Those who attended last weekend's RIBA Conference in Salford were treated to Richard Rogers' plans for the future of the RIBA. Fed up with seeing organisations such as the RTPI and the RICS treading 'the corridors of power', he is keen to see the RIBA transformed into an effective political lobbying machine. To this end, he suggests increased powers for the president, including the right to select a cabinet made up not only of architects, but of urban designers, developers and others who wield influence over the built environment.
By such means, he argues, the RIBA could transform itself from its current status as 'a cross between a nineteenth-century union and a gentleman's club' into an umbrella organisation with the clout to implement the findings of the Urban Task Force.
Given his popularity and influence within the profession, the RIBAmust seem like a promising power base from which to implement the ideas which Whitehall is so blithely ignoring. Rogers' proposals would not simply bring the institute up to date, but would change its very essence. However laudable the aims of the Urban Task Force are, it would be a mistake to turn the RIBA into a single issue party, and a betrayal of those members who do not happen to share Rogers' views. Dissenters are unlikely to find representation in a cabinet composed of individuals personally selected by Rogers'partner Marco Goldschmied.
It appears Goldschmied agrees with Rogers' views.
But if he felt that Rogers' speech would bolster his position, he has made a strategic error. Rogers does not hold any RIBA office, and there is no formal reason for the institute to pay any particular attention to his views.
Goldschmied, voted in as president in a democratic election, has the mandate to publicly air his views on the RIBA and to expect to be taken seriously. Adopting Rogers' suggestions would be a case of prioritising influential friends over the institution. If the RIBA is seriously considering such major changes, it is essential that members' approval is sought in a referendum.
Otherwise, it will forever be viewed as the instrument of a faction, rather than an organisation which represents the profession.