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Herzog & de Meuron scoops Royal Gold Medal...

Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron has won this year's RIBA Royal Gold Medal.

The prestigious award will be handed to the practice in recognition of its worldwide architectural achievements.

The decision catapults the practice into a star-studded hall of fame. Previous winners of the 158-year-old honour include Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.

Founded in 1978 by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the practice is best known on the global stage for its work on Tate Modern and its eagerly anticipated Olympic Stadium in Beijing.

The two Basel-born architects have lived almost parallel lives, having studied together at the ETH in Zurich before forming their practice.

With partners Christine Binswanger and Harry Gugger, the firm has more than 150 staff in offices in Basel, London, Munich and San Francisco.

Herzog and de Meuron are no strangers to success, having shared the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2001.

The practice also won the Stirling Prize three years ago with the Laban Centre in Deptford - and couldn't be considered previously with its Tate Modern scheme because, at the time, the project architect Gugger did not have a UK-recognised Part 3 qualification.

The Stirling Prize rules were changed as a result.

One of Herzog & de Meuron's earliest appearances on the UK architectural radar was the seminal Goetz Collection building in Munich, which was visited by Tate supremo Nicholas Serota. It is thought this trip helped secure the practice's appointment to redesign the Bankside power station site.

The firm has since landed major cultural projects - such as the Walker Art Gallery extension in Minneapolis and the de Young museum in San Francisco - as well as stadia and other high-profile schemes around the world.

And in July the practice was asked back to London's Bankside to design the all-new 'glass pyramid' extension to Tate Modern.

Before the practice is handed the annual Gold Medal, the council's recommendation must be personally approved by the Queen.

by Richard Waite

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