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Simon Allford to run for RIBA president


AHMM’s Simon Allford has decided to run for RIBA president only weeks after launching a stinging broadside at the institute, branding it ’sadly ever-less relevant’

Allford, 58, told the AJ he wanted to drive significant change at the RIBA, reinventing it as a ‘smaller, more productive, more affordable’ institute with its headquarters at 66 Portland Place becoming a reinvigorated ‘House of Architecture’.

The election bid by the Allford Hall Monaghan Morris co-founder and former RIBA vice-president of education comes as the institute confirmed its current president Alan Jones remained on an ‘extended leave of absence’.

Jones temporarily stepped down in March over a ‘personal matter’ which was later reported to be an extra-marital affair with a woman 15 years his junior. An inquiry launched on behalf of the institute is examining whether Jones abused his position as its president or used RIBA funds to further the affair.

It is understood the independent investigation by law firm Browne Jacobson on behalf of the RIBA has looked into, among other things, Jones’s potential exposure to blackmail, a potential breach of confidentiality, and possible breaches of the RIBA Code of Conduct by Jones in relation to ‘personal integrity’.

The findings of this investigation remain unknown and no date has yet been announced for a potential return for Jones,  whose official term runs for another 14 months.

However, the RIBA has already begun the search for a successor to take over the role from September 2021.

Allford made the headlines in April with a cutting attack on the RIBA prompted by governance changes and the introduction of a new, nine-strong board of trustees.

The architect, who said he felt ‘disillusioned with and detached from’ the RIBA, urged the profession to storm its London HQ and ‘take it back for architects and architecture’.

He said in April: ‘Imagine 66 Portland Place as a fun palace for architects, and anyone who is interested in architecture: what it was, what it is and what it might become – with Architecture, with a capital A, as the engaging backdrop to the theatre of everyday life that we are all missing so badly.’

His early election pledges include reworking Portland Place – with the staff in 76 Portland Place moving back to the RIBA’s original home – as ’a convivial hub with member facilities and a good restaurant/bar’. This would be combined with a drive to share the institute’s exhibitions programme, awards programmes, and collections with its regional centres. 

Allford’s plans to create an ’agile and open model 21st century professional body’ include a proposal to boost the organisation’s digital platform.

He said: ‘[I want] a greatly enhanced Architecture.com, engaging membership irrespective of location, with professional and cultural events digitised and shared online.’

Speaking about his decision to stand Allford said: ‘I have taken this step following encouragement from many architects, including former presidents, to stand up for the RIBA as the key champion for architecture and architectural culture in the UK and beyond.

‘Our profession faces a series of challenges and opportunities arising from climate change, Covid-19, and the future outcomes of the Grenfell Tower inquiry. Too many members feel disenchanted with the way in which our institute is perceived, and the cost of such a large organisation, at a time like this.’

Allford, who recently served as chair of the Architecture Foundation, is now seeking 60 nominees to back his presidential bid.

The RIBA has always insisted that the bureaucratic shake-up to create the new board – the constitutional change which first spurred Allford to speak out – would actually ‘streamline its governance structure’. The new board has now assumed fiduciary duties, meaning the 50-strong council will no longer need to deal with operational detail.

RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance hailed the appointment of trustees as a ‘historic moment’, which marked ‘the culmination of almost three years of detailed member consultation and development’.

The trustees include banker Murray Orr, Google AI principal designer Matt Jones, Jo Bacon, managing partner of Allies and Morrison and chair of the RIBA Awards Group, Nicky Watson, director at JDDK Architects and current RIBA vice-president for education. The board will be chaired by lawyer and University of the Arts London vice-chancellor Nigel Carrington.

All current chartered RIBA members and honorary fellows are eligible to stand for the presidency of the RIBA.

The successful candidate will take up office as president elect on 1 September 2020 and will then serve as RIBA President for a two-year term beginning on 1 September 2021.

Candidates for all the seats must be nominated. The nomination period opened on 12 May 2020 and closes on 16 June 2020

Timetable for RIBA 2020 elections

  • 1 July 2020 Candidates announced
  • 14 July 2020 Elections open for voting
  • 4 August 2020 Voting will closes
  • 11 August 2020 Results announced

Readers' comments (7)

  • Ben Derbyshire

    I was naturally surprised and absolutely delighted when Simon Allford confirmed to me that he was considering throwing his hat into the ring.
    Now, more than ever, the RIBA needs a strong voice from a distinguished member of the profession with a wide network and a powerful reputation for delivering high quality architecture.
    When AJ reported Allford's concern to see architects retaking the Institute, I wrote to him explaining that was at the centre of my own election campaign (I sent him a copy of my election graphic showing members of the profession throwing grappling hooks over 66 Portland Place) and that we have been attempting to achieve that outcome ever since!
    It is profoundly distressing that the RIBA has had no President to articulate the concerns and contribution of the profession since March 31st when Alan Jones stood aside - a period almost exactly coinciding with lock-down and our dispersal to work individually from our homes, when most of the staff of the RIBA have been furloughed. The timing could not have been worse or more damaging.
    Simon Allford's Damascene conversion is immensely significant since it signals his conviction, which I share, not only that #ChangeIsNecessary (to reiterate my campaign slogan) but that beneficial change is possible. He has my support.
    Ben Derbyshire IPPRIBA.

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  • Oooh, goody. Another white man in his 50s.

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  • Ruth, you aren’t on the ARB register so not an architect or an RIBA Member either. So I can’t nominate you for President in the hopes you would have some influence over that behemoth.
    In any event I left the RIBA because it was run by and for grey people, of whatever colour or gender. . .

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  • Still the obsession with the 15 year difference in age between Alan Jones and the woman with whom he had an affair. Why the implication that this is somehow wrong - and why is it relevant to this news article?

    Simon Gill

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  • He'll have my vote. Let's hope he can actually achieve what he says, against the inertia and bureaucracy of those vested interests inside the RIBA. It will be an uphill struggle, but if other members are behind him, then there is a chance... perhaps the last chance!

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  • so BEN DERBYSHIRE supports Allford's presidential run and feels that their goals are aligned. But as far as I can see from his published manifesto* is that all he wants to do is improve the RIBA website & make 66 Portland Place an Architectural fun palace.. Hardly "change".

    I agree #ChangeIsNecessary - but we need a FUNDAMENTAL change, not another director of a large London firm that has no clue what people in small practices are facing.

    *I am not actually sure he is allowed to publish his manifesto yet as I believe RIBA has a very specific campaigning window!

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  • It is encouraging to see a very well recognised architect take interest in the presidency of the RIBA , clearly motivated to make it better.

    If he is serious, he needs to think beyond 66 Portland Place to the regions and internationally, beyond just the chartered membership and towards student, affiliate and associate members and beyond the profession, towards the RIBA standing as a charity and NGO in government and in the public's eyes.

    Also we need to be serious here, the president doesn't make staffing decisions alone in any organisation, let alone the RIBA, so the 'lean mean machine' is a political rhethoric that is useless once in place, as it sets staff against the president from the get go.

    It is encouraging to see discussion about the digital realm, preferably more of this and less about 'restaurants and bars'.

    Good luck!

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