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The best of times, the worst of times

The Architect

In a fortnight, after a year as president elect, I will become the new president of the RIBA. It is a job I never thought I would want to do – and for many good reasons. Not  least because my father, an eminent modernist architect, always spoke of RIBA Presidents AD. The AD standing for Alcoholic and Divorced!

I am too old – 60 a fortnight ago – to tempt fate by commenting on the above. Especially as I have not even started in the role. But as I travel on the train to visit my 93-year-old mother – subject of a recent fall, hip injury and metal pin – I cannot help but reflect on how to feel, as well as to be alive, we all need to remain somehow involved and engaged in the world around us. In my mother’s case, this involves endless list writing, the handing out of jobs to her children and a general refusal to accept assistance, which means she lives the life of Miss Haversham (but in a mid-century modern masterpiece designed by her late husband).

In my case, not dissimilarity, I will spend the next two years balancing life between family, practice and RIBA – though then, as now, I expect they will all weld into one, hopefully not too tangled, web. Which of course is as it should be. For in life we expect to experience the worst of times and the best of times as they often simultaneously overlap. And that is part of the joy of the eternal pattern of life and death. A pattern which all architecture needs to accept, reflect and embrace. As I often state, good architecture can only become great architecture over time: as it proves it’s long-term value in successfully accommodating and then enhancing the essential Theatre of Everyday Life. Time is undoubtedly the only great  judge of architecture.

So what of the now and the two years I have as president?

“The past 18 months have highlighted how vital it is to meet in person, engage informally and to recognise that civilisation relies on listening and learning”






The Architect

About Simon Allford

Simon Allford

Simon Allford has been elected the next President of the Royal Institute of British Architects and will take over the two-year presidential term from 1 September. He is a founding Director of AHMM (where he leads a design studio of 200 architects), a frequent writer, critic and adviser; a visiting professor at Harvard; a previous chairman of the Architecture Foundation; and currently a trustee of the London School of Architecture and the Chickenshed Theatres Trust.

Articles by Simon Allford

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