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The 2024 RIBA presidential candidates set out their priorities

Eleanor Young

The three architects in the running to succeed Muyiwa Oki answer key questions on how they will support you and deal with the big issues of the day

Recent figures have shown that the UK’s recession in 2023 was a shallow one. But meanwhile many many practices are tightening their belts while attempting to keep up with new regulations, adjusting designs and specifications to reduce the impact on climate change and, all the while, keeping their heads above water.

The three candidates to serve as the institute’s president from 2025 have varied practice and life experience. But who will you vote for?

Read more about the candidates below as the RIBA Journal asks them about three big topics on architecture and the profession that an RIBA president could address; and about their own priorities should they be elected.


Funmbi Adeagbo, project architect, Morris + Company

In a nutshell: What would be your top three priorities?

• The business of architecture/ professional value – we undercut, undervalue and underestimate aspects of our scope, which leads to poor outcomes in the long term.
• Working conditions – tackling the unsustainable business models we have adopted.
• Welcoming diversity – so the whole community feels they have a stake in the future of the RIBA.

What would you first act as president to support practices and working architects at this time?

Tackling issues around competency, and encouraging architects to get on board with the changes in regulation. As president, I would be tasked with communicating the value of architects to our stakeholders. Without these two things happening, I find it hard to see how we will command better fees and progress the interlinked issue of working conditions.

We need to value ourselves, and that means charging appropriately so we don’t have to rely on unpaid labour as an industry. We are so keen to please clients in the hope they will reciprocate with more work that we lose sight of the wider picture. It's unsustainable. They often don’t reciprocate, and it hits those with the least power the hardest.

Construction cycles operate in a boom-and-bust economy, which needs to be fixed, but in the meantime, we need to develop more robust business and operational models.

The president of the RIBA has a platform that enables them to communicate to the widest group of players. With my background as a worker, the issue of business robustness and working conditions is not something I take lightly.

We bring value to the built environment, taking ideas and transforming them into a physical product/outcome. We shouldn't be begging. At the same time, if we want to command the fees we are owed, we should be ensuring the training process and our continued professional practice, once qualified, is meeting the industry’s needs. If we cannot do this, it's hard to justify the outrage when someone else steps in.

How would you reach out to underrepresented and underserved parts of the profession?

I am part of this demographic so I don't really see my function as reaching out. It's more about holding the door open, making people feel comfortable and speaking honestly. If elected, my function would be to bridge the gap, to listen and lead the pack with solutions. I am already plugged into many local or ‘grassroots’ groups like the Black Females in Architecture and the Paradigm network, and I have been active in outreach programmes. So being elected as president will give a wider reach to the advocacy I’ve already started.

I'm also keen on reaching those who don’t see any likeness. We are on a boat so everyone needs to arrive together.

How would you tackle the climate emergency?

The president of the RIBA cannot tackle the climate emergency. While they can set targets and influence policymakers, tackling this issue is the collective responsibility of the construction industry. We need to step up and get serious about addressing our impact through the whole process. It's not an add-on

My role as president will be to take expert advice and convince the right people to do the right thing – now. The emphasis is on the ‘doing’. I learnt about global warming in primary school, probably as early as year 3. The fact that the UN executive climate secretary, Simon Stiell, is reporting we have only two years until irreversible damage is something we need to act on now.


Duncan Baker-Brown, founder, BakerBrown Studio, climate literacy champion and principal lecturer at the School of Architecture Technology & Engineering, University of Brighton

In a nutshell: What would be your top three priorities? 

• Engage directly for smaller practices, young architects, students and our educators.
• Highlight and help to nurture new work opportunities for our membership such as the creative retrofit.
• Communicate to the world the added value that architects bring to the construction industry.

What would you first action be as president to support practices and working architects at this time? 

I’d rather start with what I would do when I am president-elect, which is to go and meet face-to-face with architects and students from all the RIBA regions to hear what they have to say. Then, when I am RIBA president, I would reflect on what I have heard to make sure that the support the RIBA gives to its members is tailored to the needs of the regions (and that includes London) with an ambition of supporting the greatest number of our members

How would you reach out to underrepresented and underserved parts of the profession? 

