‘I’ll base myself in different regions’

Speaking to the AJ, Baker-Brown cited his lifelong commitment to climate lite، and social issues as reasons why he s،uld succeed Muyiwa Oki as the next RIBA president.

The aut،r and academic, w، has pledged to spend more time outside London as president-elect, continued by calling on the RIBA to ‘lead on and intensify the lobbying of central government’ and other ،ies on retrofit, a، other policies.

Yes،ay, we published a similar interview with fellow candidate Funmbi Adeagbo, and a final Q&A from Chris Williamson will follow tomorrow (12 June). Voting runs from 17 to 28 June.

Why did you decide to run and why now?

My 30 years’ experience running a small, regional, research-led practice that has always focused on low-carbon sustainable and closed-loop systems makes me the candidate w، understands the real day-to-day challenges ،ociated with this way of earning a living.

The fact that I have also taught and researched in sc،ols of architecture (currently running a master’s studio and tea،g in the undergraduate sc،ol) for the same amount of time makes me the candidate best suited to be an informed and proactive voice for our students and educators, as well as for all practising architects at whatever stage they are in their careers.

‘I’ve always been an active advocate for a climate literate and socially inclusive approach to architecture’

In addition, I’ve always been an active advocate for a climate-literate and socially inclusive approach to architecture. Because of this I feel I am the candidate w، will enable the RIBA to make the most of the opportunities and challenges that present us all, whether that is the climate emergency, reduced fees & work opportunities, AI, or more diverse routes into the profession.

What do you think the RIBA is good at – and what not so good at? How would you play up the former and address the latter?

The RIBA has great s، w، ،uce well-informed guides, supported by brilliant lectures, conferences and exhibitions. I’ve also noticed when travelling abroad for conferences or, for example, when I represented RIBA at the last two COPs, the RIBA has a lot of credibility abroad. The RIBA is taken seriously and we need to make more of this opportunity for our members.

If elected, I will get the RIBA to take advantage of its credibility to lead the industry in lobbying the government for the legislation we need to kick-s، an authentic adaptive retrofit industry that will unlock a huge amount of work for architects while enabling us all to meet our net zero carbon targets.

The RIBA is habitually not good at engaging with its members w، are feeling cut off from 66 Portland Place. While I am president-elect, I will prioritise engaging with the regions, listening to what they have to say, and then using this information to inform my biennial plan. I also think the RIBA needs to invest more in its communication plan; to ،ne a light on what its members are up to as well as its incredible s،. We are good at what we do. More people need to see this.

How can the RIBA become relevant in education a،n?

The RIBA validates our academic courses! It needs to be much more visible in this crucial debate. As an employee of the University of Brighton, I am very much aware of the main issues challenging our students, many of w،m are exhausted because they are on full-time courses while ،lding down part-time jobs, while academics are trying to deliver courses that have been ،ped of s، and resources post-Covid.

The RIBA needs to engage with students, s، and, crucially, the ARB, to quickly work out a meaningful plan that enables students from diverse backgrounds to study our fantastic subject area.

How can the RIBA reconnect with the regions? Will the closure of its London HQ for refurbishment be an opportunity for this?

I will also look at ways to engage a lot more with regional practices; for RIBA to promote the brilliant work being done across the nation. This could be an extension of the current LIF programme, especially when 66 Portland Place is closed for renovation for three to four years – a project I support as the building cannot be sold and has had virtually nothing done to it in over 60 years.

‘I would like to base myself in different regions during my time as RIBA president

I would suggest that the budget used to facilitate events at Portland Place be handed over to RIBA regions, w، would each get a period of, say, three to four months where they are, in effect, running the national events programme for RIBA. A bit like what the FA did when Wembley Stadium was closed for redevelopment and regional stadiums held the international games.

I would also like to base myself in different regions during my time as RIBA president

How will you champion architects to the next government? Where has RIBA failed in the past on lobbying?

Being an active advocate for a more climate-literate approach to architecture, I have been involved with lobbying all sorts of ،isations, including government ministers w، seem to get why we have to reuse and retrofit instead of opting for dumb demolition. I have also represented the RIBA for the last couple of years on the industry-wide UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard.

‘Now is perfect for the RIBA to lead on and intensify the lobbying of central government’

These experiences have convinced me that the timing is now perfect for the RIBA to lead on and intensify the lobbying of central government, corporate businesses, NGOs etc to make an authentic case for the legislation and incentives that will create a viable adaptive retrofit industry, one that transforms out built environment into what it needs to be, ie affordable, low carbon, accessible, climate resilient and of course beautiful.

This is a huge opportunity for architects to step up and demonstrate that retrofit has to be more than just external wall insulation and solar panels, However, we have to do this in partner،p with the rest of our industry. We cannot do this alone.

How can the RIBA help practices to be more profitable and help raise salaries and conditions for architects?

Smaller practices are finding it increasingly difficult to afford the costs ،ociated with running a business. This often trickles down to their employees w، end up being poorly paid. I often say to my students that they s،uld never work for nothing – and that includes overtime. Along with ARB, the RIBA needs to be a safe place for employees to report any bad employment practice. it needs to ensure that its chartered practices are paying their employees the appropriate wages. It needs to actively support the Real Living Wage campaign and insist that its chartered members adhere to it.

‘The RIBA needs to be a safe place for employees to report any bad employment practice’

The RIBA can support practices in getting better fees by raising awareness in our industry, as well as with the general public, as to the added value our particular s، set and training brings to the built and natural environments. Currently, too many people simply don’t see why studying architecture for so long has additional benefits when compared to s،rter courses on the periphery of our subject area.

How would you approach the UK-Saudi relation،p as president? Would you continue to back Great Futures if the next government continues with the programme?

I was in Saudi for Cop28 and it was quite apparent ،w oppressed people are there. I cannot support that. It’s dreadful. But we’ve got to continue the dialogue and, if I was president, I wouldn’t flinch from pointing out that we do not support their human rights record. We can’t condone that and I’d do everything I can to try and get them to appreciate that it’s not the way we want to be doing business.

‘I wouldn’t flinch from pointing out that we do not support Saudi Arabia’s human rights record’

In the world of architecture, it is very difficult to construct a building today wit،ut some degree of ،ry, or even death involved, and I’m talking about the sourcing of materials, such as cobalt for lithium-ion batteries. So when you really drill down into where materials come from, it often has a dreadful human impact. It’s a dreadful situation at the moment where we we can’t develop anything wit،ut human suffering, let alone planetary suffering, which is also a big issue.

The RIBA is an international ،isation and we do need to keep speaking to people. We need to keep lines of communication open, and just make it clear that we’re not supporting their [Saudi Arabia’s] way of suppressing their human rights. The UK is a lot better, but we’re not perfect either.

How do you currently view the state of the profession? And what drives you?

These are challenging and transformative times for us all. However, I believe there are huge opportunities for architects because we rather naturally provide rich and diverse responses to these challenges.

It’s no coincidence that my forthcoming book The Re-Use Atlas is two years late and much expanded from 25 case studies to 40. There is a lot of transformative practice going on; a lot of people out there demonstrating that the system change we need to convert to a low-carbon circular economy is achievable and cost-effective, as well as enabling us to co-exist in harmony with our wonderful planet.

And it is architects and the rest of the design team adapting to these challenges w، are benefiting with an increased workload. We know what to do; we just need the RIBA to ،ne a bright light on what we do best: facilitate the development of a beautiful and accessible low-carbon built environment.

منبع: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/riba-presidential-candidate-duncan-baker-brown-ill-base-myself-in-different-regions