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RIBA presidential elections: the profession reacts

RIBA Ben Derbyshire
  • 1 Comment

Architects respond to Ben Derbyshire’s victory in the RIBA presidential elections

Stephen Hodder, past RIBA president

‘I was one of Ben’s nominators, and so I’m pleased with the outcome and congratulate him. 

‘Jack Pringle once said the group executive run the RIBA, not the president. And while this may not be absolute, at the very least the institute is best served by staff and senior members working together in partnership. This would be my key message to Ben. All presidents enter office with an agenda for change but I do believe there is a real need currently for continuity and a period of stability. There are many things that the RIBA does well, and I think he will need to distill those from areas that might be improved. 

‘We now have a new five-year strategy that our members contributed to. It is their strategy and it should be a spine of the Institute’s work during his presidency. I know he is a great advocate for the Edge report, Collaboration for Change, and I am reassured that he intends to promote the notion of a deeper collaboration within the wider industry in support of better outcomes. Finally, he will be president when the full impact of Brexit is felt by our profession, and while a full-blown recession might be averted, how the Institute truly supports its members will be a challenge.’

There is a real need currently for continuity and a period of stability

Stephen Hodder

Russell Curtis, RIBA councillor and director of RCKa

‘Once again the turnout was excruciatingly low and is, if any were needed, confirmation that Ben has his work cut out in attempting to reunite the institute with the membership. I’m pleased with the result, though, as I believe that Ben was the candidate best placed to continue the excellent work that Jane Duncan has been undertaking in transforming the organisation. We need, however, to view this as the early stages of a long and challenging process. Two years is not sufficiently long to enact any substantive reform and now, more than ever, we need the RIBA to provide strong support and leadership as we head towards an uncertain future, while demonstrating that it has the interests of members at its heart.’

Elsie Owusu, RIBA councillor

‘I’m delighted that Ben is president-elect. I believe that he’ll be an excellent leader for the profession in the challenges of the post-Brexit era. There are, potentially, numerous international design opportunities for smart 21st century architects, given the creative and enthusiastic leadership promised by Ben.’

Ruth Reed, past RIBA president

‘My principal wish for the next presidency is that it is recognised that the role the regions play in the economic health of this country will become ever more important as Britain potentially withdraws from the EU and the impact of devolution is felt. I would like Ben to demonstrate that he understands this and act accordingly. There is great potential in the profession outside London, with strong schools of architecture and much talent in the workforce and I look forward to a regional renaissance fully supported by the RIBA.’

John Assael, RIBA councillor and founder of Assael Architecture

‘I’m absolutely delighted that Ben Derbyshire has been elected and well done to the other two candidates for making the effort. In my view Ben was the best candidate because he is prepared to shake up the institute. 

‘Ben Derbyshire seems to understand the need for major structural change at the institute and I, for one, will support him.

‘The RIBA needs to wake up. Twice as many joined the ARB last year than the RIBA and this is also a trend. New chartered architect numbers have been largely static for 25 years. 

‘Unless Ben Derbyshire and others can impose a radical regime of change at the RIBA then it is inevitable that it will wither and die. The RIBA needs to give all members – small, medium and large practices as well as academics and salaried architects – a positive and relevant answer to the question “What does the RIBA do for us?”. Most architects don’t know what its main purpose is: promoting architecture or promoting architects? Not much evidence of either. 

‘Good luck, Ben.’

Shahriar Nasser, RIBA councillor and founding director of Belsize Architects

‘I thought Ben was the right candidate. I voted for him as he has been vocal on membership, our single most important issue.

‘I hope he sustains his campaign on the membership and relevance of RIBA. I have a lot of faith in him. For too long the RIBA has been too busy with too many issues, but not always with the important ones. We really do need a fundamental change in the way the council thinks and works. It is too old-fashioned and traditional. It needs to reinvent itself and deliver for its members, for British architecture and for the public.’

For too long RIBA has been too busy with too many issues, not always the important ones

Shahriar Nasser

Darren Bray, technical director, PAD Studio

‘As a part-time academic, who increasingly spends more time these days in schools of architecture. I am very passionate about the next generation and how we both attract and equip the next architects to enter the industry and stay engaged for the next 30 years.

‘So I want to know how the next RIBA president and the RIBA aim to tackle this, as we are having these detailed discussions all the time in schools of architecture. What will make students commit and stay beyond the degree? Because three years of fees is a heavy burden already. We really need educational reform, as this will help to not only attract the right people to the industry but people from diverse backgrounds. 

‘My other real issues is the RIBA council and how it is still relevant in its current format. Because, let’s be fair, what can the council at its current size actually achieve? I would also want the council to reflect society in its diversity.’

Daniel Leon, RIBA councillor and founder of Square Feet Architects

‘I am really pleased Ben won. I supported his nomination and think he will be a great president. It is certainly a tricky job, with some significant challenges ahead. 

