History, Design, and Legacy: Architectural Prizes and Awards

An Academic Investigation of the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) Royal Gold Medal

Dr Liz Walder

In 1846, in consultation with Queen Victoria, Thomas Phillip Robinson and Earl de Grey, first President of the Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London, established a gold medal that would be awarded for outstanding contribution in the field of architecture. This work is solely focused upon the history, design, and legacy of RIBAÕs Royal Gold Medal. It considers both the historical context and the future, along with winners, nominations, formal procedure and modern press campaigns, to place this British architectural medal alongside others awarded internationally. Sitting in a group of 25 other Royal Prize Medals, awarded by the monarch of the day, the RIBA Medal is unique in that it is the only one awarded by a professional body. This work brings together press statements announcing the winner(s); recipient speeches; obituary notices, letters of correspondence; minute books from RIBA Council and jury meetings; contemporary published and unpublished material;, press releases; face-to-face conversations with winners and supporters; and other documents in RIBAÕs archive. Living medallists were interviewed to reveal their views about the medal and how they perceived its value. Also contained is statistical analysis concentrating on aspects common to all winners, yet had never been considered as part of the criteria for winning the medal; gender, nationality, family background, age, health, profession, and posthumous winners. The political background of winners is also considered; looking at such agendas as refusals, partnerships, war, and royal presentations. The conclusion of this work will outline what has been achieved through collation of this data, and will offer a blueprint for a future medallists drawing on statistical analysis. It will also suggest qualities and achievements a future medallist needs to possess in order to succeed. History, Design, and Legacy was successfully submitted as a Doctoral thesis to the School of Architecture, University of Liverpool by Liz Walder MA FRSA MCIPR in September 2012.


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