2019 RIBA Royal Gold Medal to Nicholas Grimshaw

John Hill
27. September 2018
Sir Nicholas Grimshaw (Photo: Rick Roxburgh)

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced that Sir Nicholas Grimshaw is the 2019 recipient of the Royal Gold Medal, which is given in recognition of a lifetime’s work and is RIBA's highest honor.

Approved personally by the Queen of England, the RIBA Royal Gold Medal is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence "either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture." Grimshaw's influence is obvious, given his role as one of England's most prolific so-called high-tech architects, alongside Norman Foster (the 1983 recipient of the Medal) and Richard Rogers (ditto, in 1985). The Medal announcement singled out two of his best-known buildings: the "landmark" International Terminal at London’s Waterloo station and the "visionary" Eden Project in Cornwall.

Grimshaw's International Terminal Waterloo in London, 1994 (Photo courtesy of Jo Reid and John Peck)

In 1994, the year it opened, the Waterloo terminal won the RIBA Building of the Year Award, the precursor to the RIBA Stirling Prize. Even though it closed in 2007, with Chunnel trains shifted to St. Pancras station, RIBA applauds it "as an exemplar of British transport architecture." (Though closed, Waterloo terminal is being upgraded and is expected to reopen later this year.) Years later, Grimshaw went beyond the elegant structural expression of Waterloo terminal by leaps and bounds with his masterpiece: the Eden Project in Cornwall, England. Resembling a cluster of soap bubbles when seen from the air, the Biomes are structured as interconnecting geodesic domes that shelter tropical and temperate plants. The project, which transformed an old clay-mining pit into a place to study plants, is such a popular destination that a second Eden Project is being floated in Lancashire in North of England.

Grimshaw's Eden Project in Cornwall, England, 2001 (Photo: Sealand Aerial Photography)

Gimshaw's eponymous firm, formed in 1980, now employs more than 600 in Los Angeles, New York, London, Doha, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne and Sydney. Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, who will receive the RIBA Royal Gold Medal at a ceremony in early 2019, said upon hearing the news:

​My life, and that of the practice, has always been involved in experiment and in ideas, particularly around sustainability; I have always felt we should use the technology of the age we live in for the improvement of mankind. I would like to thank everyone who has ever worked in the office for contributing to our bank of ideas, and for helping to make it an enjoyable and humanistic place.

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