: ‘It is vital that the workings, decisions and outputs
from the [governance] group are fully transparent and agreed by council prior to being formalised.
‘Too much seems to go on behind closed doors and this is an area which could impact all members.’
Meanwhile a powerful trio of leading architects in practice - Ben Derbyshire of HTA Design, John Assael of Assael Architects and Andy von Bradsky of PRP - have joined forces in an attempt to shake up the troubled institute by winning election to RIBA Council in September.
Former presidential candidate John Assael said Hodder needed ‘much more support’ and fewer distractions if he was to make any headway.
He said: ‘[Hodder] needs to focus on promoting British architects, practices and architecture and not have his agenda hijacked. I hope the
election will see [us] in a new cabinet to support [these] mutual goals. Otherwise the RIBA will continue to be a talking shop that achieves nothing.’
Derbyshire said ‘continuity’ was needed between the council, board and presidency over different presidential terms to achieve change.
He added: ‘Continuity is required between the elements of the organisational structure; council, board and presidency and over time so that strategic initiatives can be carried over subsequent electoral terms because change will take time.
‘We need to reorganise in order to achieve this. Working together, over time, we see the opportunity to regain the ground lost to design in the construction industry.’
An RIBA spokesman said: ‘Council has agreed a review of governance to examine and make recommendations to ensure clarity and consistency within the RIBA governing documents.
‘The review group, to include the president or presidentelect, honorary secretary, the council representative on the RIBA Board and five other
council members, will report to RIBA Council in September.’
The RIBA has also announced a new ethics working group to look at how the institute tackles problems facing overseas communities following the
controversy surrounding its Israel motion.
Derbyshire, Assael and von Bradsky’s joint manifesto
Voting has opened for the election to seven seats on the RIBA Council and ends on 23 July. A number of us feel that structural changes to the way the Profession is organised and a shift in the strategic emphasis by the Institute is needed. Architects need to recover a position in society that would enable them to be more effective in delivering their design expertise, improving the quality of the environment. Our status has slipped badly and we need to act coherently to recover it. So with colleagues Andy von Bradsky and John Assael, both leaders of substantial Architectural Practices, we have decided to go for election to Council.
We do not present ourselves as any kind of formal group, but we do have a lot in common and we are hoping to achieve a consensus for change with others within the RIBA and outside around the following key points:
1) Architecture is the remit in the Royal Charter but unless architects and practices are well placed in relation to the needs of society and commerce, good architecture can’t happen. There should be more emphasis in the RIBA on the promotion of its members’ interests.
2) Architects’ interests are best served by an Institute that understands the need for cross industry and inter-disciplinary working with engineers, surveyors, other professionals and their institutes. We should present ourselves as having a particular contribution to the collaborations necessary to improve the quality of built environment, working with, not competing against or denigrating the contributions of others in the supply chain.
3) We need to support strongly efforts to reform architectural education and the regulation of quality in the profession. The current arrangements are dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. Change is in the air and we should focus on achieving clarity and consensus to push change through.
4) In particular, recent innovations in information technology, digital media and consumer feedback offer enormous scope for Architects to regain lost influence in the design of the built environment. To take advantage of this we need to understand how to redefine professionalism, working more as Architects in Industry and Society and less as elite professionals.
To achieve these kinds of change, there needs to be better continuity in the organisation of the Institute, with more effort on behalf of the executive to understand and promote the thinking of members, both those who contribute to its hard working specialist groups, and more widely, regionally and amongst large and small practices.
Continuity is also required between the elements of the organisational structure; Council, Board and Presidency and over time so that strategic initiatives can be carried over subsequent electoral terms because change will take time. We need to reorganise in order to achieve this. Working together, over time, we see the opportunity to regain the ground lost to design in the construction industry.