Marco Goldschmied will take over as the new president of the RIBA in June. His plans are many and varied, but at the centre is one core goal – to promote the profile of architecture.
Marco Goldschmied swept to victory last week as RIBA president, pledging to raise the public profile of the profession. When the 54-year-old managing director of the Richard Rogers Partnership takes office in July, his priority will be to persuade government and the public of architects' ability to shape the nation's heritage.

Next on his agenda will be the twin aims of reclaiming a central role for architects in the design and construction process, and ensuring that all Part 3 architects are qualified to do it. He also wants to achieve a consistent planning system, a proactive Client Advisory Service and a pool of professional knowledge accessible to RIBA members.

Goldschmied perceives a unique opportunity to get architecture back on the social and political map. "We are in a period of very exciting change. We have a government that is genuinely interested in design and architecture, and a deputy prime minister who is interested in cities, the effective use of land and a co-ordinated transport policy. This is music to our ears as architects. We just have to let them know that marginalising the role of the architect is to the detriment of the cultural heritage of the country," he says.

Goldschmied is well placed to stake aspirational claims for his profession. He has been instrumental in building the Richard Rogers Partnership from a five-man practice, launched in 1977, into today's 100-strong firm with £500m of projects on site.

Indeed, it is his experience of major and international projects that lends him the authority to change the profile of the RIBA. With his business partner, Lord Rogers, firmly ensconced in New Labour, Goldschmied's supporters hope his presidency will open unprecedented lines of communication between the RIBA and the government. Detractors say he is out of touch with both the RIBA and the grass-roots of the profession.

Born in Harrogate in 1945 to an Italian father and an English mother, he lived in Milan until the age of 14. He was drawn to architecture by the "breadth of the subject, the range of disciplines it encompasses". On graduating from the Architectural Association in 1971, he joined Piano & Rogers. Six years later, he became a founding partner of the Richard Rogers Partnership and has been managing director since 1984.

By reputation, Goldschmied is a tough businessman who wins the work and negotiates the fees. In person, he is urbane and charismatic, with a relaxed manner and a wry sense of humour. His umpompous speech – punctuated as it is with the odd expletive – is refreshing. And his opinions are not entrenched but considered – often visibly so, as he ponders long and hard before speaking.

Like other founding partners in the firm, he donates a portion of the profit to charity. The Goldschmied Trust sponsors social causes such as the annual £5000 Stephen Lawrence Award for the best building under £500 000.

I genuinely believe architects can open up possibilities no one else can. That is what is so exciting

So, what attracted Goldschmied to take up the cause of the RIBA? "I genuinely believe architects can open up possibilities no one else can. That is what is so exciting about architecture. Before Roland Paolotti got Chris Wilkinson to do the Stratford Market Depot, no architect had designed a rail shed for London Transport. And it's unquestionably the best this century.

"Yet millions of pounds worth of work is commissioned where architects do not come into the equation. At any one time, there are a million people contemplating a spectrum of projects, from domestic through to shops, restaurants and bars. We have to make it easier for them to get an architect involved."

Suggestions that he is out of touch with small practices are refuted: "I remember what is was like to be a small practice. After the Pompidou Centre, our practice practically imploded. I remember being carpeted by our bank manager when I went over our £10 000 overdraft limit by £420. In the past 20 years, over a dozen people have left the Richard Rogers Partnership to start up on their own. We have encouraged them and looked after them, so it is not as if I am isolated from that."

And it was his experience as a young architect that prompted his plans to shake up the Client Advisory Service. He recalls the service proposing Richard Rogers Partnership to design the Lloyd's Building after then RIBA president Gordon Graham insisted British firms replace two foreign candidates.

His plans for the CAS extend to promoting the use of architects by the man in the street. "There needs to be a co-ordinated, nationwide system of telephone numbers, so you can get an architect as easily as you can get someone to fix your windscreen," he ventures. He declines to confirm reports that he consulted advertising agency M&C Saatchi on how to go about such profile-raising, but conceded: "I don't think an expensive advertising campaign is necessarily the answer. But equally, I don't think boxes in Yellow Pages are either. There are a whole raft of ways of getting the message across and Britain has some of the most sophisticated communicators in the world. So I say, let's ask the experts."

As a start in reclaiming architects' lost territory and status, he advocates broadening their skills base with such disciplines as project management. Goldschmied, who earned himself an MSc in project management from Reading University, says: "I think the RIBA could run a project management diploma, which ties in with the best of Egan and the best management practice."

But, according to Goldschmied, even architects with the broadest of skills will remain powerless against the "extraordinarily arbitrary and capricious" planning system. "It would be good to collect hard evidence of where the system is working and where it is not and then tackle it," he suggests. So far, he has pledged to pursue an initiative started by Robert Adam last year with the Royal Institute of Town Planners on a code of conduct.

Personal effects

Who's who in your family? Goldschmied lives in Putney (and Cowes, Hampshire) with his wife Andrea and his A-level student children Emma, 18, and Dan, 16. Son Ben, 27, works in film special effects, daughter Asa-Joel, 25, is a drama school graduate. Matthew, 24, is a final year history of art student at University College, London. What are your passions? Skiing and Tottenham Hotspur. What are you reading at the moment? Excession by Iain Banks and The Network Society by Manuel Castells. What kind of music are you into? Bach organ music. What is your favourite building? Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin.