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RIBA presidency: call for shake-up

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The first serious candidate for the next RIBA presidency has emerged, with another rumoured to be in the wings, as calls come for major reforms to the post. Bristol-based George Ferguson is set to enter the running on a maverick ticket.Meanwhile, president Paul Hyett has recruited another candidate in the ongoing campaign to block Brian Godfrey's bid but refused to publicly identify them.

As the race hots up, ex-president Max Hutchinson has called on the RIBA to consider major reforms. He expressed concern to the AJ that highprofile figures are no longer interested in the post.

Hutchinson, who served from 1989-91, has called for the role to be split in two.

In his suggested arrangement, council would elect a chair responsible for all committee work and bureaucracy. The presidency would be a titular, high-profile position - the equivalent to the chancellor of a university. It would be elected by the full membership and free from the day-to-day business of council.

Hutchinson - whose supporters include Rab Bennetts - wants to attract world-renowned figures to the presidency while a small practice representative would take the chair. Lords Foster and Rogers and Nicholas Grimshaw all refused to be drawn on whether they would run for the reformed post.

But Hyett has opposed such suggestions, pointing to 'huge' structural changes already taking place at the RIBA, including the creation of a management board. He said he would not have the 'slightest interest' in a purely titular role. 'I don't want to cut ribbons and open fÛtes, ' he said.

Jack Pringle, director of Pringle Brandon - who has said he could not be persuaded to stand under any circumstances - expressed doubts about the wisdom of splitting the post. 'I pity the poor person whose job it would be just to chair council, ' he said.

' It would be all the pain and none of the pleasure.'

An alternative would be to pay the president.

Richard Murphy has said in the past that he would not stand because 'it would bankrupt me'. An outspoken advocate of a paid presidency, Murphy said he would consider the job for a salary of £50,000 pro rata. Estimates put the loss to a serving president's practice over a two-year period at £150,000. Electioneering alone can run up bills of up to £6,000.

Ferguson, who has not yet publicly confirmed his interest, is best known for his role in the Bristol harbourside development.While he belongs to the regional network of Acanthus practices, he is not perceived as an anti-London candidate.

As well as last year's failed-candidate Brian Godfrey, Birmingham-based sole practitioner David Thorp has also stated his intention to stand.

The RIBA will call for nominations in January, with the president taking up office in summer 2003.

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