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John Assael withdraws from race to become next RIBA president

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The AJ can reveal John Assael has decided not to run in the race to become the next RIBA president

Although other candidates may still come forward before the 14 May deadline, the move effectively leaves just Jane Duncan and Oliver Richards in the contest to succeed current RIBA president Stephen Hodder.

Assael, who emerged as one of the three early frontrunners back in February, said he feared the presidential workload would be onerous as he tried to steer the growth of his burgeoning practice - AJ100-ranked Assael Architecture.

He told the AJ: After much thought I have decided not to stand for the RIBA presidency this time around because the virtual full time commitment for three years is too great at a time of expansion for my practice and I don’t want to jeopardise all of this by being an absentee director.

‘However, I am standing for RIBA Council where if elected I hope to support the current and future President in any way I can.’

Before his withdrawal, Assael who is also an elected member of the Architects Registration Board said he wanted the RIBA to do more ‘for architects and less for architecture’.

Nominations for the position opened in April, with each of the candidates required to find 60 nominations to make a valid stand.

Voting is pencilled in to take place between the 17 June and 23 July.

Previous story (AJ 20.02.14)

Three candidates emerge as race to become next RIBA president begins

The AJ can reveal John Assael, Jane Duncan and Oliver Richards as early frontrunners in the race to succeed current RIBA president Stephen Hodder

John Assael of AJ100-ranked Assael Architecture, current RIBA equality and diversity champion Jane Duncan and ORMS’ founder Oliver Richards are all expected to throw their hats into the ring when nominations open in April.

The high level of interest in the institute’s leading role is in marked contrast to the previous presidency election, in which Hodder, who will step down in September 2015, stood uncontested.

Although others may still come forward, RIBA Board of Trustees member Yasmin Shariff and chair-elect of RIBA London Chris Hampson have both ruled themselves out.

Speaking about what he wanted to achieve if elected, Assael – who is also an elected member of the Architects Registration Board – said he wanted the RIBA to do more ‘for architects and less for architecture’.

Assael added: ‘The amount of money spent by the RIBA on members and practices is tiny compared to “outreach”.

‘I also want to focus on a more flexible educational system that addresses matters like part-time or modular routes to qualification, with more emphasis on practical skills at Part 2 to make students more employable and, frankly, with the skill sets that society needs to deal with the built environment.’

Duncan of 16-strong, Amersham-based Jane Duncan Architects, who has served as the institute’s vice-president of practice and profession, said she wanted to make ‘real changes to the lives of architects so they can do their jobs and business better’.

She said: ‘Because I’ve done lots of supporting roles, I feel I can hit the ground running. I have come up with three main areas I want to tackle. Pride: I want architects to reclaim pride in their profession. Profit: we need to rethink the way we charge clients. People: if you look after staff they will repay you.’

Richards, said he wanted to make the RIBA ‘much more effective’ and to ‘build on the excellent work’ Hodder is doing.

He said: ‘The RIBA needs to repair the disconnect with the membership and have a longer-term plan for how to best serve the membership. It needs to give leadership, but also focus on being a good collaborator and facilitator with the many excellent enterprises which are already happening around the country – and, of course, abroad.’

Discussing the candidates, Hodder – who has been in the job for six months – said he was keen to form a close relationship with whoever is elected ‘irrespective of agendas’ to maintain a continuity at the top level. He said: ‘For me it is about the institute and not the individual. I reflect on the relationship between former president Jack Pringle and Sunand Prasad. They really worked as a team’.

Hellman cartoon when Stephen Hodder won the presidential election unopposed in 2012


The process for seeking the 60 nominations required to make a valid stand begins on 1 April and runs until 14 May.

Candidates then submit a statement/manifesto and have around four weeks to campaign.

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