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Ein schöner Abend

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The Gold Medal dinner for Frei Otto was a jolly affair, despite the tiresome requirement to wear black tie when the dress code should really have been 'lightweight'!

After a good meal we were treated to a short film featuring the winner and various admirers and collaborators, including Ted Cullinan, Richard Burton and Eva Jiricna. Warm speeches, including the citation written by Tony Hunt, were followed by the performance of a commissioned piece of music from Julian Milone of the Philharmonia Orchestra, also an admirer of Otto's tensile structures. A group of soloists from the orchestra performed the piece, plus a Beethoven string quartet and nuggets from Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera. The acting German ambassador reminded us about several previous German Gold Medal winners, including August Stuler (1858), C R Lepsius (1869), H Schliemann (1885), Wilhelm Dorpfeld (1911) and, of course, the two Germans who became Americans, Walter Gropius (1956) and Mies van der Rohe (1959). Despite being referred to several times as Otto Frei by RIBA Trust chair Tessa Blackstone (she corrected herself gracefully), the great man clearly enjoyed himself - partly, perhaps, because his Gold Medal lecture was saved for the following evening.

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