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From Neave Brown to Grimshaw: we have a lot to celebrate

Ben Derbyshire

International fellowships, awards and the Royal Gold Medal all help our purpose of advancing architecture

One of the most challenging and enjoyable duties for the RIBA president is to chair the committee that sifts your nominations (please do keep them coming – as diverse a mix as you can!) to select a recommendation to put to Her Majesty the Queen for the RIBA Gold Medal for services to architecture. The oeuvre of this year’s recipient, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, is of course well known for its refinement of an architecture that articulates structure, envelope, services and space in an innovative, expressive and colourful way. 

He has also shown how to create an international practice capable of delivering a design ethos on four continents, generously sharing the benefits of experience to a worldwide team and many talented alumni. And as President of the Royal Academy, Grimshaw has made an immense contribution to the cultural life of the nation. This will be a joyful celebration indeed – to be shared digitally so you can tune in wherever you are, and in a travelling exhibition where the breadth of Grimshaw’s influence will be made abundantly clear. 

To coincide with the Royal Gold Medal celebrations we will also be welcoming our latest recipients of the RIBA honorary ­fellowship – women and men from around the world who have made an outstanding contribution to our purpose of advancing architecture.  And we will be reviving Jane Duncan’s idea of inviting the presidents of sister institutes of architecture to travel to London, join the celebrations and receive a medal of their own. This reinforces the global network for architecture, celebrating it on a truly global scale.


It is an honour to launch a new award inspired by the 2018 Gold Medallist Neave Brown

You may remember that in June last year the RIBA led the five institutes of these islands (including the Republic) in committing to five principles for the future of the profession. When that group meets next in Dublin we will be comparing notes on our respective achievements against those principles – public interest, accountability, diversity, research and sustainability – with a view to supporting one another to go further, faster.  Meanwhile, travelling in North America, the Gulf and Far East, I have witnessed that the same existential challenges are felt by the profession the world over.  So far 12 international presidents have accepted the invitation to extend this conversation onto a global footing. I am delighted to be hosting a session during Royal Gold Medal week this month, designed to create a truly international dialogue to enable the profession to meet the shared challenge.

As we celebrate the newest recipient of the Royal Gold Medal, it is an honour to announce a new award inspired by the 2018 recipient, the late Neave Brown. Neave’s nominators included the occupants of his masterwork of social housing, Alexandra Road in Camden. In a year when public investment in social housing had fallen to a post-war low and the country was still reeling from the tragedy of the Grenfell fire, his Gold Medal resonated in an extraordinarily meaningful way. The new Neave Brown Award for Housing will celebrate schemes of the highest architectural quality that also make a particularly significant contribution to accommodating housing need in mixed neighbourhoods. 

So while the ceremonials attached to celebrating achievement or recognising status are certainly enjoyable parties, rest assured we are taking the opportunity for these occasions to add value to our purpose of advancing architecture.  We will continue to make the most of lessons to be shared from our medallists, and build networks for change with presidents of our sister institutes overseas. 


The 2019 RIBA Awards are open for entries until Thursday 21 February. More information on the entry process can be found here.

Inspiring community architecture show

In RIBA’s exhibition Making It Happen: New Community Architecture (until 29 April) four immersive installations fill the Architecture Gallery, giving visitors an experiential opportunity to find out more about some of the UK’s new and inspiring projects where architects have worked directly with community groups to improve local buildings and places. The exhibition focuses specifically on Hastings Pier, Coniston Mechanics Institute, Old Manor Park Library and Loch Lomond National Park, while exploring wider themes.