The race to become the next president of the RIBA has finally sparked into life after the ‘outsider’ candidate risked the wrath of minority groups in architecture.
Single practitioner Peter Phillips - who is standing against Sunand Prasad and Valerie Owen in the presidential race - was attacked after vowing to cut off funding to groups aiming to increase the proportion of women and ethnic minorities in the profession.
The RIBA national councillor said he wanted to sever ties with Women in Architecture (WiA), the Society of Black Architects, student group Archaos, and collective umbrella group Architects for Change (AfC).
The organisations, which are funded by the RIBA, have slated Phillips, who has previously infuriated them with comments about the ability of women to design.
‘I would want links between these groups and the RIBA cut,’ Phillips told the AJ. ‘I believe no pressure groups should have semi-statutory rights over council.’
He continued: ‘I really do not see why they should have special access to council - any more than other ordinary members.’
Phillips’ plans to cut off these lobby groups do not, however, appear in his election manifesto.
Three years ago Phillips triggered a storm of protest when he told council that it was ‘well known’ that women are ‘not as spatially aware as men’ and ‘not as suited to the profession’.
The groups he wants to exile have attacked his comments. ‘He really needs to join the 21st century and reflect modern society,’ WiA chair Virginia Newman said.
‘It is sad that there are still people around like him. However, I do not believe it reflects the profession as a whole,’ she added.
And AfC chair Helen Taylor said that the profession could not afford to ‘ignore these kinds of comments any more’.
’AfC believes that the manifestos should set out plans for engaging with diversity and equality issues.
‘Peter Phillips, however, believes that diversity issues, and more specifically AfC activities, should not be supported by the RIBA, and has actively tried to encourage others to adopt a similar view,’ Taylor added.