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RIBA presidential candidates slated in three-way debate

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Observers of last week's presidential debate have criticised the poor quality of policies on offer.

RIBA presidential candidates Annette Fisher, George Ferguson and David Thorp were expected to battle it out at Portland Place last Thursday. But witnesses called the poorly attended event 'a limpwristed affair' and said all three put forward the same arguments.

Camden Architects Forum former chair Chris Roche said the poor turnout reflected the inferior level of debate. And he condemned the 'incredibly conservative' outlook of all the candidates. 'At the moment, a vote for any of those candidates is a vote for no change, ' he said. 'I would like to hear some policies emerge before I decide who gets my vote.'

The RIBA's honorary librarian, Tim Drewitt, said he was disappointed at the low attendance, and suggested members were either losing interest in the presidential elections or were not interested in the candidates on offer. He added that unlike current president Paul Hyett, or ex-president Marco Goldschmied, all three candidates lacked profile.

'I am disappointed that a more substantially well-known and respected architect hasn't come forward, ' Drewitt said. But he added that his money was on Ferguson. 'People may have an emotional response to Fisher because she is a woman and black, but when they put a cross down next to a name they will think more seriously about it.'

The dissatisfaction with the calibre of the candidates was supported by the AJ's online poll, where 178 voted. The fourth category of 'none of the above' came in second with 30 per cent of the vote, only just beaten by Fisher as favourite with 33 per cent. David Thorp came in third with 19 per cent of the votes, with Ferguson trailing on 18 per cent.

The three candidates will be debating again at the RIBA's Wessex region in Bath on Monday 8 April, and Royal Society of Architects in Wales in Cardiff on Wednesday 17 April. Ferguson will also be going head-to-head with Will Alsop at the RIBA, Portland Place on Friday 19 April at 5.30pm. Ferguson challenged Alsop after the Stirling Prize winner condemned the lack of quality candidates for the RIBA presidency and called for members to quit the institute and support the Architecture Foundation instead (AJ 28.2.02).

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