The RIBA has taken the surprise step of publicly urging its members to vote for four candidates, backed by RIBA president Angela Brady, in the upcoming ARB elections
The news will be a major blow to the radical campaign body ARB Reform Group, whose members have filled five out of the seven seats open to architects since 2006, and which is again petitioning voters to exclusively back its own seven candidates.
Established six years ago to ‘define and restrict’ the ARB’s regulatory powers, the group had benefited from tacit RIBA support in the past two elections, but now faces an uncertain future with its two leading lights, Colin Brock and George Oldham, standing down.
Both reach the end of their maximum-permitted second consecutive three-year term in March.
The RIBA’s stance, which comes 14 months after the government rejected the institute’s bid to abolish the ARB, suggests it has lost faith in the group’s effectiveness, with one RIBA insider claiming the group ‘hadn’t achieved much’.
President Angela Brady said the candidates were ‘independent’ and ‘well known to the RIBA’, while calling for a ‘stronger relationship’ between the ARB’s elected architect members and the institute.
The endorsed candidates are: John Assael of Assael Architecture; Devon’s Alan Cook; Luton-based Roger Shrimplin; and former ARB vice-chair Susan Ware, who served on the board between 2000 and 2006.
Assael said: ‘The ARB Reform Group has dominated elections in the past.
‘The links between elected members of the ARB and the RIBA are very poor, and if elected, I will immediately reinstate the RIBA/ARB Liaison Group.’
ARB Reform Group candidates include former Society of Chief Architects of Local Authorities president Rob Tate, and current board members Andrew Mortimer, Bernard Wild and Ruth Brennan, who are standing for re-election.
An ARB Reform Group member contacted by the AJ declined to comment.
Ousted RIBA London chair Azar Djamali has also declared she will stand for election, as has former RIBA councillor and professor Richard Parnaby – although neither candidate has the RIBA’s backing.
Stephen Lawrence Trust bursary recipient Lisa Basu is also in the running.
The seven winners from the 24 candidates will be announced in March.
Comment: ARB critic Ian Salisbury
The RIBA Practice Committee’s egregious endorsement of four particular ARB election candidates is short-sighted, particularly where the policy it hopes to promulgate is identical to that of currently elected members who have shown admirable acumen in delivery over the past three years, and who still have sufficient patience and energy to continue.
The reasons that favour a cautious approach are several. The RIBA is a member organisation and a charity, and when it puts people forward to accept positions that may bring personal advantage, it has to do so in a manner that does not unfairly favour individuals. For let’s not forget that not only does the ARB bestow a rather dubious acumen, it pays money to its Board members when certain tasks are undertaken. That is a real benefit in hard times.
And what will the RIBA do (as Soo Ware did as a past vice-chair of ARB) when these candidates, if elected, argue the Board’s case against the RIBA? What is to stop John Assael, Alan Cook and Roger Shrimplin going native as so many have done before who lacked the determination of the Arb Reform Group?
Your readers should vote for the candidates who have the pluck and gumption to organise themselves effectively, not the RIBA’s wishful shoe-ins.