The Royal Institute of British Architecture's vote to suspend the Israeli architects’ union has cost it £100,000 in lost bookings and donations, it has emerged.
President Stephen Hodder told the institute’s latest Council meeting that the financial fallout from Angela Brady’s motion ran to six figures.
BD has been told the lost income is a result of withdrawn donations and cancelled bookings for events such as wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs at the RIBA’s headquarters on Portland Place.
The institute approved a motion in March calling on the International Architects Union (UIA) to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects while building continues in the occupied territories. The UIA has refused to put the motion on the agenda of its annual congress in August.
Opponents have characterised the vote as a boycott and said the RIBA should logically take action against oppressive regimes like China and Saudi Arabia.
But supporters argue the motion was attempting to call an architectural institute to account for the “criminality” of some of its members and was therefore not comparable to other instances of injustice.
The issue continues to divide the RIBA’s membership and supporters with former British Land boss John Ritblat and his wife Jill urging the RIBA to “stay out of politics”.
But retiring Council member George Oldham said the institute’s top brass must stand by the vote. “It’s reprehensible if they consider this [lost income] more important than the principle,” he told BD.
He said it was ironic if the Jewish community was now boycotting the RIBA over what some of its members “wrongly” perceived as a boycott of Israeli architects.
The RIBA declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Oldham has also complained to Hodder about the decision to hold most of last week’s Council meeting – including the discussion on Israel – in private, saying this amounted to manipulation.
“It’s extraordinary,” he said. “It’s bad enough at Arb but that the RIBA, a membership organisation, should do that is outrageous.”
In an open letter to Hodder he asked for a “valid reason” for the exclusion of the press and added: “Unless such a reason exists, this is a cause for concern as transparency is essential if our members are to retain confidence in Council. Otherwise it will be governance by press release and, particularly given the concern expressed about the content of recent press releases in relation to the UIA motion, this is not acceptable.”
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Social rights activist and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has used his closing message at the International World Union of Architects Congress to call for the suspension of the Israeli architects association.
In a message delivered at the 25th meeting of the International Union of Architects (UIA) today in South Africa, Tutu said he believed a suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) would be an "appropriate" message of support for justice in both Israel and Palestine.
"As you have gathered in Durban this week, the world news has been dominated by the carnage in Gaza," said Tutu. "I have condemned those Palestinians responsible for firing rockets at Israel, for violence is not the solution to human crises. The disproportionality of Israel's response, however, has been utterly horrendous."
"I believe it would be appropriate for the UIA to send a clear message of support for justice in Palestine and Israel by suspending the Israeli Architect's Association from the world body," said Tutu.
Tutu said that architects, as part of "civil society", had to step into a void created by politicians and diplomats, in order to persuade Israel to find a peaceful solution that is acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.
He also called on Israeli architects to "actively disassociate" themselves from the design and construction of "infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation wall, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land."
Tutu, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work in Africa during apartheid, was named patron of the 25th triennial meeting of the international architecture body earlier this year.
His comments come in the wake of a row triggered by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) over whether to consider the suspension of its Israeli equivalent from architecture's international governing body.