Championing workers' rights, Muyiwa Oki is RIBA’s first black President-Elect

London-based architect Muyiwa Oki emerged victorious in the RIBA's 2023-25 presidential election, becoming the youngest elected and first black president of the British institution.

by STIRworldPublished on : Aug 03, 2022

Heralding representation for the architectural profession through a grassroots movement and worker welfare at the centre of that movement, London-based architect Muyiwa Oki has been successfully elected as the next president of the Royal Institute of British Architects for its 2023-25 term. Architectural manager at Mace Group, Oki also takes the mantle as the first black as well as the youngest president of the 188-year-old council. The British architect will be taking over the presidential tenure for the next two years after the current president Simon Allford on September 1, 2023, and is set to be the RIBA President-Elect starting September 1 this year.

Oki on how the RIBA needs change that he strives to bring as the new president Image: Courtesy of muyiwa.oki on Instagram

Over an illustrious architectural career, Oki has worked on many large-scale infrastructure projects including the HS2 Euston and North London Heat and Power project with Grimshaw Architects, along with founding the firm's Multi-Ethnic Group and Allies (MEGA) program which strived to drive global change for all its colleagues. He stood for the presidential election of RIBA's 2023 tenure alongside Jo Bacon and Sumita Singha, securing his historical win to emerge as an inspiration and mentor for aspiring architects with both his works and words.

Speaking on the landmark win, Muyiwa Oki stated, "I am grateful to the grassroots movement whose support and passion offered a platform to represent architectural workers,” commending the movement that fuelled the win. "We can be proud of an election where people of colour, at different stages of their careers, of all identities, can be heard and seen bidding to represent the profession. I hope this is the start of many great things to come for those who feel disenfranchised and under-represented," said Oki, looking to a hopeful, more inclusive future for the architectural community in the UK.

Muyiwa Oki talks on his role as the president, encouraging representation for all Image: Courtesy of muyiwa.oki on Instagram

Simon Allford, the current RIBA president for the 2021-23 term, congratulated Oki and his campaign to speak up for future architects. Allford added, “This is an exciting time for RIBA as we shape a leaner, more agile organisation to support our global membership and engage all those with an interest in architecture,” closing with how he was looking forward to working closely with Oki as President-Elect before officially transferring the reins to him in September 2023. Oki was elected in the second round of the RIBA presidential elections, with roughly 49 per cent of the total votes, making this a landslide victory. Striving to be a leader for the organisation who is accessible to all, energetic, and with a distinct vision for the future, Oki and his campaign drew special attention owing to the three policies he highlighted as a candidate during the elections.

The three policies highlighted in Muyiwa Oki’s much talked about presidential campaign Image: Courtesy of muyiwa.oki on Instagram

His first policy talked about making RIBA more equitable by ensuring overtime payment for all, while the second focused on making the globally renowned British organisation more democratic. In the end, he wished to introduce Climate Emergency as an urgent topic for the profession through various awards and accreditations.

Along with its new president, RIBA also announced the results for its recently-held Council Election. Mina Hasman and Alfred Munkenbeck for the National Council, Jon Greenfield, and Roger Shrimplin, both returning for a second term for the Regional-East council, and Maryam Al-Irhayim and Zafir Ameen as Student members were announced to be constituting the new RIBA Council that will commence on September 1, 2022.

  • Jo Bacon, one of the candidates for the presidential post along with Muyiwa Oki | RIBA Elections| Jo Bacon | STIRworld
    Jo Bacon, one of the candidates for the presidential post along with Muyiwa Oki Image: Courtesy of RIBA
  • Sumita Singha, another candidate for the RIBA elections | RIBA Elections| Sumita Singha | STIRworld
    Sumita Singha, another candidate for the RIBA elections Image: Courtesy of RIBA

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Council consists of candidates elected by the membership and a President who acts as a representative for the whole body. Meeting around four times a year, the council gathers insight and new updates on the profession to provide strategic advice and guidance. With its recently chosen president in Muyiwa Oki and a new council, RIBA beckons to fix a number of problems plaguing the profession in the country as the apex organisation and body of architects in the field, perhaps serving an opportunity to present the success of a “workers first” approach for architectural practices and offices the world over, truly heralding an overdue wave of change. 

(Text by Rashi Karkoon, intern at STIRworld)

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