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The Diary of an Anonymous Architect #10

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The latest in an ongoing series about the day-to-day travails of an experienced and embattled practitioner. This week: the president

Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho. Ha ha ha ha ha ha….’  The Laughing Policeman (C Penrose).

I wish this hadn’t happened. Only a few weeks ago I was thinking that Stephen Hodder was going to be president one day having noticed he was working through various RIBA committees. Doing his time.

I said as much after work in the pub last week. Then I was told he already is – just been announced, a shoo-in apparently – the only candidate. That explained why I’d missed it – no ballot papers, no speculation, no nothing. Just a new president in waiting.

I wished it was April Fool’s or maybe the August silly season.  Come on Stephen you can’t want to be the president of the RIBA not voted in by the membership – surely?

Our local council has had similar problems. Every couple of years they need to field a new mayor. I haven’t been in attendance but I’m told that on occasion they look around the chamber for a councillor who hasn’t already been mayor.  Too frequently there is only one who hasn’t. So a similar process really, no ballot, no votes – it’s what they call ‘buggins’ turn’.  Not very flattering for a mayor or a president.

I had two thoughts. It could just as easily have been Mikey. Not long qualified, jack-the-lad, up for anything, game for a laugh - sits in the far corner of our office.  If he’d applied for the job, and Stephen had forgotten, we could now be anticipating president Mikey. 

Or, what if no-one had applied? Would we be rudderless for a couple of years till next time?

Why haven’t either of our revered Lords presided?

I’ve been thinking about the idea of the president on and off for a while. I’ve trouble recollecting many recent presidents – all worthy no doubt, but somehow faceless. Looking back there were presidents who were undoubtedly architects at the top of their profession - even Banister Fletcher once upon a time.  There seemed to be a much higher proportion of presidents known for their architecture rather than their committee work. Stephen Hodder’s problematicdifficult, his architecture is well-known – praise and brickbats sadly some say in equal measure – so he doesn’t quite help my case….. 

But why haven’t either of our revered Lords [Foster and Rogers] presided? 

I hoped for years there would be a tick box on the ballot to vote for ‘None of the Above.’  That might encourage more to vote – maybe even ginger up the candidates. Vote for no-one rather than ponder who the candidates are and, by not voting, suggest a certain apathy within the profession.

Maybe the job should be split. We could have a president who wants to steer committees to improve procurement - can you believe it - as a mission for their term of office by which they will be judged and remembered. And maybe we could also have an architect figurehead – choose a name for the role…. High President?

Or maybe the Gold Medallist might give say six days of their time in the year they are honoured. So an acknowledged, great architect not bowed down with committee work can spend six days in their own way promoting the profession and taking a long view on how to absorb lessons from their careers and reflecting on our future role and relevance.

With the globe in its catatonic state, not having the chance to vote for our president is almost par for the course – and as we will soon be usurped by Mr Ikea and his Chinese flat pack suppliers playing fast and loose with our new planning landscapes it probably won’t make any difference anyway. 

Just turn up the chorus of Charles Penrose’s masterpiece as a soundtrack to fade – it always brought tears to my Grans’ eyes.

Whatever. Can I have a go next time round?


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