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In the news: riba presidential hopefuls

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In an AJ profile of Marco Goldschmied (left) published in March last year, we tipped him as a possible future president of the riba. Now he has confirmed his candidature, with the honorary treasurer Colin James (right) the only other certain candidate so far. It could be an intriguing election; on the face of it a simple choice between a cosmopolitan representative of trendy London and a regional public-sector workhorse with a penchant for planning as well as architecture.

Goldschmied and James have one very obvious thing in common: commercial acumen. The former is the money man at Richard Rogers Partnership, though he has made a point recently of stressing his architectural credentials. The latter has a wide experience of money and personnel management in the public sector. Having worked in local authorities, he has now crossed over to become a client, as chairman of West Oxfordshire District Council.

One policy pursued by James resonates with Goldschmied - brownfield development. The former is presenter for the riba video on the subject which argues that brownfield development is key to future urban regeneration. The Goldschmied connection is through Richard Rogers, who is carrying out work on the subject for the government.

In their public lives as architects, the two are distinct. James is heavily involved in the minutiae of riba organisation, having been closely involved in the structural changes now taking place. Goldschmied is an elected member of the Architects Registration Board - a useful place to be as the turf war with the riba over responsibilities unfolds. He is also, as an riba councillor, responsible for riba awards, and has carried on the work of Jane Priestman in making them more accessible and dynamic. His most recent contribution was personal: the Goldschmied Trust has funded the £5000 pa award for best building under £500,0000, as a contribution to the Stephen Lawrence Trust.

It would be easy to describe the contest between them as one between a Roundhead and Cavalier. That would be misleading: James has too much dash to be Cromwell, and Goldschmied is too serious to be Charles I. And of course others may yet join the battle.

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