Architect institute officials seek to end Israel boycott

EXCLUSIVE

British architects will attempt to overturn an anti-Israel motion within the next month.

Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) president Stephen Hodder, and Peter Oborn, vice-president of its international division, are expected to support a new proposal at a meeting in mid-June.

The officials are understood to be preparing to encourage members to back the proposal, which is aimed at quashing a boycott motion originally adopted by the institute in March.

It called for the suspension of Israeli counterparts from their international union, causing controversy among fellow professionals worldwide.

Yitzhak Lipovetsky-Lir, former president of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA), said he had received assurances during a meeting with the Riba leaders in London last week.

“Stephen Hodder and Peter Oborn were not in favour of the anti-Israel motion,” he said. “They were surprised by the way the vote had gone.

“They said they will try to overturn it. They know that the International Union of Architects (IUA) will not support the Riba motion at the general assembly in Durban later in the year.”

Mr Lipovetsky-Lir said Mr Hodder had found “inaccuracies” in a presentation put before Riba’s council in March by former president Angela Brady.

“It was a good meeting. They looked like they were really sorry about what happened,” said the Israeli architect.

“I'm sure it's not a done deal that it will be overturned. They said they were not sure about the results but they wanted to try as hard as they can. If they need our help we will do everything we can too.”

Riba is also expected to undertake more collaborative work with the IAUA and it is thought exhibitions of Israeli architects’ designs could be displayed at the institute’s offices.

Mr Lipovetsky-Lir said: “I told them about our good relations with Palestinian architects. They were happy to hear that. They said they would look at sending a small delegation to Israel to be better acquainted with the situation.”

Riba declined to comment on Mr Lipovetsky-Lir’s claims.

Moshe Safdie, a leading Israeli architect, will speak at Riba next month ahead of the planned vote. Mr Safdie, who designed Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, will take part in a BBC World Service programme at the institute’s central London headquarters.

United States-based Mr Safdie told the JC he was aware of Riba’s stance but would still take part in the event.

“The focus of the programme is my work around the globe, but I anticipate that in the open public session the resolution concerning Israel will come up, and I will address it,” he said.

London’s JW3 Jewish community centre was understood to be considering refusing to allow a Riba plaque to be erected there, after architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands won a Riba award for its design of the centre.

Last updated: 3:45pm, May 22 2014