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Ultra-low RIBA elections turnout is ‘wake-up call’, says former president


Former RIBA president Jack Pringle has described the low turnout in the institute’s recent council elections as a ‘problem’ and a ’wake-up call’ for the Portland Place-based institute

Only 8.4 per cent of RIBA members cast their vote as candidates raced to fill a number of vacant national and student seats.

Pringle said the turnout was a marker of how well the elections were advertised to members and how relevant architects thought the RIBA was to them.

The former institute chief, whose comments were echoed on social media (see below), added: ’If the election turnout is as low as 9 per cent, RIBA has a problem.

’This may turnout to be existential, as UK architects have pay to register with ARB and they may consider the RIBA to be an expensive irrelevance.

’In fact, in the long run, the RIBA is vital to the health of our profession and the quality of our architecture, so members need to get behind it and support it. [This is] another wake-up call for the RIBA.’

Another former RIBA president, Owen Luder, agreed. He told the AJ: ’It is little wonder there is so much apathy among the ordinary members.

’Since 2009 the RIBA has been, and is still, being run by a small group. And for six years the elected council was excluded from carrying out its duties and excluded from disastrous financial and management decisions.’

Responding to the criticism, outgoing RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: ’Turnout is generally lower for elections that do not coincide with a presidential contest but we will certainly look at what more can be done to encourage members to vote.

‘We are working hard to connect with our membership and I am sure my successor Alan Jones will see this as a priority. I’d like to thank all our members who support the institute and the profession in different ways, including via branches, committees or representing the Institute in the UK and globally.’

The elections saw Alfred Munkenbeck and Maria Smith voted in as national councillors and Victoria Adegoke and Maryam Al-Irhayim chosen for the student seats. There were also appointments to a number of uncontested regional seats.


Robert Firth, former RIBA councillor and RSAW past-president

Turnout has been going down for years. There are a number of reasons.

The later millennials (Gen Z) in particular, are not interested in being ‘members’ anywhere near as much as older generations.

The RIBA is also often viewed as being interested primarily in the climate, sustainable design, diversity in the profession, design awards, ethics for practice and lauding trendy architects. All valid areas, but none of these is necessarily core in the survival of practices and architects.

Although I have seen much of the above emerge from the RIBA, and much of it very good, too, I get the impression that many architects are looking elsewhere for their CPD and advice.

Perhaps they feel that the advice the RIBA issues helps their competitors, too, so they need a different angle to be one step ahead of the game.

I can’t complain. My architectural clients would not have come to me if the RIBA was satisfying their need.

I now have seven architectural practice clients. Ex-rugby players coach rugby teams; ex-footballers coach football teams. It makes absolute sense for the RIBA to encourage architects to coach architects.


Readers' comments (13)

  • The RIBA is an expensive magazine subscription

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  • Very true, the RIBA Journal is priced at £15 per monthly issue...so presumably, if they stopped publication, it would shave £180 off your annual membership subscription? Sounds like a plan? If we stopped subscribing to the AJ we could save another £160 pa. We appear to be supporting architectural journalism rather than the architectural profession. Nice work if you can get it!

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  • if practices weren't paying for their staff's subscriptions i think this archaic institution would already be finished. This new union will likely be the nail in the coffin. How can RIBA represent Norman Foster as well as the 1000 staff whose ideas he takes credit for?

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