The RIBA is gearing up for a major culture change to help it become the champion for architecture in the 21st century.
Chief executive Richard Hastilow is pushing ahead with plans to radically reorganise the institute. In a report to be presented to council next week, Hastilow will set out a new mission, vision and strategy for the RIBA.
Central to the proposals is the clarification of the RIBA's two roles - on the one hand supporting architecture in its widest sense, and on the other, the support of its architect members. It also involves the restructuring of the organisation into three elements - a charitable arm, a professional services body and a commercial company.
Roger Zogolovitch, vice-president of strategy and chair of the steering group looking at the proposals, said there were major issues that the RIBA needs to tackle.
'These are big initiatives, ' he said, 'which reflect broader issues such as the whole way the government is looking at procurement policy and planning, evaluating value, why good architectural education is important for our schools and hospitals, the role of urban design and the role of architecture in development.'
'The RIBA is not functioning as it could be in promoting architecture, ' he said. 'These changes are necessary for it to be able to do things rather than just talk about them.'
Zogolovitch said the RIBA needed to go on changing just as newcomer CABE had invented itself and its role. 'CABE is leading on the value of good design, which is an economic issue - this is fundamental.' The RIBA needs to be modern and relevant, he said. Although he denied the changes were an attempt for the institute to assert itself against an expanding CABE, the competition presented had 'brought a tension', he said.
The proposals begin with an attempt to clarify the institute's two roles within a single mission statement: 'To advance architecture by demonstrating benefit to society and promoting excellence in the profession'; and with a definition of how the RIBA would like to be recognised, as 'champion for architecture and for a better environment'.
In order to achieve these aims, Hastilow proposes a five-pronged strategy:
to demonstrate the benefits of good architecture - for the economy, community and individuals;
to promote and enhance the benefits - in concert with government, industry and partners;
to facilitate the delivery of good architecture - raising the average through professional education and development;
to provide high-quality support services - for members, clients, industry associates and the public; and lto develop the capability to deliver the strategy - through the member network, staff and central organisation.
The report also clarifies the institute's priorities for the coming year, among them the proposal of an architecture policy for the UK, the promotion of the RIBA's policy on procurement, and the support of small practices.
Hastilow said: 'The overall approach has been to identify clearly what the RIBA seeks to do, express it succinctly and show the ways in which it will be achieved. While this may be a blinding glimpse of the obvious, there is much evidence that the institute's purpose is not clearly understood internally or externally.'
But key members of council are dragging their feet, arguing that the changes will undermine the role of council and its ability to represent the 30,000-strong membership. The transfer of the trusteeship of the charitable arm from the 60 council members to 12 of the 15 board members is a particular sticking point.
Vice-president for sustainable development Peter Smith, who has tabled a motion that council should remain as trustees, said the transfer would reduce council to a 'rubberstamping' body for the board. In his view, this was 'entirely intentional' on the part of the executive. And though he supported the principle behind the restructuring, he called for the role of the committees and vicepresidents to be protected.
Presidential hopeful George Ferguson agreed:
'The moving of the trusteeship is one move too far.'
But Zogolovitch dismissed opposition to the proposals, arguing the 'sensible approach' was the result of much consultation. 'The quibbles and worries will work themselves out, ' he said. 'Let's get on with the big picture.'
If council accepts the proposals next week, they will be put to the membership at a special general meeting in June and implemented by January 2003.
lThe RIBA and the RIAS have reached an agreement over the terms of their partnership for the next 10 years. The revised partnership, which takes into account the devolved government in Scotland, sets out the relationship between the two bodies and the terms for joint RIAS/RIBA membership. If approved, the agreement will come into force on 1 January 2003.