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Angela Brady: ‘Correction: I’m bringing Hoxton to the RIBA’

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Brady’s light-hearted opening to her inaugural speech struck down claims she will relocate the RIBA, then turned to address serious issues facing the profession

Taking over the presidential reins last Friday (9 September), Angela Brady opened her speech saying she wanted to correct recent claims in the press that she would move the RIBA to Hoxton: ‘Let me set one thing straight: I’m not bringing the RIBA to Hoxton, I’m bringing Hoxton to the RIBA’.

The president also joked, ‘I bet none of you thought that an Irish woman architect would be President of the RIBA, least of all me!’

Brady then went on to deliver a hard-hitting speech outlining the three main issues she plans to tackle during her two year term of office. Her three-point programme for the presidency includes: creating an ‘open conversation’ to kick start development and regeneration; reforming procurement, and promoting design review and good design under the proposed National Planning Policy Framework (see the full text of Brady’s speech below).

Brady also called on architects to remedy the ‘broken parts of our physical community’, arguing the UK’s third-rate physical environment’ required urgent attention from the profession. She questioned whether punishment was the best way to stem social unrest – such as the summer rioting in London, Birmingham and Manchester – and suggested our built environment and the ‘polarisation between desirable and undesirable areas’ was to blame.

She said: ‘As architects we are trained and experienced specialists.  We can help in rebuilding communities and cities, in a far more visionary and realistic way — than any other sector.’ 

Architects in the room cheered the president at several points in her speech.

Past president Owen Luder said: ‘The important thing for the profession is to get back into the arena with the decision makers. I think this is something she will be able to do well.’

Helen Misselbrook, managing director of Resolution Architecture said: ‘The highest priority is to get to grip with the taskforce of the planning reform.’

David Porter, emeritus professor at the Macintosh School of Architecture added: ‘The important thing is what actually happens.’


Angela Brady’s inaugural speech in full


I particularly want to say that I am delighted and honoured to become President of the RIBA, and to represent an extremely talented, and resourceful profession, whose work benefits the whole of society. 

I bet none of you thought that an Irish woman architect would be President of the RIBA least of all me!

I shall do all I can to advance the causes of architecture and architects, at a time when I believe society urgently needs our skills and vision as never before.

Why are we needed?  I believe that commentators, across the political spectrum, are highlighting significant changes, visibly and invisibly, within our society, community, and cultures. 

The wider economic environment is driving a reduction in public spending and the reconfiguration of funding strategies are causing major upheavals. 

We have seen the schools programme stop, with architects being wrongly cited as an apparently, major contributor to the failure of the programme!  We have had civil unrest and disorder, which when mapped, tracks the evolution and location, to significant blocks of social housing, where this so called ‘feral society’ sought by the Prime Minister, may well be found.

But let us be clear, that whilst the issues identified by the Prime Minister as a ‘broken society’ have been ‘many years in the making’, this is no reason to delay much needed change.

As architects we need to be at the centre of that change, in partnership with ALL who share our aspirations.

Ian Duncan-Smith espouses ‘punishment’ as the way to stem the growth of future civil unrest - using Regulation, as the prime means of delivering change! 

But surely, a society with such systemic issues, cannot be simply ‘cured’, by a large dose of regulation or reprisal? 

Surely,….. the issues are in part, a response to our environments, and the polarisation between desirable and undesirable areas?

In tackling this problem, we architects, together, with planning and construction partners, have a huge responsibility, and a huge amount to give. 

The physical environment can often embody a post code marginalisation.

We need to act positively together to enrich, empower, connect and diversify our communities.

Empowerment through Localism alone, is not sufficient to tackle this marginalisation, when local people are reluctant to speak out. -  As standing out is not a priority.

We have a disenfranchised youth, whose values lack leadership and aspiration, And very importantly, many of them live in a third rate physical environment, whose conditions are acknowledged by all politicians.

It needs urgent attention.  Such poor conditions, lie at the very foundation and the future ‘health’ of our nation.

As architects we are trained and experienced specialists.  We can help in rebuilding communities and cities, in a far more visionary and realistic way — than any other sector. 

The challenge is to come up with remedies for these broken parts of our physical community. Going forward, this embodies, as an enormous regeneration and restructuring programme.

Barack Obama has just announced his ‘public infrastructure investment’ programme to ‘kick start’  society and the economy, so we too, should recognise, the state of our own house, and begin repairing it. 

We need to start an open and honest ‘conversation’ with  politicians at all levels, which aims to tackle the root problems,  to help focus precious investment, both public and private, across the country, which in turn, empowers localism, and which restarts the economy, on a footing for the next decade. 

I have been a campaigner all of my life, and I rarely take NO for an answer! That is probably why I got voted in!

There has to be a big conversation to go with the big society, and this cannot be a one way dialogue.

We need to join forces with the government, the construction industry, and the Public, to recognise and drive forward for a better built environment.

As architects, we can deliver……. and this is our biggest challenge.

As RIBA President, I will campaign for;

1.         An “open conversation” to kick start development and regeneration, to deliver positive change.

2          To bring about reform of the procurement system which is ‘the bane of our professional lives’. And I have a Task Force set up for this.

3          And to continue the good work that Ruth has already started with our partners, around the ‘National Planning Policy Framework’, by re-enforcing the benefits of good design and Design Review.

However, there are still huge unresolved areas in relation to the Local Plans. We need to urgently help communities set these up, so they can have a say in what gets built in their area. We need to engage the public and empower them to rebuild their communities and demand better design as a basic human need.

This is an unrivalled opportunity for us, as architects, to adopt a leadership role, within our local communities and really make a difference.

Architects foresee, create and build.    We can create change.

So in conclusion, I lay down a challenge for our profession, for the Government, the construction industry and the public.

Let’s work together - to create a happier and more resilient built environment, and meet the global, social, economic and environmental changes that face us all today.



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