RIBA president Marco Goldschmied threw his weight behind a major overhaul of the institute's public face and management systems last week by declaring that a branding exercise will be the main priority for his second and last year in office.
The exercise, which has already cost £125,000, could result in the streamlining of the RIBA's intricate committee structure, modifications to the operation of council and more visible changes, such as a new logo. The results of a consultation exercise on perceptions of the RIBA were unveiled to council members in a confidential meeting last week and showed that architects and staff believe that it has failed to modernise, in contrast with comparable professional institutes. The report also showed that staff and members appear to have different goals for the institute.
The presentation, by brand consultant Fourth Room, stopped short of making recommendations for change - which are likely to be tabled after new chief executive Richard Hastilow has started work at the beginning of September.A designer will be appointed to help produce a new visual identity for the RIBA. This process will be linked with the refurbishment of the headquarters building at 66 Portland Place which begins with the Florence Hall this autumn. But the exercise, which Goldschmied dubbed 'the most important event of the next year, ' has already angered some council members, with Peter Smith warning that it 'threatens to turn the institute upside down'.Another council member, Colin James, spoke up in support of the initiative and said that it showed council is attempting to improve the RIBA for the future. Goldschmied will lead the steering committee on the project.
Meanwhile, Goldschmied told council that the RIBA has failed to achieve as much as he would have liked during the past year, particularly in the areas of government relations. In a round-up of his first 12 months in power, he said that there are many initiatives 'of which we can be pleased, if not yet proud'. These included the deal with Channel Four for two-and-a-half hours of television coverage of the Stirling Prize and the deal with paint manufacturer Crown Trade to provide a range of RIBA colours, which he said was 'a good move in a practical and down-to-earth way'.
But Goldschmied said he would concentrate more of his time on government relations and building up contacts.'I'm comfortable with the fact that this government is committed to architecture and both the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and planning minister Nick Raynsford have shown that, ' he said. 'But despite our good intentions we have failed in building contacts and I'm determined this should be rectified.'
He has been particularly frustrated by the lack of fiscal measures from central government to encourage sustainable development, the central theme of his presidency.'The fact that sustainability is an integral part of the planning model of the Greater London Authority is proof that sustainability is on the political agenda, even if Gordon Brown hasn't taken it on fiscally yet.'
Goldschmied also applauded a 'landmark year' for the RIBA library in which it has forged a new relationship with the Victoria and Albert Museum to share space.