Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland man elected architecture body president amid race row

By Staff Reporter

A Northern Ireland man has been elected president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) amid a row over alleged "institutional racism" at the prestigious body.

Alan Jones (53), who is a lecturer in architecture at Queen's University and also has a private practice, was elected president of the 43,0000-strong professional body this week.

He studied architecture at Queen's University and graduated with the first distinction in seven years.

This was followed by 10 years in practice in London.

His election comes amid accusations that the RIBA tried to silence criticism from a black architect who also stood for election as president.

The Guardian newspaper reported yesterday that Elsie Owusu, the first chair of the Society of Black Architects, had accused the RIBA of "institutional discrimination and racism".

She also questioned the £180,000 salary of the RIBA chief executive.

The RIBA's honorary secretary, Kerr Robertson, rejected the claims and told her she had breached guidelines for the presidential election and that her behaviour was "a flagrant breach of confidentiality".

The London Times also reported that Ms Owusu, who now intends to stand for the presidency once again in 2020, had accused the RIBA of mislaying £1.1m of members' funds during a property deal in 2013. The RIBA denied there were any improper transactions and said accusations of racism had been investigated.

Ms Owusu had hoped to become the RIBA's first black president.

Mr Jones won the election by 2,704 votes to Ms Owusu's 1,673 and will officially become president next September. Ms Owusu was instead elected to the RIBA council.

Speaking after the election, Mr Jones said: "The RIBA is a fantastic organisation with great resources, particularly its staff who I'm keen to support more than ever.

"As individuals and as an institution, we need to come together to make the most of our assets and make the case for our profession."

Mr Jones, who was educated at Coleraine Inst and Ballymena Academy, will be the 77th president since the role was established in 1835.

As the chair of the RIBA council, the Randalstown-based architect will be responsible for the development and finances of the institute.

In May 2012, he became the president of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects for 2012-14.

Seven of his projects have received RIBA awards and two were shortlisted for the Stirling Prize, which is awarded to the best new building in the UK.

Belfast Telegraph

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