Royal Gold Medal 2005 voor Frei Otto

4 oktober 2004, 19:36
Als eerbetoon voor zijn hele oeuvre is de Royal Gold Medal 2005 toegekend aan de Duitse architect Frei Otto. Frei Otto is vooral bekend vanwege zijn innovatieve werken in de ontwikkeling van opblaasconstructies en overspanningen van tenten en hangdaken. De uitreiking vindt plaats op 16 februari 2005.

Official press release
The German architect and engineer, Frei Otto, whose pioneering tensile structures and grid shells inspired architects such as Richard Rogers, Michael Hopkins and Ted Cullinan, is the winner of one of architecture’s most prestigious prizes, the Royal Gold Medal. George Ferguson, President of the RIBA made the announcement at today’s meeting of the RIBA Council.

Born in 1925 in Siegmar, the son and grandson of sculptors, Frei Otto had an early formative interest in flight and construction, spending hours making model aeroplanes. He served with the German Air Force as a pilot during the war. When taken prisoner he acted as architect for the prisoner of war camp where being in charge of building and repair with an acute shortage of materials led him to consider building with the least possible materials. His first hand experience of the laws of aerodynamics and the principles of stretching membranes over light frameworks were to influence his later practice as an architect. After the war Otto studied at the Technical University in Berlin. During the 1950s Otto’s interest in pre-stressed tensile systems of construction developed – the tents that have made him famous were to follow. He is responsible for the revival of the tent as a feature of modern architecture. In 1955 he tested for the first time his ideas on structures requiring a minimum of time, energy and cost, in practice. Frei Otto’s concern with functional, minimalist structure links him to the Bauhaus, whilst his interest in the applications of modern technology and research into natural forms have made him one of the most influential German architects.

Speaking today, George Ferguson commented:

“It will give me the greatest pleasure to present Frei Otto with the Royal Gold Medal. He has always been one of my engineering and architectural heroes and has a genuine claim to be one of the real greats of the twentieth century. I hope he will recognise this as the crowning of a truly outstanding and pioneering career.”

Key to some of Frei Otto’s buildings was his long term, highly productive relationship with the Stroymeyer Company, one of the world’s leading tent-making companies. Important tent structures designed by, or with Otto’s involvement include the bandstand at the 1955 Federal Garden Exhibition in Kassel, Germany, the entrance arch at the same exhibition in Cologne in 1957, and the Snow and Rocks pavilion at the Swiss national exhibition in Lausanne in 1964. Further work on cable network structures – tent-like buildings which can be much lighter and span greater distances than conventional buildings – led to some of Otto’s most famous projects: the West German Pavilion at the Montreal Exposition in 1967 and the roofs over several of the sports structures at the 1972 Olympic Park in Munich.

Frei Otto was a visiting Professor at Washington, Yale, Berkeley, and Harvard universities, as well as at M.I.T. He also held a Professorship at the Technical University in Berlin where he himself studied at the beginning of his career. He has received many international awards and honours, and has published a variety of works on tensile and pneumatic structures.

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

The Jury for this year’s Royal Gold Medal was chaired by RIBA President George Ferguson and included Amanda Baillieu, Editor of RIBA Journal; Sir Jeremy Dixon, architect of the Royal Opera House London; Royal Gold Medallist Lady Patty Hopkins; engineer Tony Hunt; past RIBA President Michael Manser CBE; CABE Commissioner Sunand Prasad; and Sir Michael Wilford CBE.

Frei Otto will be presented with the Royal Gold Medal at the RIBA on
16 February 2005.

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