A row erupted last week at the RIBA over whether the onemember-one-vote system of electing the RIBA president should be scrapped and democratic power handed to the 57 leading members of the institute. The ruling body was split after a secret session of council debated this and other constitutional reforms for more than two hours.
The issue now looks set to play a major role in next February's election to succeed Marco Goldschmied.
Goldschmied himself said he is undecided, but likely candidate Paul Hyett warned that the one-member-onevote system could hinder democracy because the necessary resources required to run a campaign preclude all but the wealthiest candidates. The cost of writing to members, travelling to different regions for campaign events and hiring meeting halls can total at least £10,000 per candidate, he said. 'Conversely, the membership currently has the voting right and many believe that it would be an undemocratic loss, ' he hedged.
Another potential presidential candidate, John Wright, said: 'The decision over the president must be made by council, because of the need for continuity between different presidencies.' Wright told the AJ in August that he would not challenge Hyett but now says that he would if he refuses to back the abolition of the one-member-one-vote system.
Opponents of the change warn that it will make the RIBA more inward-looking and will lead to the appointment of a bureaucrat, rather than an influential architect with a major reputation as a designer. 'Some of the criticism of the RIBA is that it doesn't represent the wider family of architecture, so selecting the president by council is the last image we want to give out, ' said Roger Zogolovitch. 'I feel quite passionately about this.' The list of potential candidates appears to be Hyett, Wright and former director general Alex Reid, who said last week he will 'more likely than not' stand.He does not have a strong view on the issue, but said that if pushed he would 'leave things as they are'.
President Marco Goldschmied has ordered a study into the election method, including an analysis of other professional institutions, most of which elect their president from a select electoral college. The report is likely to be presented in December, although any change will not be made in time for the election on 26 February.