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Big guns plot RIBA drawings move

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A star-studded group of UK architects is asking the RIBA to think again about its plan to move its drawings collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum - and to consider an alternative proposal to move it to the Royal Academy.

The group includes Lords Foster and Rogers, and other leading architect academicians including Sir Philip Dowson, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, Sir Richard MacCormac, Sir Colin St John Wilson and Michael Manser. Chris Wilkinson, Will Alsop, Piers Gough, Spencer de Grey, Peter Ahrends, Richard Burton, Paul Koralek and Rick Mather are also backing the scheme, along with Leonard Manasseh, Bob Allies, John Lyall and David Rock.

The group believe the RA would offer a more appropriate home to the collection, and the move is understood to have the support of Drue Heinz, a benefactor of both institutions.

The RA was previously considered as a home but ruled out because it did not own the Museum of Mankind building on Burlington Gardens. Now it does and a scheme by Sir Michael Hopkins - designer of the RIBA Roundhouse bid - is under way. This would provide space for a large part of the collection, but some of it would need to be out-housed.

The RA 'bid' is not yet formal, and the RIBA and its president Paul Hyett face some difficult choices, assuming a formal approach is made. The institute would be very reluctant to end the relationship it has established with the V&A in recent years, especially as a Heritage Lottery bid has only recently been submitted in respect of the planned move from Portman Square, where the lease ran out.

On the other hand, it would be extraordinary if the institute was to ignore the views of such a host of major architects, many of them both RIBA and RA members. They make the point that in terms of culture and history, the two chartered bodies have a common heritage and the common activity of drawing. Both are independent of government and are governed by presidents and councils.

There are always at least two architects on the governing council of the RA.

The AJ understands that no final contract has yet been entered into by the RIBA and the V&A.

Any RA approach would probably need to offer rent-free accommodation for a guaranteed period, and an initial financial sum to help relocation.

Wherever the collection goes, the institute would need to raise at least £4 million to secure its future - this is not considered too onerous for the world's greatest collection of architectural drawings.

The next stage in the saga may be the council meeting in mid-February, by which time the RA may have initiated the possibility of formal talks.

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