Following the departure of the institute’s chief executive Harry Rich, architects including current councillors have called for a shake-up at the RIBA
Rich, who had held the RIBA’s chief executive position since 2009, resigned from the organisation last Friday.
His resignation follows a series of high profile exits from the RIBA including director Richard Brindley, chief operating officer Andy Munro, and the institute’s head of communications Gill Webber.
Rich’s sudden departure has led architects to call for change at the institution and a shake-up of its managing structure and governance.
Past RIBA councillor Yasmin Shariff said Rich’s departure was a ‘wake-up call’. ‘There cannot be a better time for change nor a better climate for change’, she said.
‘Although sudden, Harry’s departure is new opportunity to change RIBA’s culture for the better: to make a Big Tent and invite architects, especially young and people and students of all backgrounds to “come home” to Portland Place. This lovely building could be exciting and vibrant place’, added current RIBA councillor Elsie Owusu.
Past president Angela Brady called for a ‘strong executive team’ to be recruited to replace Rich and the other staff who had recently left.
‘The RIBA now needs to rebuild a strong exec 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 public and can engage productively with the full range of RIBA members. It’s a real welcome opportunity for Change,’ she said.
While architect Darren Bray added that younger architects needed to be brought into the running of the RIBA.
Bray commented: ‘The RIBA is now ripe for a fresh young approach, someone who can take the helm, engage with all of the membership and encourage more of us to mould the institution.’
His comments were echoed by Project Orange director James Soane, who said the RIBA’s ‘culture and structure of governance has become redundant’.
‘Radical ideas need to be tabled, discussed and debated which capture the members imagination and gives them confidence in the mission and values of the organisation. This will inevitably result in a new structure, a fresh mandate and a 21st century RIBA,’ he added.
Yasmin Shariff, past RIBA councillor
’This is a Rich wake up call.
’There cannot be a better time for change nor a better climate for change. The RIBA has been deprofessionalised due to inane internal RIBA-ARB politics and the demise of public sector architects departments. Architects in our neoliberal culture serve the forces of greed and capitalism instead of being servants of the state. Architects have been alienated and their power to shape peoples’ lives particularly the old and vulnerable has been taken away. Obesity, security, terrorism, alienation, loneliness, death due to cold and damp are all symptoms of poor design.
’A new CEO could enable architects to play a vital role in society. She needs to be politically astute and able to enable the RIBA members to contribute meaningfully to making our world a better place. The RIBA awards show a range of amazing work. Imagine what could be possible if we had a strong institute.’
Darren Bray, associate director, PAD Studio
’Regardless of Harry Rich’s departure. I do think that the RIBA are beginning to make a move in the right direction, with regards to opening up the institution. So that the profession and RIBA is viewed as an open transparent inclusive, diverse industry.
’There are a whole host of people working tirelessly behind the scenes at RIBA HQ to engage with a wider section of the architectural profession. What I can say is that since Jane Duncan’s introduction the RIBA is now moving to embrace the next younger generation. Look at the role model project, mentoring scheme and the recently appointed ambassadors.
’The RIBA needs a younger more diverse face and this is beginning to happen under Jane’s leadership. Because the institution has been perceived to have had a very out of date face and attitude, for quite some time now.
’I believe the RIBA is now ripe for a fresh young approach, some one who can take the helm, engage with all of the membership and encourage more of us to mold the institution. Because the RIBA will only develop, change and innovate with input from us the members. But the members need to feel encouraged to do so and that they will be listened.
’The RIBA like any large institution can only be as good as the people it represents, this is were the challenge lies. But I think that Jane Duncan is championing participation and engagement to mould the future of the RIBA. So the new chief executive needs to make this priority number one!
‘It would be great to see the Chief Executive role given to a young candidate and preferably a woman!’
Elsie Owusu, RIBA councillor
’In the short time I knew Harry Rich, I found him to be a talented, charming but divisive figure. Although very capable and great a champion of diversity, I fear he alienated many and, on his watch, RIBA’s relationship with the press was poor. He seemed to like architecture but didn’t seem overly fond of architects.
’Although sudden, Harry’s departure is new opportunity to change RIBA’s culture for the better: to make a Big Tent and invite architects, especially young and people and students of all backgrounds to “come home” to Portland Place. This lovely building could be exciting and vibrant place, as the current Presidents’ Medal exhibition shows. The Brutalist Playground brought hundreds of families and children through the doors.
’RIBA, with support from ARB, Architecture Foundation and others, can escape its sometimes sclerotic and binary thinking, providing welcome leadership and encouraging innovation in a diverse, modern and global profession. I believe we, as British architects, can live up to the respect and admiration we inspire internationally, and make real change through architecture and design.
’I hope and believe the new Interim Director Alan Vallance can help RIBA boost finances and give better value for membership subscriptions. I’m heartened by the fact that Alan comes from the Law Society which has done good work in challenging racism and promoting diversity. He seems to understand how emulating the legal profession’s embrace of the digital world and, especially, how pay platforms can give real support in financial management to young, micro/ start-up practices and those working with new or overseas clients.
‘The AJ’s campaign has helped women in architecture to make huge strides in combatting sexism in the profession. On the “London Bus Principle”, Jane Duncan’s success as President shows that women can and do lead the profession well. 23 years after the death of Stephen Lawrence, I hope the RIBA racism inquiry, which Harry Rich helped to set up can not only meet the challenge of discrimination, but also celebrate the many opportunities offered by our diverse society.’