The RIBA is to award its ultimate accolade, the Royal Gold Medal, to Canadian architect Frank Gehry, the AJ understands.
The award for the man most reponsible for the latter-day regeneration of Bilbao in Spain, as a result of his celebrated 1997 Guggenheim museum was set to be announced at the institute's council session on Wednesday, although the institute refused to release details beforehand.
Gehry, the founder of Frank O Gehry and Associates in 1962, has established a reputation for distinctive architecture using new sculptural forms and materials including copper, stainless steel, zinc, titanium and stone, across a wide portfolio of work including libraries, schools, shops, concert halls, office buildings, restaurants and public buildings, over Europe, Asia and in America.
The Gold Medal, which last year was unusually awarded to a city, Barcelona (AJ 18.03.99), will sit with a host of other awards for Gehry including the Pritzker Prize, which he won in May 1989, the Praemium Imperiale, the Gold Medal from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 1998 and nearly 100 national and regional AIA awards.
Born in Toronto in 1929 and a resident of Santa Monica near Los Angeles since 1947, Gehry also has a professorship at Yale University and is the Eliot Noyes Chair at Harvard University. The practice is based in Santa Monica and employs a staff of 65 architects and designers. 'I am interested in finishing work, but I am interested in the works not appearing finished, with every hair in place, every piece of furniture in its spot ready for photographs, ' Gehry has said.
We present a selection of Gehry's work on page 8.
The institute's council was also set to debate the name of the man proposed for its new £100,000 a year chief executive post in an in camera session yesterday. Selection committee member Paul Hyett said the name had been agreed last week and was the subject of contract negotiations, but the RIBA was keen to avoid the situation with the ARB when Francis Golding's name was prematurely leaked to the press as the preferred candidate, before being rejected. The institute used the same headhunters as the ARB, Norman Broadbent, and Hyett said the selection committee had been happy with the standard of candidates it interviewed.
The committee was RIBA president Marco Goldschmied, Roger Shrimplin, Paul Hyett, Catherine Hennessy, Colin James and Richard MacCormac. Director-general Alex Reid is set to leave in June and, if approved, it is hoped the new chief executive will start in the autumn.
The RIBA this week scored a major coup by striking a deal with Channel Four to screen its £20,000 Stirling Prize. This year, viewers will be able to vote for their favourite local building and the winner will make it onto the final shortlist. C4 will screen three programmes, including the awards night, live, on 4 November. The 50 RIBA award winners from which the shortlist is picked will be announced on 12 June at the NatWest Media Centre at Lord's as part of Architecture Week.
RIBA honorary treasurer Colin James was also yesterday set to announce 'encouraging' institute finances in the 1999 accounts, with a rising income of £8.4 million, including an increase of £384,000 from subscriptions and a surplus of £425,500 - £239,500 better than forecast.