RIBA Stirling Prize 2011
My first six weeks as PRIBA have been both fascinating and exhausting! On my first day I was launched into the RIBA Stirling Prize judging visits with a brilliant and talented group. We had lengthy discussions with the architect, client and users of each building. Judging by photographs does not compare to visiting the buildings – there is no substitute for being in the spaces and making your own individual and group assessments.
I have judged many buildings for various awards including the Civic Trust Awards of which I was vice chair for six years. The experience of judging these awards comes close to the Stirling experience – a visit combined with technical insight and an explanation from concept to reality. The Stirling Prize is one of our most prestigious and sought after awards and deserves total scrutiny. No need to defend our decision.
It was an honour that Zaha spoke about her amazing projects at the Stephen Lawrence Memorial Annual Lecture at the RIBA three days later.
Attending the party conferences was a new venture for me. I attended the Liberal and Conservative annual conferences, but missed the Labour conference as I was at the Tokyo UIA conference. We hosted our own RIBA fringe debates as part of our HomeWise campaign, which were popular and generated energetic debate. We invited speakers including Grant Shapps, whose speech was identical to mine! I found it incredibly useful to have ‘one to one’ meetings with various ministers to discuss our policy and strategy, as well as bumping into other ministers at informal meetings. There is a great will to work together.
UIA World Congress
My first trip to Tokyo was for the UIA 24th world congress of architecture which comprised an international network of 5,000 architects with ‘Design 2050’ as the main theme – all promoting our sustainable future. The opening ceremony was hosted by the Emperor and Empress of Japan who spoke of their gratitude towards visitors to Tokyo following the earthquake and tsunami. Thus the sub theme to the congress was ‘Beyond disaster, through solidarity, towards sustainability’.
There was great camaraderie and understanding with many moving speeches. Some of the esteemed keynotes such as Fumihiko Maki, admired by students and practitioners alike, were so humble and modest in person. Fumihiko Maki gave a thought provoking talk about traditional and contemporary Japanese architects and architecture and the thought processes between the ‘Kana’ and the ‘Kanji’, the emotional and rational thoughts in design.
Alvaro Siza was presented with the UIA Gold Medal, he was delighted to have been nominated by the RIBA. His inspiring keynote described current plans for the Atrio de la Alhambra – an international competition for new gateway buildings in Grenada.
The Tokyo experience opened hearts and minds – the international stage is thriving and work seems abundant overseas. The quality of the main exhibitions was stimulating and there were about 75 different sessions to attend, from an examination of the Temple template’s authenticity to presentations on Japanese contemporary architecture. Everything was extremely polite, even the street graffiti.
It was a timely conference which sent out a message about Japan’s reconstruction efforts, providing an opportunity for architects to discuss what we can do to help overcome the various disasters and difficulties faced around the world.
Board and Council meetings
In between all this travelling I have had about 20 speaking engagements and my new procurement taskforce are working cross professionally in a really dynamic way, headed by Walter Menteth. The first board and council meetings have taken place and there is a great will and energy to help our profession.
International Economic Forum
I have just returned from the Dublin two day International Economic Forum where 275 of the Irish Diaspora international business people discussed how to improve Ireland’s predicament and come up with some innovative ideas. The final keynote was from Bill Clinton, who gave a rousing speech on investment in green energy systems and retrofitting to create jobs and an eco future. He recognised the importance of creating micro businesses opportunities through innovation. It was great to talk to him and tell him that is exactly what we are trying to do.
Angela Brady PRIBA