Herman Hertzberger to Receive the 2012 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture

Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger has been named today (Tuesday 6 December 2011) as the recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious architecture prizes, the Royal Gold Medal.

Established in 1848 and given in recognition of a body of work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty the Queen and is given to a person or group of people whose influence on architecture has had a truly international effect.

Born in 1932 Herman Hertzberger opened his own firm of architects in 1960, the present-day Architectuurstudio HH in Amsterdam. One of his major influences on twentieth century architecture was to challenge the early modernist belief that ‘form follows function’ – that the shape of the building was defined by its purpose. Hertzberger believes that the core function of a building does not provide the total solution to space usage: it is a framework that should enable its users to interpret and define how they inhabit it. His buildings offer flexible ‘in between’ spaces that encourage our deeper human needs of dwelling and social activity.

His celebrated Montessori School in Delft (1960-66) rethought the way that classrooms were laid out, with L-shaped rooms creating different zones. Images of children playing and learning on broad wooden steps as a creative space inspired many architects of schools across northern Europe. His exemplary workplace Central Baheer in Apeldoorn (1968-72) was designed with the needs of the individual at its core and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in The Hague (1979-90) was one of the first buildings to develop the idea of the internal street or elongated atrium to encourage social interaction and get light into all the rooms.

RIBA President Angela Brady, who chaired the Honours Committee which selected the Royal Gold Medal winner said:

“Herman Hertzberger has transformed the way we think about architecture, both as architects and people who use buildings. His architecture is about form and space which he defines as ‘place which has not been appropriated’. Throughout his career his humanity has shone through in his schools, homes, theatres and workplaces. The RIBA is delighted to recognize the importance of his achievements and the effect his designs have on people and place.”

Herman Hertzberger will be presented with the Royal Gold Medal on 9 February 2012 at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, during which the 2012 RIBA International and Honorary Fellowships will also be presented.

This year’s RIBA Honours Committee was chaired by RIBA President Angela Brady with architects David Adjaye, Yvonne Farrell, Niall McLaughlin, Sarah Wigglesworth and Sir Terence Conran.