Her Majesty the Queen personally approved Joseph Rykwert, architecture critic, historian and writer, to receive the UK’s 2014 RIBA Royal Gold Medal. A leading authority on the history of art and architecture, Rykwert’s work has had a major impact on the thinking of architects and designers since the 1960s.
“If we all had our desserts,” Rykwert asked, “Who would scape a whipping? Certainly not I. So I can't think of a Gold Medal as my dessert. It is a wonderful gift, which my colleagues have made me, and adds weight and authority to my words to which they could never otherwise pretend.”
His seminal book The Idea of a Town (1963) remains the pivotal text on understanding why and how cities were and can be formed. He has written numerous influential works of architectural criticism and history, published over a 60-year period and translated into several languages. The most significant of these are On Adam's House in Paradise (1972), The First Moderns (1980), The Necessity of Artifice (1982), The Dancing Column: On Order in Architecture (1996), and The Seduction of Place (2002); all have changed the way modern architects and planners think about cities and buildings, and how historians view the architectural roots of the modern era.
“What makes the gift doubly precious is that it does not come from my fellow-scriveners, but from architects and builders—and suggests that what I have written has engaged their attention and been of use, even though I have never sought to be impartial but have taken sides, sometimes combatively,” said Rykwert. “So I feel both elated and enormously grateful.”
Rykwert's works have influenced generations of architects with many either having been taught by him directly or taught in a school where his influence has had a profound effect on a department’s teaching. Distinguished architects Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano are amongst the previous Royal Gold Medalists who have personally supported Rykwert’s nomination.
Other previous recipients of the Royal Gold Medal include Peter Zumthor in 2013, Herman Hertzberger in 2012, David Chipperfiled in 2011 and I.M. Pei in 2010.