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Domestic Neoclassical Building in Hampshire design by Robert Adam Architects, England, UK

post updated 28 Mar 2021 ; 29 May 2008

“Best new classical building” falls at first fence in Architects’ Awards

English Georgian House

The house voted by the Georgian Group this year as the “best new building in the classical tradition” was entered for a national Royal Institute of British Architects’ Award by its designer, Robert Adam. It never got beyond the first stage and was rejected by a panel of local architects.

Neoclassical House
New house in Hampshire by Robert Adam – voted ‘best new building in classical tradition’ by the Georgian Group

A leading traditional architect and himself a judge of RIBA Awards for 12 years, Robert Adam said, “This doesn’t surprise me, it’s well-known in the profession that traditional buildings don’t get RIBA Awards. In this case, it’s unusual to have such a clear-cut example where an expert body has given it the highest accolade only to have the professional institution reject it out of hand.

I just wish the RIBA would be honest and admit that their awards aren’t for architecture at all but just for one kind of architecture – the contemporary or modernist style.”

The building, a new country house in Hampshire, was described by the Georgian Group as, “a cleverly conceived essay …. by an architect at the top of his game and fluent enough in the classical language to make his own subtle innovations. The plan, based around a finely detailed cantilevered staircase, is precisely controlled, firmly logical, easily read …. Throughout the building, nothing is gratuitous, redundant or meretricious – all the carefully-considered parts contribute to the triumph of the whole.”

A spokesman for the Georgian Group said, “The Georgian Group set up its architectural awards partly to fill a gap where fine architects working in the classical language – a genuinely trans-historical language if ever there was one – seemed particularly to suffer from exclusion. The recognition we offer has redressed that a little but ideally all the national awards would acknowledge quality regardless of architectural style.”

Other leading traditional architects confirm this view. Quinlan Terry said, “RIBA Awards are jobs for the boys and beneath contempt; I simply wouldn’t bother to consider them.” Julian Bicknell said, “It is a tragedy that the RIBA awards juries choose to ignore work done in supposedly traditional styles.

Their self-imposed blindness means that there are no acknowledged standards to distinguish high quality work from the dross produced by mediocre developers. This has the indirect effect of encouraging bad traditional design.”

The architectural profession is famously hostile to anything but modernism. For more than 50 years nothing else has been taught at schools of architecture and the belief that this is the only way forward has almost become a religion.

The tiny minority of architects that practice in the traditional manner are usually derided as cranks or copyists by their fellow architects. This goes right through from RIBA Awards to the architects’ committees that advise local planners.

Research by government agencies and others, however, consistently shows that the public prefer traditional designs.

English Georgian House image / information received 290508

Neoclassical English house architect : Adam Architecture led by Robert Adam

Location: Hampshire, England, UK

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English Neoclassical house architect : Robert Adam Architects

Robert Adam – Georgian architect from Scotland

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Websites: www.robertadamarchitects.com + www.georgiangroup.org.uk