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Diversity Imperative: RIBA's Youngest and First Black President Calls for Inclusivity in Architecture

Diversity Imperative: RIBA's Youngest and First Black President Calls for Inclusivity in Architecture

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has historically been a beacon for architecture in the UK. However, its newest president believes there's still significant progress to be made, especially when it comes to representation and diversity.

Muyiwa Oki, the first black and youngest president of RIBA, began his presidency with a strong call to action. Not only does Oki represent a break from the norm at the ripe age of 32, but he also embodies the future of an industry that urgently needs to adapt and evolve.

“Architecture is undeniably a force for good,” Oki began, pointing out the sector's potential to be a positive change agent for society. For the profession to maximize its potential and truly serve its diverse clientele, a radical shift towards inclusivity and diversity is imperative.

The figures paint a clear picture: despite positive trends among newly registered architects, there remains a significant ethnicity pay gap and an alarming under-representation of black professionals, especially at senior tiers. For Oki, this is unacceptable. “We must tear down the barriers wherever they exist,” he insists.

But his vision for the future of architecture extends beyond diversity. Oki is acutely aware of the world's monumental challenges, from the escalating cost of living and expanding social inequality to the looming climate crisis. He emphasizes the role of architects as the “stewards of our planet's future”, holding them accountable as change agents.

The built environment, responsible for approximately 37% of global carbon emissions, is a crucial battleground in the fight against climate change. Oki pledges his commitment to championing sustainable design principles, energy-efficient solutions, and sustainable materials usage. He believes RIBA should be at the forefront of advocating for climate action, both within the UK and globally.

An essential part of this vision is the retrofitting of existing structures. With predictions suggesting that by 2050, 80% of buildings currently in use will still stand, the importance of enhancing their energy efficiency can't be understated. Under Oki's guidance, RIBA aims to maintain pressure on the development of a national retrofit strategy – a topic he feels has been sidelined in policy-making.

To meet the challenges of the future, the architectural profession must be equipped with diverse expertise. Oki's message to the youth is clear: “A career in architecture can offer the opportunity to make a meaningful difference.” And it's crucial that this career path is accessible and appealing to all, irrespective of their background.

As Muyiwa Oki steps into the large shoes of predecessor Simon Allford, the direction he sets for RIBA promises a more inclusive, progressive, and sustainable future. It's a direction that not only architects but all of us should keenly observe and support.