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Harry Rich quits RIBA

Harry Rich

RIBA’s chief executive Harry Rich has resigned from the institute

Rich, who had held the RIBA’s chief executive position since 2009, said it felt like a ’good moment to hand over executive leadership as [the institute was] about to embark on [its] next five-year strategy’.

His departure was officially announced to the RIBA’s board yesterday (21 January).

Rich, 58, had an eventful six years in the high-profile role. In 2011 past president Ruth Reed failed in a bid to oust him from his position.

This was followed two years later by a motion backed by former procurement reform group chair Walter Menteth demanding further scrutiny of the £152,000-a-year employee (AJ 12.12.13).

The bid, which was thrown out by the RIBA council, was one of several petitions levelled in the run-up to ‘savage’ cuts proposed in membership activities. The motion questioned whether the institute’s executives were ‘discharging their administration with due diligence’. 

Rich’s exit comes after a number of senior staff left the institute last year including RIBA director Richard Brindley and chief operating officer Andy Munro.

His responsibilities will be passed to interim director of finance and operations Alan Vallance from 1 February.

Rich commented: ‘I have had the privilege of being chief executive of this wonderful and unique organisation for six years. During that time RIBA staff and members together have delivered so much and have innovated and changed what we do and how we do it to make us fit for the future.

’This feels like a good moment to hand over executive leadership as we are about to embark on our next five-year strategy.’

RIBA president Jane Duncan, added: ‘Harry has worked with dedication and passion to steer the RIBA successfully through a difficult recession. After six years of significant change and innovation he has created a lasting legacy. I know we will all miss him, but the Board has accepted his resignation and I wish him all the very best for his future endeavours.’


Ben Derbyshire, RIBA councillor and managing partner at HTA Design
’Harry’s tenure as chief executive coincided with a period of discontinuity in the programmes and priorities of successive Presidents at the RIBA and that created problems for the leadership at the Institute. He concentrated therefore on what he knew best and did well; an outreach programme that raised the profile of Architecture, promoting the brand of the profession.

’But it was time for a change. I wrote to my fellow Council members last year under the heading ‘Architects Leading’ to suggest that it was time for members to re-take the Institute, drive policy through a more effective Council and become the voice of the profession which had become increasingly articulated by the executive. I don’t think Harry was particularly comfortable with this message.

It was time for members to re-take the Institute

’These are challenging times for Architecture, and indeed all of the professions. Jane Duncan has already done a lot to chart a new course ahead, in particular with the drafting of a soon to be published five year strategy which stresses the importance of ethical practice, collaboration, research and building a body of knowledge that over time will enable the public and our clients to better appreciate the value of Architecture. Now is the time to turn these words to effective action.

’And in the short term, there is an urgent task to restore the health of the business. The RIBA is losing market share to ARB and membership, which should have been building steadily since the economy returned to growth, has been flat-lining. I fear the Institute has taken on grandiose and expensive projects which will further distract from the essential task of rebuilding the profession’s fortunes. Finances must be restored and difficult choices made. It would have been difficult for Harry Rich to oversee such choices, for obvious reasons.

‘So we thank him for his contribution and wish him well for the future but now we must turn to the task ahead. I have already written to Jane Duncan to offer my support in any way I can.’

It is a mess

John Assael, RIBA councillor and director of Assael
’For the chief executive to leave at this time when the RIBA has an interim finance director and has recently seen the departure of its head of HR and head of communications, it is very dissapointing and leaves the institute without proper leadership. It is a mess.’

Angela Brady, RIBA past president and director at Brady Mallalieu Architects
’The RIBA now needs to rebuild a strong executive team but it first needs to find the right CEO who is passionate about the RIBA, knowledgeable about architecture, understands relationships, and is a good communicator with the president and can engage productively with the full range of RIBA members. It’s a real opportunity for change.’

Walter Menteth, RIBA councillor and founder of Walter Menteth Architects
’As the mover of the quoted motion at RIBA council I believe it is appropriate that Harry steps down at this juncture. His tenure in the ensuing post 2008 hiatus, covered a turbulent period when large sections of the profession crashed. 

’The RIBA now has the opportunity to re-boot around a well-considered and widely consulted programme over the next five-year period, that’s capable of engaging the entire profession.

The institute is its members - it belongs to them

’The institute is its members, it belongs to them and more now needs to be done to encourage, celebrate and deploy our collective creative capacity so we can better and more successfully deliver for clients and society. The foundation of architectural practice is patronage, yet the period has been marked by a significant decline in market share and increasingly difficult access by both large and small architectural practices to the opportunities that continued to exist. The use of resources in a time of scarcity requires a creative, lean, effective, efficient and collaborative profession supported by its institute and led by evidence based policy. 

‘A new collaborative CEO and executive team which can work forward effectively with Jane Duncan as president and the diverse membership, and is capable of addressing the legacy and bring new thinking, provides a real opportunity for change. The extraordinary skills of our extremely diverse profession needs to have the voices it deserves.’


Readers' comments (2)

  • Chris Roche

    As a former RIBA Council Member, who was one of the first to welcome Harry Rich to RIBA, I would like to express my gratitude for his time and expertise as Chief Executive. He leaves the RIBA "better" than he found it, yet still facing major challenges. His resignation can be hardly surprising given former President Ruth Reed's ill-conceived and ill-fated attempt to oust him in the second year of his tenure. RIBA Council need to address the inherent conflicts between Council led governance, and executive led governance before rushing in to find a replacement.
    Harry Rich can take pride in his Legacy at RIBA, and I for one would like to wish him all the best.

    Chris Roche / Founder 11.04
    Former RIBA Council Member for London.

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  • The very best of luck to Mr.Rich.
    Now is the time to make some significant changes especially in refreshing the approach to membership, communication and championing the architects of the UK. This is very much what they want.

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