Muyiwa Oki elected as First Black President of the Royal Institute of British Architects

By Niall Patrick Walsh By Niall Patrick Walsh

Muyiwa Oki has been elected as the next RIBA President. Oki, who was supported by a grassroots movement seeking an early-career architect for the role, overcame opposition from Ecologic Studio’s Sumita Singha and Allies and Morrison’s Jo Bacon, to become RIBA’s youngest and first Black president.

Of the 6,020 first preference votes by RIBA members, Oki received 2,456, representing 40%. Bacon received 2,317 (38%), while Singha received 1,247 (20%). When Singha’s votes were excluded and redistributed in the second count, Oki finished with 2,967 (49%) to Bacon’s 2,733 (45%), deeming him elected.

Turnout for the election was 12.4% despite calls by the current RIBA President for greater participation. By comparison, the previous presidential election attracted a turnout of 13.2%, which UK outlet Building Design noted was the lowest turnout for more than a quarter of a century.
Related on Archinect: RIBA sparks outcry from activists by tightening election voting rules for new members

Oki will take up the office as President-Elect from September 1, 2022 for one year before serving as RIBA President for a two-year term at the beginning of September 2023, succeeding current RIBA President Simon Allford.

Oki was nominated as a candidate by a grassroots collective including the Future Architects Front, who sought to elect a “drama-free RIBA president who enacts positive, ethical and progressive change” and who would address pressing issues including climate change and labor conditions.

A qualified architect at global construction company Mace, Oki’s status as an early-career architect is a new look for the RIBA President role, often dominated by senior or late-stage architects and academics.
Archinect Q+A: Where the RIBA presidential candidates stand on key issues

In a Q+A with the candidates last month, Oki set out his ambitions to tackle key issues in the profession. On mental health in architecture schools, he spoke out against the culture of all-nighters, saying RIBA can partner with mental health institutions to provide support to members. To address wider concerns on the professional culture in architecture, Oki has also pledged to mandate overtime pay for RIBA chartered practices and create a toolkit to facilitate practices to transition into employee ownership.

On unionization, Oki noted that an architectural union movement “may be inevitable” and said that unionizing workers “should have the ability to stand together to lift industry standards.” Other ambitions of his are to support innovative start-up businesses, create the role of Director of Climate at RIBA to lead sustainability initiatives, and strengthen RIBA initiatives to grow diversity in the profession.

Oki’s victory comes despite prior concerns among his supporters that his campaign would be impacted by a change in RIBA election rules introducing a cut-off date for eligibility, which came into effect two weeks before he was chosen as a candidate. (source: archinect)

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