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RIBA’s nine steps to the future

Simon Allford

Simon Allford outlines the key ambitions and actions that will make a 21st century RIBA – leading, collaborating and influencing

As I write I am 40 days in as president, working on a document, 100 Days In, to give a broad update on the challenges we face as an institute, a profession and in respect of architecture. This is in the correct ascending order of importance: the Institute was called into being by the profession and both are servants of the art and practice of architecture.

For the RIBA to get anywhere near where we should be, Council, Board and Executive teams need to work together. And we are. At my first council meeting as president I presented the ‘Biennial Plan’ of Council and Board. Jack Pringle confirmed Board support for the key ambitions, also clarifying significant operational challenges that need to be addressed. Chief executive Alan Vallance concluded the presentation, describing how the Organisational Design Review, property plan and technology platform would enable speedy, necessary change.

Council will be forming new task and finish expert advisory groups to ensure we can face inwards and outwards in a clear and confident way. Two groups were formed on the day: one to explore how the RIBA can help the profession on PII – a tough nut to crack – and the other to review the implications of the new regulatory framework coming our way.

Back to the Biennial Plan, which will be published soon, and will inform the activities of all those involved in running the Institute. It has nine points:   

  • Build the ‘House of Architecture’ – invest in creating a generous and open online and physical entity.
  • Make architecture accessible and affordable to all – work ever harder on equality, diversity and inclusion, and gender initiatives. A number of specific tasks were discussed, focussed on increasing our profession’s international capacity to drive sustainable development and ethical practice.
  • Expand membership by improving levels of support so that we become the acknowledged global gold standard for public engagement as well as practice.
  • Collaborate and help lead the construction industry towards net zero. The RIBA will be at COP26, promoting simple and clear Built for the Environment report recommendations.
  • Influence public and private sector clients by promoting best practice to mitigate climate change, and build on the success of the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge and upcoming Built Environment Summit with member-driven initiatives.
  • Inform and engage in the design of the evolving regulatory framework – communicating with government and key regulatory bodies.
  • Support practices in developing competence, confidence and cashflow, gathering and sharing practice and cultural data.
  • Use to facilitate and promote architectural culture (celebrating and sharing our globally valuable library and drawings collection) and discourse among members, public and government. Specific activity could include creating a physical and virtual public gallery; a members’ gallery; and a public affairs gallery to encourage all those with an interest in architecture to engage with the issues of the day.
  • Use the funds received from the NBS sale to protect our long-term investments, rebuild our essential infrastructure and invest in the long-term advancement of architecture.

Like most of you, I remain busy in my practice, so I know how much extra effort this will require from all involved. I also appreciate the many offers of encouragement and, even more importantly, engagement. So I am confident that working together, members, Council, Board and staff can create this new model institute: a fit-for-purpose 21st century RIBA – an ‘Institute of Ideas’ – using technology to help our members meet our historic charter obligations.

 We must also make architecture celebratory – and we are. I have taken great pleasure recently in chairing the Royal Gold Medal and Honorary Fellows selection panels, and being part of this year’s Stirling Prize jury, chaired by Lord Foster. Congratulations to Grafton Architects and Kingston University London for Town House, the 2021 Stirling Prize winner.

We are making progress.


COP26 is now in full swing, bringing together global leaders, climate change experts and activists to agree co-ordinated action to tackle climate change. We will be there to drive forward our net zero agenda in various discussions and events.

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