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Astragal: RIAS criticisms are fake news, claims president

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Doughnut but no kiosk • Act of worship • AA drops spin doctor in favour of self-medication

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the five presidents of the architectural institutions from all corners of the British Isles met earlier this month

What, for instance, was said about the RIAS’s current predicament? Externally, the incorporation’s president Stewart Henderson seems to be handling any criticism of the goings-on in the organisation as little more than fake news.

According to his recent RIAS Quarterly, media reports of secretary and figurehead Neil Baxter’s surprise departure were peppered with ‘unfortunate and ill-informed’ comments.

Henderson makes no mention of the police investigation into alleged financial irregularities at the corporation; nor the probe by the Scottish charities regulator into its governance; nor the very public resignation of a disillusioned council member Rosalie Menon.

Perhaps, however, Henderson is not totally immune to outside scrutiny. In the wake of the first wave of criticism in November, questions began being asked about his qualifications for the presidential role. 

Why, for instance, wasn’t Henderson on the ARB register and why hadn’t he been since December 2013?

Although it seems that being registered may not be an absolute prerequisite of holding the post, lo and behold, on 8 December Henderson suddenly reappeared as a bona fide ARB-certified architect.

Was this, as he suggested to Astragal, simply a coincidental action allowing Henderson to possibly move back into practice? In this strange post-truth world, who knows?

Doughnut but no kiosk 

Draisci studio kiosk

Draisci studio kiosk

Next month developer Stanhope and AHMM will be giving visitors the first glimpse into the huge and ongoing redevelopment of BBC Television Centre (TVC) in west London.

Phase one has focused on refurbishment of the famous doughnut, the Helios statue and courtyard, the John Piper mural and the old stage door.

But wait a minute. Isn’t something missing? Readers may remember that in April 2017 Draisci Studio was chosen to design a 28m² kiosk next to the Grade II-listed Studio 1.

The red drum-like building (pictured) was to ‘be installed [in] September [2017] and … built as part of the first phase’.

Sadly the scheme has not been taken forward and won’t be in the near future.

A Stanhope spokesperson said: ‘The plans to build this pavilion are on hold at present. It is a project we may well return to, potentially as part of the next phase of works at TVC.’ 

Though, as Nigel Havers would have said in the 1980s BBC sitcom: ‘Don’t wait up’ …

Act of worship

A regular consumer of South American journalism, with only the occasional recourse to Google Translate, Astragal was intrigued to read the rumour that Norman Foster will be designing a chapel for this year’s Venice Biennale

Paraguayan title UltimaHora reported that Foster was one of 10 architects selected by Italian architectural historian Francesco Dal Co and none other than the Vatican itself to design small worship spaces for the 2018 festival.

Local lad Javier Corvalán and Italy’s Francesco Cellini were also on the list, joined by two designers of past Serpentine Pavilions: Smiljan Radic and Eduardo Souto de Moura.

If the reports are correct, then Caruso St John Architects – which is curating the British Pavilion at Venice 2018 – will be in truly exalted company.

AA drops spin doctor in favour of self-medication

The Architectural Association has not been receiving the best publicity of late and one could forgive it for seeking some PR assistance.

Before Christmas, the school announced a major redundancy programme but responded angrily to howls of protest from some of the biggest names in world architecture. 

At the height of the row, Astragal noted a press release from leading PR firm Bolton & Quinn, issued on the AA’s behalf. It quoted the school’s interim director Samantha Hardingham at length and conveyed a ‘business as usual’ message intended to reassure the doubters. 

But it turns out that Bolton & Quinn’s expert assistance was a one-off, and media relations are now once again being handled in-house by Hardingham herself. What could possibly go wrong?

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Readers' comments (1)


  • Well now Astragal, re the PRIAS status ”Although it seems that being registered may not be an absolute prerequisite of holding the post." A read of clauses 3.4 and 21. of the active Charter and Bye-laws https://www.rias.org.uk/rias/about-the-rias/charter-and-byelaws/ may suggest otherwise, what do you think?: "21. The President The President, who must be a Fellow...." + "3.4 A Fellow shall remain on the Register of Architects so long as the Fellow continues in this class provided that this requirement shall not apply for such period as the Fellow may be resident outwith the United Kingdom." Was Stewart Henderson a registered architect when originally elected….answer no. Was he a registered architect when re-elected on the 6th Dec ’17….answer no. Should he re-consider his position…answer yes.

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