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Inspirational Otto wins RIBA Gold

The RIBA announced last week that the German architect and engineer Frei Otto, whose pioneering tensile structures have influenced many of the world's leading practitioners, has won this year's Royal Gold Medal.

George Ferguson, announcing the award at last week's RIBA Council meeting, said he deserved the award for inspiring such people as Richard Rogers, Michael Hopkins and Edward Cullinan.

'It will give me the greatest pleasure to present Frei Otto with the Royal Gold Medal, ' he said. 'He has always been one of my engineering and architectural heroes and has a genuine claim to be one of the real greats of the 20th century. I hope he will recognise this as the crowning of a truly outstanding and pioneering career, ' he added.

Born in 1925 in Siegmar, the son and grandson of sculptors, Otto studied at the Technical University in Berlin following wartime service.

He is considered responsible for the revival of the tent as a feature of modern architecture and in 1955 he tested, for the first time, his ideas on structures requiring a minimum of time, energy and cost in practice.

Key to some of his most successful buildings was his long-term, highly productive relationship with the Stroymeyer Company, one of the world's leading tent-makers.

Important tent structures designed by, or with Otto's involvement, include the bandstand at the 1955 Federal Garden Exhibition in Kassel, Germany, the entrance arch at the same exhibition in Cologne in 1957, and the Snow and Rocks Pavilion at the Swiss National Exhibition in Lausanne in 1964.

Further work on cable network structures - tent-like buildings that can be much lighter and span greater distances than conventional buildings - led to some of Otto's most famous projects. These included the West German Pavilion at the Montreal Expo in 1967 and the roofs over several of the sports structures at the1972 Olympic Park in Munich.

Otto will be presented with the Royal Gold Medal at the RIBA on 16 February.

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