We were rather saddened and disappointed to read the headline (AJ 11.1.01) which drew attention to a proposal to bar former RIBA director-general Alex Reid from the region's list of members for not being a registered architect. Whatever the argument about whether Reid is registered or not, it diverts attention from the real issues at a time when we are debating the future leadership of the RIBA.
The question of Reid's eligibility for membership of Eastern, or any other region, is insignificant compared with the undermining of the regional structure during the time when he had executive responsibility.
How, if elected, can he be entrusted to preside over a strong corporate body while respecting the part played by the regions and branches.
With its former annual 'Delight in Design' conference, its awards ceremony and reputable publications, not to mention the establishment of the first regional architecture centre, the Eastern region has a proud record of promoting architecture and the profession.
This would not have been possible without the dedication and enthusiasm of members and non-architect volunteers. This investment of time and effort is too often unrecognised.
Alas the architecture centre, which included a RIBA bookshop, a regional office and the architecture gallery, closed in 1998 after seven years, just at the time when the architecture centre network was beginning to spread across this country and elsewhere in Europe. It took over five years to establish but its demise was brought about in months by the withdrawal of RIBA support - ostensibly related to the commercial viability of the bookshop in Cambridge.
What took many years to bring into fruition, with the dedicated support and encouragement of former presidents and senior staff at 66 Portland Place, was dismantled in a matter of months without a proper debate on a suitable replacement. The consequences for regional affairs have been far reaching.
We fully support Eastern region's determination to uphold the registration and membership rules. However, as recent past chairmen who were particularly involved in the establishment of a well staffed regional office and the setting up and running of the Cambridge architecture centre, we would hope that the debate would focus on the abilities of a new president who could motivate the members and lead by example. On the evidence to date we are far from encouraged.
Russ Craig, Colen Lumley, Dr Mervyn Miller, John Howe and Percy Mark - past chairmen RIBA Eastern region