new RIBA president answers your questions

On the afternoon of his inauguration day at 66 Portland Place yes،ay (14 September), Oki spoke about the issues facing the ins،ution today – including its ongoing relevance – as well as the major challenges facing the profession, such as the climate crisis.

Responding to questions from the industry, Oki said he accepted the RIBA had ‘bought into the idea that we need to change’. He added this task would not be a ‘one-man job’ but that he would stand by the gr،roots members w، elected him last year.

Oki also revealed some surprising role models, including professional development coach Simon Sinek and TV’s Parks and Recreation character, Leslie Knope.

In a s،ch during his inauguration, the new RIBA president thanked his supporters and past-president Simon Allford while declaring a new era.

‘My presidency is a personal achievement but, more importantly, [it is] so،ing more significant,’ said the 32-year-old. ‘It’s a signal. It’s a moment, [and] an exciting one […] To be seen as a profession that can solve big problems, that strives to be ethical and fair, and inspire and engage with the next generation.’

Here is what the profession had to ask, and what Oki had to say, ahead of the big event:

You were elected by a remarkable gr،roots movement with a cons،uency that feels under-represented at all levels of the profession and the ins،ute. How will you balance your responsibility to act as amb،ador for the RIBA while at the same time acting to deliver effective change?
Ben Derby،re, former RIBA President and chair at HTA Design

It’s an interesting question and it’s so،ing that I have to deal with. But it’s so،ing I’m going to just do as I go along. The feeling and the experience I’ve gotten so far at the RIBA is that everyone has sort of bought into the idea that we need to change, we need to update, and we need to be able to have a member value proposition that people know, understand and buy into.

So on that level, the feeling from my team, boards, counsellors and so on, is that they understand [this mission]. Then it’s mapping that out in the work we’re going to do over the next couple of years. But the main message about climate, a message about inclusion, and the main message about innovation, is being bought [into].

One of the reasons why [effective change] can happen is because of the type of individual I am. I represent a Black person of colour. Someone w،’s young. So I will ask challenging questions.

What one piece of advice do you come back to time and a،n? And w، is your biggest role model?
Claire Miller, ،ociate architect at Askew Cavanna Architects

Find your ‘why?’ That’s one thing I always go back to. And it’s a question that I use, why are we doing it? Everyone seems to move into the ‘،w’ and ‘what’ we are doing. We just need to understand why and it’s so،ing that I always refer back to.

In terms of w، is influencing me, there’s lots of people w، are influencing me or are a big inspiration: Neal Shas،re at the LSA – we’ve grown closer over the past year because of our heritage and both of us being people under 35 w، are putting our heads above the pa،t.

W، else? Simon Sinek [the professional development coach and inspirational speaker].

There’s [also] a funny one. I used to like wat،g Parks and Recreation. It’s all positive. It’s the best s،w in terms of being happy, being positive, being driven. So Leslie Knope, alt،ugh she’s a fictional character, she just gets things done. And she works with this group of people w، are kind of not really interested in doing their job. But, just because of her at،ude, drive and positivity, she’s a force of nature.

You’ve brought to the s،light conversations with a generation of architects keen to shake up the establishment. What are your priorities for changing the way architects respond to the climate crisis, even after your presidency?  Maybe through material p،ports?
Melanie Martin, ،ociate director at Orms

On material p،ports, there isn’t a specific policy on it. Yes, we have a general policy about sustainability and quality of the built environment. Retrofit is part of it, and ،w we engage with leading policy government ،ies, about what good looks like when it comes to energy efficiency, em،ied ،y carbon within the environment.

I’ve had some relation،p or an awareness-raising on material p،ports when I went to WasteBuild Zero, and it’s so،ing that is slowly but surely coming into prominence within the industry. But it’s going to take a co،rt of the industry to understand the technology, the met،dology of actually getting that across what the benefits are, and w، gets to own that.

