Designer: Shaw, Richard Norman (1831-1912)
Copyright: Janet Hall/RIBA Library Photographs Collection (c1996)
Over the years, there have been those who have not relished the prospect of being a Royal Gold Medal winner.
It was famously refused by John Ruskin in 1874. Ruskin declined on the grounds of neglect of architecture - that the Institute (the RIBA) was doing nothing to stop the destruction in the name of restoration. Instead, the medal was awarded to George Edmund Street.
Richard Norman Shaw declined the medal on three occasions. Shaw believed that the place for architectural development was the Royal Academy, not the Institute, and stated that his allegiance lay with the Royal Academy. On all three occasions, other notable architects were awarded the medal.
One of Shaw’s circle, Philip Webb declined the medal in 1912 saying that he didn't want it. It is thought that his decision was influenced by Shaw’s earlier refusal. Once again, another architect was awarded the medal in Webb's place.
In 1924, William Lethaby declined the medal. Unfortunately, the Institute had already announced Lethaby’s award to the media, so could not replace his name with another’s. Apart from a gesture of respect towards Queen Victoria (in the year of her death of 1901), this was the only occasion on which the Royal Gold Medal was not awarded.