The oldest and most influential architectural institution in the world, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) reaches a world-wide audience of individuals and organisations interested in the development of architecture, design and the built environment. The RIBA has over 40,000 members internationally, including 12,000 student members.
The President’s Medals
The RIBA President’s Medals are widely regarded as the most prestigious international awards in architectural education. Established in 1836 when the Institute of British Architects awarded the first Silver Medal for the best architectural essay, these are the RIBA’s oldest awards (preceding the Royal Gold Medal, which was formally established in 1848).
Over the years, the RIBA’s portfolio of student awards, scholarships and medals evolved to incorporate sponsored prizes, to address changes in technology and communication media, or to respond to social change and perception of architecture by society. What remained unchanged, however, was the RIBA’s unfaltering commitment to the acquisition of knowledge as the main purpose of education, an intention that remained enshrined in the Institute’s founding charter of 1834, where the purpose of the new institution would be “the general advancement of civil architecture, and (…) promoting and facilitating the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith”.
The President’s Medals current format was established in 1986, when the Institute replaced a large number of student awards (which over the years had included the Tite Medal, the Soane Medallion and the Victory Scholarship, to name a few) with the Bronze and Silver Medals. Intended to be awarded annually and in perpetuity for outstanding student achievement, the Bronze Medal premiated design work produced by a student at Part 1 (normally, the first three of five years of the professional qualification in architecture) while the Silver Medal was awarded to a Part 2 student (normally, the last two of five years of the architecture qualification). In 2001, a Dissertation Medal was added to reward written work produced at either Part 1 or 2.
Every year, the RIBA invites international architects, academics, designers and artists to join the judging panels and award the Bronze Medal for best design project at Part 1, the Silver Medal for best design project at Part 2 and the Dissertation Medal. In addition, the judges award a maximum of three commendations in each category and the Serjeant Awards for Excellence in Drawing.
The winners receive their awards from the RIBA President at a ceremony that takes place at the RIBA in early December of each year and is attended by over 300 people. Guest speakers have included Richard Rogers, Mark Lawson, Richard MacCormac, Paul Smith, Norman Foster, Martha Schwartz and Alex James.
Over the last few years, and after closing in London, the President’s Medals exhibitions have toured to venues throughout the UK (Belfast, Bournemouth, Canterbury, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Plymouth) and also travelled internationally to Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, Egypt, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Ireland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The touring of the exhibition is made possible by the generosity of hosting venues, such as Universities, museums and art galleries that partner with the RIBA to display the exhibition.