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Public enterprise

Showcasing great work by architects is engaging the public in our world

It was with the sad loss of Sir Richard MacCormac this summer that I was reminded of his agenda while president to make the RIBA more outward-facing and promote architecture to a wider public. 

It is important that the RIBA takes the role of informing and educating the public about architecture seriously. We have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years through exhibitions, talks, roadshows, BBC programmes and news features. It is equally important that as part of this we showcase the work of architects nationwide and globally. There is plenty more to come too, with a new architecture centre in Liverpool and more and more online materials to develop as the new develops.

The other components of that are coming together at 66 Portland Place and it is a pleasure to see the building coming alive with visitors once again following the summer lull. The new Practice Space has opened, dedicated to showcasing innovative and interesting work from practices. We have an inspiring programme initially showcasing work from Tonkin Liu, recipient of the RIBA research award, which has been developing a pioneering tailored surface structural technique with engineer Arup. This unique shell lace structure integrates the structural principles of seashells and the ancient art of tailoring with today’s powerful digital tools, resulting in stunning geometric forms that gain strength and lock in stiffness through curvature and corrugation.

The new Practice Space has opened, to showcase innovative and interesting work from practices

Tall Storeys – Evolution in Hong Kong Architecture 1965 to 2014 presents the story of Hong Kong through its architecture and charts the development of Hong Kong’s distinctive built environment. We will also showcase student work chosen through the President’s Medals, and host the government’s think tank Foresight to tell the story of city development. It is important that we consistently afford the opportunity for practices to exhibit work both in physical displays and online content, and we will extend the offer in many more ways in the future – in particular, around the country.

And of course our programme for the ­autumn season opened in September with Ordinary Beauty: The Photography of Edwin Smith displaying over 100 extraordinary black and white photographs from a collection of over 60,000 negatives and 20,000 prints given by Olive Cook, Smith’s widow and collaborator, to the RIBA Library. From urban scenes documenting British social history to evocative landscape images and atmospheric interiors, the photos displayed reveal the genius and breadth of his work.

Earlier this year I opened ‘Mackintosh Architecture’ at the Hunterian in Glasgow, the first exhibition dedicated solely to the architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Curated by Professor Pamela Robertson, it offers a remarkable insight into the man and the context within which he worked. The exhibition transfers to the Architecture Gallery in February 2015 in collaboration with the Hunterian. This will be followed by a Palladio season, and the opening exhibition in Liverpool. I hope these shows will draw in even greater numbers to learn more about these well-known architects and their influences, and encourage greater participation in debates and talks generated by their inspirational work.

All of these events give us the opportunity to offer workshops for school-age children and university students. We have had popular photography, building and exploring workshops. It is so important we excite and educate children about architecture so they can participate in shaping it in the future. 




I am launching the RIBA’s first ever Design Leadership Summit on 21 October at Arne Jacobsen’s iconic St Catherine’s College Oxford. Speakers from across the construction industry and beyond will challenge the top architects of the future to lead design, risk, collaboration and innovation - based on recommendations for the profession identified by clients through the RIBA’s engagement programme. You can find out more or book at