SPAB Philip Webb Award 2016 presentation, 22 June 2017
On Thursday 22nd June 2017, I spoke at an event organised by the SPAB in connection with the London Festival of Architecture. The talk was held at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate’s Church Hall, in Bishopsgate, London. (The SPAB hold a number of seminar series at the Church Hall, which provides an interesting backdrop in itself to the lectures. The Hall was once used as an infants' school, and you can see at its front there are two Coade stone figures of schoolchildren in early 19th century costumes.)
Having been awarded equal first place in the SPAB’s 2016 Philip Webb Award, the purpose of the evening was for the joint winner and I to present our schemes, receive our awards and enjoy informal discussion during a drinks reception. My proposals for the recovery of the earthquake-damaged Italian town of L’Aquila explored how memory (of people, places and activities) can inspire the revitalisation of historic places for new uses. The importance of memory and the layers of history at sites like these was evidently a thread running through the 2016 year’s Webb Award entries. Joint winner - Cristiano Lamarque of Oxford Brookes University - discussed his carefully considered and well-presented schemes for the former monastery at Evora. I was particularly interested by his proposals to make the place accessible and comfortable for dementia patients.
One of the Webb Award judges - Ptolemy Dean - introduced the event with his perspective on the competition and the significance of memory in the SPAB’s approach to old buildings. We also heard from Iain Boyd and Roger Hunt, the writers of the new SPAB/ RIBA publication ‘New Design for Old Buildings’. (Incidentally, the book is thoroughly enjoyable and useful - a guide to themes which of course are directly relevant to the nature of the Webb Award.)
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