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The Royal Institute of British Architects

February 19, 2023

The Royal Institute of British Architects, better known as the RIBA, is the UK's leading professional body for architects. It is based in London and has a network of regional offices around the country. They promote architectural education, run some of the most important awards in the world for architects and their students, publish one of the world's most impressive collections of architectural drawings, photographs, and archives and organise events, exhibitions and competitions that celebrate architecture.

The Institute's earliest members were a group of young architects who, frustrated by the lack of a comparable training scheme in the UK and dismayed by the public's distaste for their profession, decided to launch an alternative. Their motivation was a combination of a shortage of good schools and an increasing demand for workable designs before construction commenced. They were joined by Peter Frederick Robinson, a well-known country house expert who was behind the establishment of the Society of British Architects.

Their meetings began in January 1834, at the 17 Suffolk Street Pall Mall East home of Henry Edward Kendall (who, like Donaldson and Hopkins, was a pupil of Papworth). The meeting took place in what has been described as a "freemasons' club"; it was chaired by James Elmes. A report on the meeting was published in the Bell's Weekly Messenger on 13 January, describing the plan to form an Architectural Institution "similar to the Architects' and Surveyors' Society".

Some of the initial meetings of the new body were held in conjunction with the Surveyors' and Architects' Society, which had already formed an architectural committee led by Edward Cresy. These two committees were to meet on a regular basis and discuss the constitution of the Society of British Architects, a proposal to include surveyors in the membership, the rules for fees and practice, and the establishment of an institute for the training of architects and others.

At the first meeting of the new body, the presidents were Thomas Leverton Donaldson and John Douglas Hopkins; other founders were: Charles Fowler, William Crawford Stow, James Thomson, Henry Edward Kendall, John Goldicutt, and Peter Frederick Robinson. The committee was expected to submit their prospectus and rules for the new institute to a general meeting that should elect 'a selection of eminent architects to be called original members of the Society of British Architects'.

In the first year of its existence, the society held a number of public lectures and presentations on architectural topics, as well as a series of exhibitions in London and elsewhere. They also published a journal, a sessional programme and educational policy.

They also established a library that is one of the largest in the world and holds more than four million drawings, models, photographs, books and periodicals. Its collection includes many of the most significant early works in the history of British design.

The RIBA was founded on the premise that all aspects of the profession should be treated equally, with equal attention to the practical and scientific side of building. In this view, the architects' practice should not be confined to the construction of buildings but should involve the creation of ideas and strategies that could be applied to other fields.


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