‘To engage and lead the membership and broader construction industry in this period running up to Brexit and what seems to be a slow-down will be key.’

Max de Rosee, founder, De Rosee Sa

‘I am pessimistic about the impact that he will make. His priorities were a bit obscure to me. I was more enthusiastic of Alan Jones’ ambitions for the institute, which seemed clearer and frankly more relevant. I am extremely shocked at just how few members voted. This is a real wake-up call for the RIBA. Is Ben Derbyshire the man to radically shake it up? I wish him well but don’t think so.’

Is Ben Derbyshire the man to radically shake it up? I wish him well but don’t think so

Max de Rosee


Chris Bryant, chair of RIBA Small Practice Group and director of Alma-nac

‘He has an incredibly difficult job ahead of him. He has spoken about changing the RIBA within and if he manages to streamline the governance, then well done to him. Bbut many have tried and not succeeded.

‘Is he the inspirational and entrepreneurial figure we need? No, but none of the other candidates fitted that bill.

‘Just over 1,900 of the 28,000 members voted for Ben, which is about 7 per cent and this reflects the deep apathy within the RIBA, which I hope he manages to address. The RIBA does many good things but is terrible at communicating them both to its members and to the wider public. If Ben can significantly improve on this over his short stay then that would be a huge step. I hope the RIBA executive, council and members get fully behind Ben to give him the best possible chance of succeeding.’

Max Farrell, partner, Farrells

‘[Ben] understands things from the consumer and client perspective. 

‘He’s a very open and collegiate person – that’s definitely a good thing. He’ll shake things up and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. He’s not afraid to challenge the preconceived way of doing things. He’s willing to stick his neck out and try and do the right thing.’

Chris Dyson, founder, Chris Dyson Architects

‘Ben is a good candidate with a good profile I hope he can encourage more young talented architects into the RIBA and find ways for the RIBA to support the students who are struggling through their courses both financially and in terms of mental health. 

‘The term as president is always challenging, as it is so short. It makes me think that perhaps this post should be a longer term, say, three years. In this way a president of the RIBA might achieve more and connect more with the corridors of power in Westminster.

‘I wish him great fortune in these challenging times following the Brexit vote. He, and we as a profession, will undoubtedly have to work much harder to achieve our goals.’  

Manisha Patel, partner, PRP

’We congratulate Ben Derbyshire on becoming president of the RIBA.

’In terms of changes I think that Ben will be able to strongly articulate the challenges facing the housing sector to the highest level of government and passionately advocate for the profession. 

’The timing is ideal to have a president who has a consummate understanding of what is needed to help address the housing crisis in the UK, particularly in relation to affordable housing. Ben is regarded as a friend of our practice and we are currently collaborating with his architectural team on a regeneration project in Merton.’

Sumita Sinha, director, Ecologic Architects

’Congratulations to Ben Derbyshire for winning the RIBA presidential elections.  It is a crucial time for the profession which is reeling from the impact of the various issues, including Brexit. Given that only 15 per cent of the RIBA members voted, it is crucial that we transform this disinterest to make the RIBA relevant not only to the profession, but also to the public and policy makers.’

Charles Collett, director, Hopkins Architects Dubai Ltd

’I write as an overseas RIBA member based in Dubai, taking a view from the outside. RIBA members are highly regarded professionals in many developing countries, such as the UAE and I don’t see that Brexit will have an immediate affect on workloads here. My concern for the UK in the post Brexit era is that trade agreements are quickly put in place and that whoever leads the RIBA takes a more active role in developing opportunities for members and practices abroad. London will probably experience a lull in activity in the short term while businesses work out what Brexit means, but this will bring opportunities for smaller investors to move in, where they could not do so before.’

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • MacKenzie Architects

    Is the President a celebrity figurehead, or the CEO of the Corporation?
    If he is the Boss, then give him a 4 year term and give him the power.
    But if he is the boss, there is probably no way he can leave his company for such a period, and that restricts the candidates. (should the candidate even be an architect?)
    If the Council is the Boss, then Pres. just needs a fancy jacket and hat.

    Since the membership hasn't bother to state what it wants out of the RIBA, then they really don't care. So give the power to someone who does, and trust him / her. Or give the Council the power to elect from one of their own. That way you'll get some continuity (but maybe an entrenched council of clones).

    We aren't just a Golf Club, although some people seem to think we are. Our work affects much more than our membership. Our President should be lobbying Parliament, Housing Ministry, Insurance companies, foreign governments -and getting out of London a lot.

    I've been a member at least 30 years, and have never felt the RIBA have done a single thing for my peers. They couldn't even house the Drawings Collection as far as I remember, and charge too little to be something like the Law Society or the General Medical Council. We have no standing at all.

    Sorry, I'm just writing this cos I'm too tired to do the next one of 1,000 things on my action list as a working architect running a group of projects -just like everyone else in our profession working our socks off.

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