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Architects give their advice for the next RIBA president

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Architects have told the AJ what they hope the next RIBA president, Jane Duncan tackles in her next two years at Portland Place

Shahriar Nasser, director, Belsize Architects
‘Jane Duncan has clear agenda - pride, profit, people. I hope she can make the RIBA Council more active in the serious issues facing us all, and achieve recognition and respect for the work architects can do to address housing and education needs. Rather than getting bogged down in the administrative side of running the RIBA, we need Jane to ensure there is a clear vision that leads to a more active RIBA which, in turn, helps members to achieve more. The fee aspect of her agenda is very important, as architects continue to be squeezed by the large organisations where so much emphasis is put on competitive fees.’

Shankari Edgar, Nudge Group
‘One of the first items that Jane Duncan needs to address is how the RIBA will play a more pivotal role with central government. Current policy is not taking account of social wellbeing; our housing stock; public spaces and ‘creatives’ are being pushed out of popular city centres for financial incentives. Cities should be a dynamic mix of young and old; ‘creatives’ and financiers; families and single occupancy. There are important discussions that need to be had with the likes of Greg Clark and Zac Goldsmith, moving forward.’ 

Lilly Ingelby, student, Sheffield School of Architecture
‘Her election campaign covered a really important issue for architects; Profit. We need the confidence within the profession to be able to charge appropriately to keep the profession healthy. I’m hoping to see more research into the value of architecture, and better support to RIBA members on fees.’

Carl Turner, founding director, Carl Turner Architects
‘Jane’s focus on how the RIBA can support and champion the work of small practices is very timely. Small practices form a large part of the profession and they need support and promotion more than ever. I want to see architects taking the lead over the debate to provide homes and more needs to be done to shake up the planning system. In a nutshell, putting architects back at the heart of the development process.’

Russell Curtis, director, RCKa
‘Past presidents - and the RIBA in general - have struggled to demonstrate why the Institute is relevant to new and emerging architects. Jane’s campaigning for increased diversity within the profession is an important component of this, but she will still need to work hard to convince many young architects that joining the RIBA is worthwhile, let alone desirable. I believe that this can only be achieved through fundamental reform of the organisation, so it will be interesting to see whether she will succeed in doing so where others before her have failed.’

Paul Testa, architect, Paul Testa Architecture
‘I am gratified that Jane is the director of a small practice and will, therefore, fully understand the particular pressures that this kind of practice brings. I have high hopes that she will continue the tentative steps the RIBA have taken towards making current procurement practice more accessible to smaller practices. The value that Architects bring to projects is far wider and deeper than can be captured in the current numbers and policies based decision making. Although a Scottish example, when practices as skilful and capable as Malcom Fraser can’t survive in a procurement environment that values box ticking over design quality and ability, it is very worrying. The PQQ for the Milford-on-Sea beach huts stands out particularly from the past year and I hope that the RIBA will take a stronger position and lead on better practice in this regard. On a personal note, I have chatted with Jane on twitter in the past and found her to be very engaging and accessible. This is hugely important if the RIBA is going to shake off its marginal image and something that can only add strength to her tenure as president. I wish her the best of luck.’

Angela Brady, RIBA past president
‘Anyone who takes on this presidential role needs great strength and a good back up team to carry through the things they set out to do and I believe Jane will succeed with this. I wish Jane Duncan the very best of luck as president.’

Alan Shingler, partner, Sheppard Robson
‘I hope the RIBA embraces inevitable change in the way we practice architecture and works in collaboration with other professional organisations, taking leadership around key issues that face our profession. As a group we have greater influence with government, clients and public to help address the challenges that lay ahead such as climate change. In the absence of central government leadership & commitment to reducing carbon in the construction industry, step one should be for a combined industry charter to be written on the key issues around climate change mitigation and adaptation.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • The prime challenge in the view of many practice owners, large and small that I speak with on a daily basis is the need for focus on the basics and not getting distracted by the myriad issues that come with such a position. Of the three platforms, profit has to be core. It is much easier to address other issues when debt collection and credit control isn't such a Sisyphean task. According to a credit management company who works with architects, "cashflow is a major danger coming out of a recession. Without adequate profit levels, cashflow is a clear and present danger to many architect practices".

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  • Ben Derbyshire

    For Jane and her successors to be effective in delivering a strategy for change in the profession, absolute clarity and consistency of leadership by both the council and the board will be required over the period of the strategy – a period that outlasts the term of individual presidents who act to chair both.

    To achieve this leadership I believe it will be helpful to identify a widely supported overarching theme which can be agreed between successive presidents and applied across all aspects of the strategy - enabling the organisation and its members to engage effectively.

    I believe Jane and her successors must begin a process that will effectively return the institute to its members - A 'Members’ Institute for the Advancement of Architecture', as it were.

    This headline is intended to capture the idea of an institute prepared to adopt a strategy of change in response to members' concern to see a focus on the future of architecture and aimed at increasing the number and diversity of its membership and by this route, greater wealth of knowledge and ideas as well as commercial success.

    The focus of this effort should be on younger entrants to the profession, as representing its future. To achieve this outcome, the institute should become a much more open source and collaborative crucible of debate and discourse about architecture and its communications should be voiced much more by architects themselves, much less by the executive and its communications team.

    Ben Derbyshire
    Managing Partner HTA Design LLP
    Chair, The Housing Forum.

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