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‘Support students now or lose our future,’ says RIBA president elect

Words:
Isabelle Priest

AHMM’s Simon Allford ready to campaign for ‘design design design’ as best means to make government’s ‘build build build’ happen as he begins his year in waiting today

How do you feel about winning the next RIBA presidency? 

It is a privilege. We need an institute of ideas with architecture front and centre, hosting debates, lectures and exhibitions reflecting changing cultural and practice contexts, as well as one that is a practice friend and celebrates members’ work worldwide. 

What ideas from the other candidates did you most admire?

I was struck by Valeria Passetti’s focus on membership, to understand what the RIBA might offer them. Nick Moss’ singular focus on procurement, Sumita Singha’s interest in alternative methods of constructing and the associated environmental benefits, and Jude Barber’s vision of a more intelligent, productive and generous model of architectural education and practice.

How would you tackle the climate emergency as RIBA president?

Architects have a key role in this. We must work with clients to design, build and evaluate exemplary low-carbon buildings, demonstrating that these are an achievable essential. The RIBA can help by capturing that knowledge and promoting it to clients. I would like to form a low carbon alliance with consultants and clients to push government to help push ourselves. I have experience of all this. AHMM’s building performance team worked on the RIBA’s 2030 Climate Challenge, Plan of Work and on an Innovate UK-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership with UCL. 

What would be your first action to help practices recover from the coronavirus crisis?

The RIBA needs to support students, by promoting apprenticeship and related programmes for those entering the profession – otherwise we will lose our future. And practices, by capturing, sharing and promoting excellent examples of post Covid-19 architectural design that address the challenges of redesigning our environment. RIBA needs to lobby government, meet ministers and show how architects can make ‘Build, build, build’ happen best by ‘Design, design, design’

How will you prepare for the role as president elect? 

Writing my statement of candidature and the campaign was good preparation. Now I need to meet more people on the RIBA Council, Board, staff and members (always members!) to see how to bring it into practice. The post-Covid recession, Grenfell and climate change remain the challenges. We need to analyse changes proposed in the new planning white paper and offer constructive advice on achieving its design aspirations. I am an optimist – what I hope to help change is the RIBA’s ability to support our talented, diverse membership.

 

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