Ben Derbyshire, managing partner at HTA Design and a newly-elected member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Council, has called for a significant overhaul of the RIBA election process if the organization is to reverse "a long term decline in the fortunes of the profession, the role of architects in commerce and society, the influence of design in the quality of environment and on long term sustainability." Derbyshire, writing in his column for Building, argued that future RIBA presidents should only be drawn from the elected councillors if the RIBA is to avoid "the likelihood of successive Presidents failing to share agendas" - alongside five other proposals that he believes will strengthen the architectural profession. Read on after the break for more of his comments.
Currently, any RIBA-chartered architect can be elected for the role of president, a situation which Derbyshire believes could be disruptive to the goals of the RIBA. He writes:
"The current arrangements create the opportunity, even the probability of disruption to the delivery of agreed programmes of strategic change as a consequence of the likelihood of successive Presidents failing to share agendas and priorities. Indeed, at present, presidents are likely to find themselves at the helm of 3-5 year business plans for the Institute they have had no hand in preparing and may not support.
"Interest in and turnout for Council elections may well be increased if membership of Council were to become the breeding ground for successive Presidents. And such an arrangement would ensure presidents were steeped in an understanding of the issues and equipped with a knowledge of the workings of the Institute by the time they came to office."
He also outlines four more proposals intended to improve the RIBA's service to the profession, including a reduced role for the Architects' Registration Board (ARB), which he believes "limits the capacity of the RIBA Council to steer strategic change in the interests of the profession," increased transparency of election results, a greater proportion of elected council members, increased transparency in the work of the nominations committee, and a reinforced trust between the board and the council.
Derbyshire says that "Some decry the focus on governance as inward looking and naval gazing," but reinforces that in his view, the challenges that the profession faces are significant, and the RIBA "as it stands will struggle to pull off the necessary Houdini act."
To see Derbyshire's comments in full read the article at Building (registration required).