The members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have elected Muyiwa Oki, a 31-year-old manager at the firm Mace, to be the organization’s next president, after a highly contested race. Oki becomes president-elect September 1, and will take over the two-year leadership position from current president Simon Allford in September 2023. “This is an exciting time for RIBA as we shape a leaner, more agile organization to support our global membership and engage all those with an interest in architecture,” said Allford in a statement.
In June, RECORD covered a series of controversies at RIBA that made this year’s elections a hot-button issue for British architects. For many in the industry, the vote became a platform to call for significant changes in how RIBA tackles critical professional issues including addressing the climate crisis, worker rights, and low pay.
Oki was supported by several grassroots organizations pushing for new voices within RIBA’s grand London headquarters and its largely older, white membership. An unsigned response to RECORD’s request for comment from Future Architects Front, one such organization, called the result a win for activists. “The struggle for both social and climate justice will now occur within RIBA rather than just against it,” it states.
Oki recognizes those who led that grassroots support. “I will be doing everything I can to incorporate their energy and voice to ensure RIBA acts on the industry issues they are lobbying for,” he told RECORD, citing excessive work hours and a lack of overtime pay.
Most of RIBA’s 48,558 members remain disengaged, with a voting turnout of only 6,020 members or 12.4 percent of the body. Yet Oki says he hopes to become “the voice of the entire membership—students, early and mid-career architects, the underrepresented, and the exploited.”
The coming year before he assumes the presidency will allow him to work with Allford and other RIBA colleagues in beginning to initiate his plans. “I am aware that we cannot transform our profession overnight—the changes I am seeking will take longer than one term or one presidency,” Oki notes, emphasizing collaboration as critical to the organization’s future success. Asked if under his presidency RIBA would look to working more closely with the American Institute of Architects on shared issues, he replies that RIBA “must take bolder action to tackle issues like climate change and educational reform—by developing effective partnerships with groups and organizations that share similar goals.”