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Institute reviews policy after controversial event booked by Zaha Hadid Architects associate

The RIBA is reviewing its policy on hiring out 66 Portland Place following a storm of criticism over its hosting of a group claiming that New York's Twin Towers were brought down through a controlled explosion.

Leading architects on both sides of the Atlantic hit out at the institute this week after American architect Richard Gage, part of the group Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, delivered a lecture at RIBA HQ on Monday night.

The venue was booked by fellow American and RIBA member Craig Phillip Kiner, an associate at Zaha Hadid Architects.

Gage claims that the fires caused by the impact of the two jets flown into the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, could not have been sufficient to make the steel structure of the towers collapse, and he questions the collapse of World Trade Centre 7, a nearby 47-storey building which was not hit by an aircraft.

But critics claim his scholarly approach is nothing more than a cover for a "bonkers" conspiracy theory which ultimately points the finger at the US government and allies including the state of Israel.

Director of the American Institute of Architects' New York chapter Rick Bell, who witnessed 9/11, expressed surprise at the event and said "no amount of money" would persuade him to allow the group to talk at his headquarters.

"The professional community discredits this guy," he said. "We rent to just about anybody but if this guy came to me I'd say we don't want your money, we don't want you in our building.
"You have to draw the line somewhere... Not for any amount of money would we have that talk in our space. It gives it a credibility that it doesn't deserve."
KPF chairman Gene Kohn, who was the AIA's spokesman in the aftermath of the attacks, called Gage's theories "ridiculous".

"There were no explosives planted," he said. "The buildings were definitely brought down by the planes. This was not your typical fire. Basically they're accusing the government of doing something so dastardly, to destroy a part of New York - it doesn't make a lot of sense."

In London, figures including former RIBA president Jack Pringle and Stephan Reinke, founding president of the AIA's UK chapter, criticised the event.

David Aaronovitch, Times columnist and author of Voodoo Histories: the Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, was at the event. He said: "Zionists, Israelis and the Saudis were blamed for doing this, that or the other" by audience members.

He said around 230 people including 25-30 self-identified architects and engineers attended.

"It was every bit as bonkers as you'd expect it to be," he told BD. "What they mean is that George Bush and the Zionists brought down the towers."
"The RIBA let itself out to a conspiracy theory organisation whose theories are utterly insane."

"The choice of the RIBA was not accidental... the RIBA should have made it clear that the vast majority of architects think these theories have no merit."
But Gage said it was unfair of critics to attack his organisation without looking at its evidence, which he claims is supported by 1,500 people in both disciplines.

"Architects and engineers have willfully ignored the message that we've been speaking about for five years," he said. "When is the RIBA going to take this seriously?"
"It is extremely important that we understand exactly what happened on 9/11... the implications of the demolition of the Twin Towers are very disturbing - I'm not denying that - but to refuse to look at the evidence because it has dark implications is ignorance."
Kiner said his membership of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth was a "personal matter" and had nothing to do with Zaha Hadid Architects.

In a statement, the RIBA said: "The RIBA never endorses, sponsors or publicises private events held in its buildings, therefore any perception that this event was associated with the RIBA is regrettable. We will be reviewing our policy on private hire of our building in the light of this event and reserve the right to review room bookings on a case by case basis."

Who are architects & engineers for 9/11 truth?

According to the five-year-old group's website, more than 1,500 architects and engineers have signed its petition calling for the US Congress to launch an independent investigation into what caused the buildings to collapse.
"We believe that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that three World Trade Centre buildings No 1 (North Tower), No 2 (South Tower) and No 7 (the 47-storey high-rise across Vesey St) were destroyed not by jet impact and fires but by controlled demolition with explosives."
It says the Twin Towers' collapse "exhibited all of the characteristics of destruction by explosion" which include "improbable symmetry of debris distribution", "extremely rapid onset of destruction" and "evidence of explosives found in dust samples".

Spokesman Richard Gage, a San Francisco Bay Area architect, launched "his own unyielding quest for the truth about 9/11" after hearing a radio show in 2006.