Riba investigates architect’s allegations of institutional racism

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Riba investigates architect's allegations of institutional racism
Riba investigates architect's allegations of institutional racism
Elsie Owusu co-led the 2009 refurbishment of the UK supreme court building

Elsie Owusu claims racist and sexist discrimination runs through architecture ‘like a stick of rock’ after missing out on vice-president post

The Royal Institute of British Architects has launched an investigation into allegations of institutional racism made by a leading architect and member of its national council.

Racist and sexist discrimination runs through architecture “like a stick of rock”, and it starts at the top with Riba, Elsie Owusu has claimed.

The Ghanaian-born architect, who co-led the 2009 refurbishment of the UK supreme court building, made the allegations after she stood for selection as Riba’s vice-president of practice and profession. She alleged that the election was rigged in favour of a rival candidate, and in a complaint to Riba’s president, Jane Duncan, she claimed it was “tantamount to institutionalised racism in my view”.

Riba said it had appointed a QC and expert in the field to conduct an independent investigation into the claims.

Owusu, 62, who was elected to the institute’s 60-strong governing council three months ago, said she was shocked by “sexist” banter at Riba’s September council meeting, which she said was akin to a “boys’ club”. She alleged there were jokes and references to the president being an “Essex girl”, and male members giggling: “We love Essex girls.”

She claimed that when she stood for the vice-presidency she was told that the president would be backing another candidate, whom she said was not an elected council member, and the decision was made behind closed doors. The successful candidate is not accused of any wrongdoing. […]

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