Back in January, my classmates and I were coming to the end of a lecture series in the build up to our qualification exams. At this point I was day-dreaming about what sandwiches would be left at the café around the corner, craving chicken and avocado...
During the final talk of the session, a rep from the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) presented an introduction to the institute and concluded with a call to action; "you are the future of the profession, and joining the RIBA is an investment in your career."
The time for eating was fast approaching, but this statement left me feeling dissatisfied and confused. As a student member of the RIBA for 8 years now, not once have I been invited to vote in the RIBA Presidential election. If we truly are the future of this profession, why are we not allowed a say in its direction?
The contradiction here is plain to see, and it left a sour taste in my mouth that even the much-awaited sandwich could not remove (they were all out of chicken and avocado in the end).
In order to practice here in the UK, architects must be legally registered with the profession's independent regulatory body, the ARB (Architects Registration Board). They protect consumer interests by ensuring registered architects abide by the ARB Code of Conduct.
Conversely there is no obligation to join the RIBA, an Institute founded for the advancement of architects and architecture. They offer different tiers of membership and the role they play is highly valuable for both architects and architecture.
However, the RIBA is also responsible for regulating the architectural education system, that has changed little in 50 years. As a result, young people are not getting adequate exposure to a rapidly changing industry and the profession has lost influence in almost every sector its members work in. Construction is so cost-driven nowadays that the role of the architect is less of a gentrified-visionary, and more a shrewd provider of services.
That is not to say that the RIBA should revise the education system around current job market demands, they should account for future needs as well. What is the Institute's strategy for facing up to the inevitable rise of BIM and Artificial Intelligence over the next 10-20 years?
The way to make the RIBA accountable to young people is to give student members a vote in the Presidential elections. This would incentivise future presidents and councillors to listen to students more carefully, as they would hold significant voting power. If we are the future as I was told that day, then we should be given the opportunity to take part.
This proposal was already put to the RIBA by Ben Derbyshire during his time as an RIBA Councillor. He is running for RIBA President this year where if successful, he aims to propose vital reforms to the architectural education system and the introduction of votes for Student members.
Voting in the RIBA Presidential Election is open until 8th August 2016, and I encourage all RIBA members to #VoteForBen.