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Harry Rich hits back - but fails to deny Ruth Reed ousting bid

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The RIBA’s chief executive Harry Rich has written a strongly worded letter in response to allegations made last week in an article about a failed bid by institute president Ruth Reed to oust him

However Rich did not deny that Reed had attempted to carry through a vote of ‘no confidence’ at an advisory RIBA Board meeting earlier this year (see letter below).

Instead the chief executive defended a string of criticisms about the institute’s perceived failures made in the same piece (AJ 31.03.11).

In respect of the institute’s u-turn over plans to scrap the RIBA Trust, Rich described the backlash as an ‘entirely proper’ debate which ‘demonstrated the health of the RIBA’s processes’.

He also countered claims that the institute’s failure to take over ARB’s role could be seen as an embarrassment - saying ‘no organisation ever persuades government to do all it would like’ - and argued that Reed’s recent apology to the former chair of the RIBA’s troubled London Region Council was ‘a dignified and generous response to a very difficult’.

Meanwhile a number of key figures have jumped to the defence of both Reed and Rich, including a number of RIBA vice presidents.

Philip Singleton, director of Facilitate Urban, said: ‘There is an insidious sexism in some of the criticism of the president. In an era where the belief in meritocracy is, or certainly should be, the norm, some RIBA members are looking decidedly stuffy and very old fashioned. This is critical when the profession is debating its very future.

‘I would like to assume [the failed attempt] is a method of ensuring the institute is very well run and the top people kept firmly on their toes. This is, for me, clearly a good thing.’

RIBA vice presidents Stephen Hodder, Oliver Richards and Jane Duncan also came out to say they were ‘fully supportive of the achievements’ of both Reed and Rich.

Ben Addy, director of Moxon Architects branded the ‘political wrangling’ as ‘a sideshow’ and said it had detracted from the good work carried out at regional level.

He said: ‘All this noise…is a great shame because in terms of the support provided by the professionals it employs, the RIBA is absolutely fantastic. The Information Centre and the London Region team both do brilliant work with practices and other organisations of all shapes and sizes.’

Letter to the AJ from RIBA chief executive Harry Rich

Your drawing together last week of a number of disparate items to support a story about the RIBA and our President was artful, but bemusing and requires correction.

The RIBA stood up for design review after CABE’s funding was slashed. One solution to preserving design review could have been for us to lead on it but the big-picture result is for design review to thrive and we are proud to have supported the CABE-Design Council merger and to be involved at the core of shaping the future for design review and enabling.  It is hard to see how this is a failure.

The RIBA President has vigorously defended the profession against Michael Gove’s attacks. In February you reported the RIBA’s ‘stinging reply to his comments’ and elsewhere we have seen headlines such as ‘RIBA blasts Gove after latest slur’.

In December 2009 RIBA Council affirmed that it would be in the interest of consumers (clients and architecture schools) for ARB’s regulatory functions to be carried out by the RIBA. The government’s choice not to make this change when it reviewed public bodies is no embarrassment at all. In the real world no organisation ever persuades government to do all it would like - but this is no reason not to try.

The President’s apology to the former chair of RIBA London Region Council was a dignified and generous response to a very difficult situation in which too many people had been hurt and which distracted attention from the wonderful work that members and staff all over the country are doing to support and energise architecture.

The debate about the successor body to the RIBA Trust Board has been entirely proper and demonstrates the health of the RIBA’s processes.  As a result of the work of the review group and the commitment of members, Council has now given its unanimous support to the new governance structure that will better enable the outreach work we do.

Finally, I would like to report the rather dull truth that the President, RIBA Board, the RIBA team and I are united in working together to implement the changes that are already helping us to deliver even more effectively against our mission and business plan. 


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