Architect Ben Derbyshire on why he and fellow architects Andy von Bradsky and John Assael are aiming to reform the RIBA

Ben Derbyshire

Voting has opened for the election to seven seats on the RIBA Council, ending on 23 July. I am among a number of architects who feel that both a shift in strategic emphasis by the institute and structural changes to the way the architecture profession is organised are needed. Architects need to recover a position in society that will enable them to be more effective in delivering their design expertise, improving the quality of the environment. Our status has slipped badly and we need to act coherently to recover it. So, with colleagues Andy von Bradsky and John Assael, both leaders of substantial architectural practices, we have decided to go for election to council.

We do not present ourselves as any kind of formal group, but we do have a lot in common and we are hoping to achieve a consensus for change with others within the RIBA and outside around the following key points:

  1. Architecture is the remit in the RIBA’s Charter but unless architects and practices are well placed in relation to the needs of society and commerce, good architecture can’t happen. There should be more emphasis in the RIBA on the promotion of its members’ interests.
  2. Architects’ interests are best served by an institute that understands the need for cross-industry and inter-disciplinary working with engineers, surveyors, other professionals and their institutes. We should present ourselves as having a particular contribution to the collaborations necessary to improve the quality of built environment, working with, not competing against or denigrating the contributions of others in the supply chain.
  3. We need to support strongly efforts to reform architectural education and the regulation of quality in the profession. The current arrangements are dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. Change is in the air and we should focus on achieving clarity and consensus to push change through.
  4. In particular, recent innovations in information technology, digital media and consumer feedback offer enormous scope for architects to regain lost influence in the design of the built environment. To take advantage of this we need to understand how to redefine professionalism, working more as architects in industry and society and less as elite professionals.

To achieve these kinds of change, there needs to be better continuity in the organisation of the institute, with more effort on behalf of the executive to understand and promote the thinking of members, both those who contribute to its hard working specialist groups, and more widely, regionally and among large and small practices.

Continuity is also required between the elements of the institute - council, board and presidency – so that strategic initiatives can be carried over subsequent electoral terms, because change will take time. We need to reorganise in order to achieve this. Working together, over time, we see the opportunity to regain the ground lost to design in the construction industry.

Here are links to three blogs I wrote for Building at the beginning of this year, which are reproduced on HTA’s website: The fall and rise of the architecture profession; An architectural renaissance is possible; and A new vision for architecture.

My candidate’s statement in the election material is a summary of these views.

Ben Derbyshire is managing partner of HTA Design