For the final head-to-head in the presidential race, the RIBA spurned its modern-classical marble and chrome palace on Portland Place in favour of the neo-gothic stone and timber Palace of Westminster.
At 8pm sharp, and with a little encouragement from Building, the sparring candidates and their audience repaired to St Steven’s Tavern, as MPs have done for well over a century.
There are just two presidential candidates this year, and they’re not exactly celeb architects. Ruth Reed is a practitioner turned academic at Birmingham City University, and Andrew Hanson runs his own practice in London. And don’t imagine any eye-gouging brawls à la Obama and Clinton. The head-to-head was all very professional and civilised with not a hint of rivalry or oneupmanship.
To Peter Fennell, of the Gebler Tooth Practice, it was a “very good conversation. They were both very articulate but quite different. Ruth came across as the technocrat and Andrew as more charismatic.”
They were both articulate but quite different. Ruth came across as the technocrat and Andrew as more charismatic
The audience included three committee members of the RIBA students society, Archaos. To Marcus Lee, “the RIBA should champion poor students. At the end of a five-year architecture course, you’re looking at a debt of £20,000. There are bursaries, but they’re hidden away and you’ve got no idea how to apply for them”.
To fellow student Elena Tsolakis, the big issue is women in architecture. “In law, there is a 50/50 split between men and women, but it’s much less in architecture. The problem is that there are not enough women in managerial roles that other women can look up to. Ruth’s good on this subject, as she understands the situation from personal experience.”
So how will Ruth cope with the high-pressure, time-consuming demands of presidency of 42,000 architects?
Ruth’s good on the subject of women in architecture as she understands the situation from personal experience
“It really helps to have a supportive employer,” she says. “Birmingham City University is keen to have a high-profile member of staff, so they will provide cover for me while I’m away. The election has also come at a good time for my family as my eldest daughter is at university and the youngest is about to do A levels and wants to become a doctor.”
Andrew admits that Ruth has a slight advantage when it comes to finding cover. He says his 10-strong practice is “very efficient with very low overheads, and I have a fantastic relationship with the people I employ. Currently I’m the only partner, but if I win the election, I might bring in another partner”.
So would he promote his associate, Wendy, or bring in someone else? Andrew’s keeping his powder dry on this one …
Chosen watering hole: St Steven’s Tavern, Westminster
Ambience: mahogony baroque drinking parlour for MPs and their entourages
Topics: take a wild guess …
Drinks drunk: seven Badger bitters, five Stella Artois, two Becks, three white wines and a cranberry juice
Ruth Reed - RIBA presidential candidate
Andrew Hanson - RIBA presidential candidate
Peter Fennell - architect
Marcus Lee - architecture student
Elena Tsolakis - architecture student
Martin Spring - Building
… and many others
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