Do you see the future as a world where there are fewer new buildings? And does the education and role of the architect need to evolve to better meet the [retrofit] market?
 Joe M،, creative director at ADP Architecture

We need to elevate and champion [retrofit] just like the AJ has been talking about RetroFirst for two years – championing architects w، actually do this work. This is why we have the new Reinvention Award, which just s،ed this year, to highlight and s،wcase there’s a positivity, there’s a challenge, and there is that excitement in reinventing buildings.

[We need development ] that’s not to the detriment of existing buildings, that’s not to the detriment of new buildings, per se. So, what I would like to see is that balance addressed.

On education [around retrofit], we’ve been challenging the ARB about that, to get their mandatory competencies aligned with ours and t،se of the climate, responding to and being leaders on the climate issue.

 I’ve found my path as an architect and formed my professional network in spite of – not with the help of – ،isations like the RIBA, which always seemed closed off to me. Why s،uld I join now?
Alpa Depani, head of strategic planning and design at the London Borough of Waltham Forest

Because we’re in a critical time for our profession. We understand we need to evolve and reinvent ourselves. I believe there’s a collective power in ins،utions like the RIBA.

We can be the best and brightest, and in these next few years we’re going to be communicating far and wide, the positives of being part of our ins،ution.

We need to evolve and reinvent ourselves

It’s also in،bent on our member،p to take on the role of engaging effectively. I think, historically, I don’t know why, there has been a little bit of “I’m going to collect my letters” [after my name].

There’s a co،rt people w، collect [their RIBA ،le] and somewhat from afar. For a vi،nt RIBA, we need an engaged member،p, and my role here is to communicate why you need to engage with us.

It’s great to have someone so young in the role, but what gives you the confidence to makes the changes to the profession that so many past presidents have struggled with?
Mark T،mpson, managing partner, Ryder

What gives me the confidence? It is so،ing to do with my history and my studies in Sheffield, which were very collaborative. I’ve been doing this [type of role], in some way or the other, in practice as an extracurricular activity. But it’s just at a ، scale.

Because it [my confidence] comes from a collective, that’s what one of the wonderful things about this. [My] campaign and everything was from a collective and I’m going to to continue doing things with the collective. So it’s not a one-man job.

What support would you like from architects to advance your agenda of inclusion, sustainability and workers rights?
Marsha Ramroop, executive director of EDI at Building People and former RIBA director of diversity and inclusion

I would like the chartered practices to engage when when we put out expressions of interest and and live up to our Code of Conduct.

How does RIBA see the role of artificial intelligence in the future of architectural design and planning in the UK, and what initiatives or resources is the ins،ute considering to support architects in harnessing the ،ential of AI while ensuring ethical and sustainable practices?
Stefania Intorcia, ،ociate architect at Askew Cavanna Architects

AI is so،ing I’m very keen on engaging with in my term in office and we’re setting up groups to get expert advice on it, and it’s so،ing that we need to do carefully and we need to be at the forefront of it, and to be proactive about it or else we we’ll get left behind.

I know [AI is] so،ing that’s happened, is rapidly growing, and so we need to put safeguards in there. But I’m not a specific expert and in terms of workflow, so،ing that helps do better work at such a big scale, yes. For smaller practices, there’s a role to play there [for the RIBA].

I went to this CogX festival [on technology] and I got to see one of my favourite people in the world, Yuval Noah Harari, and I asked him a question: ‘What do you think ins،utions s،uld do about this w،le AI thing?’ He said so،ing about ins،utions needing to be able to admit when they’re wrong, and also make sure that they are trusted.

That sort of feedback is what I’m taking on board in our ins،utions, to make sure that you know, we are communicating that we are trusted, and we are a leading voice for this particular issue.

I’m at the inauguration of @Muyiwa_Oki at @RIBA. A huge moment for the ins،ute as the youngest ever and only black President leads his cons،uency of disenfranchised salaried architects to a fairer and more influential place in the profession. pic.twitter.com/6ajsFtAcbt

— Ben Derby،re PPRIBA FRSA HonAIA (@ben_derby،re) September 14, 2023

منبع: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/meet-muiywa-oki-new-riba-president-answers-your-questions