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Architect Elsie Owusu could be RIBA’s first black president

ARCHITECT: Elsie Owusu (Image: RIBA)

ARCHITECT ELSIE Owusu has joined the race to become the next president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Owusu made the announcement last week, ahead of the opening of nominations for the role which took place yesterday.

Owusu said: “‘RIBA Council now has many more young architects from diverse family backgrounds, thanks to the successful RIBA+25 campaign, supported by the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (SLCT) and Lady Doreen Lawrence, in 2017.

“Twenty-five years after Stephen’s tragic murder, we still need to improve on equality, diversity and inclusion in the profession. At the same time, we need urgent action to increase architect’s pay – especially with huge debts for student loans.”

The first chair of the Society of Black Architects, Owusu has been vocal about issues around racism and sexism within RIBA. In 2015, after standing for selection as Riba’s vice-president and missing out on the position, she claimed the decision was “tantamount to institutionalised racism”.

She has since revealed that she was sent threats after she accused the professional body of racism.

The 65-year-old said that she received a letter that told her to “think very carefully about what you say and do” back when she stood for the position of vice-president.

She also said the letter mentioned a story about a “donkey that died for failing to obey its master”.

If elected, Owusu will be the first black president of RIBA in its 184-year-old history.

Owusu said: “I want to encourage BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] architects to start their own businesses as the mainstream practices just aren’t employing them.

“I’ll be working with Sadiq Khan [the mayor of London] to secure work for them. But architects in general are not valued enough by society. With Brexit, there’s a huge opportunity to look at the Commonwealth and its huge market of 1.2 billion people in dynamic economies; Riba should be leading the way and securing jobs.”

The complete list of candidates for the presidency role will be announced on June 12.

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