Discord after RIBA offices sign memorandum of understanding
A major row has broken out between the RIBA in London and its US branch, just weeks after they signed an agreement cementing their relationship.
The president of the RIBA-USA board of trustees Jonathan Wimpenny described the RIBA’s decision to create a second charity in the USA, to be called the American Friends of the RIBA, as ‘a ridiculous waste of money’.
The new body, approved at a RIBA board meeting earlier this month, is aimed at raising funds for the institute’s collections at the British Architectural Library.
Wimpenny said the move went against the spirit of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the institute and his body in late July.
RIBA-USA was set up in 1996, but only formally became part of the RIBA network on the signing of the MoU last month. All money it receives in donations is spent on activities within the US.
Wimpenny said: ‘We signed an MoU with the RIBA to make sure we were working on the same path. If the RIBA wants to set up another charity in the USA, that is a ridiculous waste of money. It would be confusing to the donors if there were two separate charities.’
‘It would be contrary to the MoU,’ he added. ‘The MoU was signed and I presumed it would preclude working with others [in the USA].’
Wimpenny intends to seek clarification from the RIBA on a visit to the UK in August.
‘I am coming to England and will be talking about this then because I disagree with the notion, and do not understand it at all.’
Raj Barr, chair of the Washington DC chapter of RIBA-USA and a former president of the American Institute of Architects, also criticised the plan.
Barr wrote in a letter to Wimpenny seen by the AJ: ‘We undertake all manner of events in the USA with the express intent of building up RIBA presence and reputation in the US.’
‘We proudly fly the RIBA flag in the USA, and all glory accrues to the RIBA. A parallel organisation is not needed and it will only confuse donors.’
The RIBA confirmed that the move had been approved.
A spokeswoman said: ‘The RIBA is home to the British Architectural Library, one of the world’s largest, most comprehensive resources for research and information on all aspects of architecture.
‘The American Friends of the RIBA scheme will specifically help raise funds for the RIBA’s collections at the British Architectural Library, in compliance with US tax law.’
She added that RIBA-USA was officially recognised as a RIBA chapter and benefitted from use of its knowledge base, research, programmes and collections. When signing the MoU, RIBA president Angela Brady said: ‘This is an exciting opportunity to further develop RIBA membership in the USA and advance the RIBA’s purpose of championing better buildings, communities and the environment through architecture and our members.’