I am keen to visit our fantastic schools of architecture – the source of our future architects. If I get to be president, 66 Portland Place will be closed for refurbishment. So, I will base myself in different regions during my two-year term. I also want to engage a lot more with our 5,000-plus members across Europe and the rest of the world. Having taught architecture for 30 years, I am very familiar with the challenges and opportunities afforded by our academic institutions. I have also been running a medium-sized practice for the same amount of time. I therefore believe I understand many of the current challenges all parts of our community of architects are facing. For example, I teach in a regional school that has had to make huge cuts and cost savings over the last five years. Suffering massive cuts in staff numbers almost as soon as we started face-to-face teaching again after Covid has put enormous pressures on the whole academic community.

How would you tackle the climate emergency as RIBA president?

I am well known in our industry as an authentic and experienced voice advocating for low-carbon sustainable design. I also campaign for a just transition towards net zero. This an existential challenge, but one the RIBA and its members are well up to. I co-chair the RIBA’s Climate Action EAG, which has given me the opportunity to represent the RIBA at the last two COPs. I am used to meeting MPs and ministers from the UK and abroad, lobbying for change. In addition, I have got to know the fantastic team at the RIBA responsible for, among other things, the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge. I sit on the steering group of the forthcoming UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard, and it’s becoming very apparent to me that embodied carbon will be benchmarked in the near future. When this happens, the retrofit and adaptive reuse industry will be huge and, as such, it is a massive opportunity for architects. However, we need to prepare now. By combining the RIBA’s ability to lobby on our behalf with my unique experience and authentic voice, we will affect the positive changes required to create the economic and legislative environment sustaining a vibrant green economy, delivering the low-carbon, climate-resilient, healthy and accessible built environment we all need.


Chris Williamson, chairman, Weston Williamson + Partners

In a nutshell: What would be your top three priorities? 

• Communications.  Our members represent many of the world’s best architects. Increase influence, positioning the profession’s knowledge centre stage.
• Advocacy. Better support for all practices -helping all Members in their businesses.
• Education. Make the letters R I B A mean something: provide a real competitive advantage – a recognised qualification, not a members’ club.

What would your first action be as president to support practices and working architects at this time?

A comprehensive spending review. Members’ subscriptions should provide better value. We need to analyse how our money is being spent. These are challenging times and practices need more enthusiasm, energy and visibility from their institute.

The RIBA needs reform. Many younger architects don’t appreciate its value. We need a strong voice to advocate for the profession, to increase its influence. We need to work harder to restore respect in the RIBA and the profession in the face of existential challenges and around issues such as climate change, planning and the impact of emerging technology on our work – including greater collaboration with other institutes at home and abroad creating a like-minded global community.

How would you reach out to underrepresented and underserved parts of the profession?

Nobody benefits when the RIBA is marginalised. It’s not just about who is president for a term but how members can better support each other. We can do more to leverage the knowledge in large, world-renowned firms to help smaller businesses grow and attract higher fees.

I’m grateful to the members who have supported my nomination and proud that they represent a cross-section of the profession – young architects, students, Stirling Prize-winners, and small practitioners outside London and overseas. My career has been about collaborating, making connections, bringing complex teams together. I want to use this experience to make the RIBA work better for all members. The RIBA also has a large cohort of respected honorary fellows, keen to be more involved- to help with outreach and visibility.

The RIBA’s role is to create the best conditions for all members to do their best work.

How would you tackle the climate emergency as RIBA president?

Influence and practical guidance. At a strategic level, the RIBA president is only as effective as their advocacy – that’s why restoring the institute’s role and ability to influence decision-makers, clients and politicians is so vital. As a student, I won the Inplan Award for energy conservation. My career since has largely involved attracting people out of their cars and onto more sustainable forms of transport.

Improved excellent life-long learning will legitimately allow us to use the initials R I B A to denote we are the best in the world. With well-designed online modules, we will include clear up-to-date sustainability guidance while increasing knowledge and creating accessible routes into architecture and devising better career options.

At a practical level, I know what it’s like to run a small firm, and also how big studios operate. Many large practices have sustainability heads working across projects but smaller ones need more help from the RIBA; they haven’t got time to undertake research and to analyse conflicting views. So there’s a need for succinct, accessible peer-reviewed guidance. We are a brilliant problem-solving profession – once we know what the issues are.

Please visit my campaign website to provide feedback, suggestions and comments.

Voting for the next RIBA president opens on 17 June and you will have until 28 June to cast your vote. The results will be announced on 2 July. See more details here RIBA Elections (

See the candidates speak at the online hustings on 30 May and in person, discussing climate action, in Liverpool on 6 June and in London on accessing architecture on 13 June