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RIBA's Harry Rich calls for new award for buildings that last

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Newly-arrived RIBA head Harry Rich is pushing for a new award to be given to buildings that remain successful several years after completion

The institute’s incoming chief executive, who replaced former CEO Richard Hastilow in November, mooted the idea during discussion of the RIBA’s ‘Way Ahead’ review at a council meeting last month.

Rich thinks the new award could be ‘one possible method of getting to focus on the value that good design can add to a building’.

Speaking to the AJ, he said: ‘Inevitably a lot of the good awards we have around at the moment tend to focus on aesthetics – even if they’re not [intended to be] focused on that’.

‘Great design in the built environment adds massive value to our economy and society. The more we can do as an organisation to demonstrate that, the more effective we’ll be. This [new] award could be part of this jigsaw’.

Though early days yet, and while the institute is reluctant to give specific details, the new CEO said he was keen to see the idea play out its full course in discussion at council. ‘If we decided it was a valuable thing to do I have no doubt we could shape it,’ he said.

The industry’s enfant terrible, Will Alsop said in support: ‘I think any award which recognises how a building has positively impacted on its users, the local community and the surrounding area is a fantastic initiative.

‘Of course good buildings should look good and be welcoming but at the end of the day if it doesn’t serve a valid purpose within the community it serves, then what’s the point?

‘Longevity is testament to good design, if years down the line a building is still meeting the evolving needs of your client, then you’ve done a good job. At the same time, aesthetics cannot be ignored; it is what distinguishes architecture from mere building,’ said Alsop.

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