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RIBA Melvin Debates - three afternoons of architectural discussions


09 March 2011

Press office contact:

Beatrice Cooke
T: +44 (0)207 307 3813
E: beatrice.cooke@riba.org

Afternoons of Friday 18 March, 20 May, 16 September, RIBA, 2.30pm, Free


The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is pleased to announce the Peter and Muriel Melvin Debates, a series of three events in 2011 featuring leading commentators and practitioners. Funded in memory of the late Peter and Muriel Melvin, the Melvin Debates will explore ideas that help architects face and resolve diverse professional challenges in the context of contemporary social, economic and political conditions.


All three events are free of charge and take place on a Friday afternoon at the RIBA, between 2.30 and 6pm and conclude with a reception to which everyone participating is invited to attend. Each debate offers plenty of opportunity for everyone attending to comment and interact.



§  The Architectural Uneasy: Relationships Between Old and New

Friday 18 March, 2.30pm, RIBA

Introduction by Paul Finch

Francis Golding, Chair

Eric Parry and Niall McLaughlin, architects

Margaret Richardson, architectural historian and curator

Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times architecture correspondent

Catherine Croft, Director, 20th Century Society

Owen Luder, past president, RIBA

Themes will include:

Politics and authority in conservation and heritage:

o  How are responsibilities for the restoration of historic buildings divided between owners, statutory and voluntary bodies, and design professionals?

o  Right and might; whose judgments on worth should prevail?

  The case against conservation; why bother with make and mend?

o  Can existing building stock ever deliver the essentials for post-industrial living?

o  Modernism knows best; demolition and renewal

  Complement, copy, or contrast?

o  Constraint, consolidation, and inspiration; why is conservation in the UK so retentive?

o  Judgment of the eye, or the archive?; restoration strategies and reliable source material

Forensic reconstruction vs. interpretative redesign

o  How architectural theory helps define design strategies

o  Why architectural history provides models for the future


§  Innovation, Liability and Risk: Architecture and The Law

Friday 20 May, 2.30pm, RIBA

Alfred Munkenbeck and Graham Stirk, architects

John Barber, barrister, engineer, and academic

Margaret Bickford-Smith, QC

David Jones, solicitor and ARB council member

As demands on the professional design team appear to grow in inverse proportion to fees, key themes for discussion might be:

o  Balancing innovation and risk

o  Insurance: professionals’ responsibility, clients’ benefit?

o  Is PII the reason why most buildings never become architecture?

o  Risk and scale; big project, bigger problems?


§  Architectural Education: Cost or Benefit?

Friday 16 September, 2.30pm, RIBA,

Simon Allford, Chair, Past RIBA Vice-President for Education and AHMM founding partner

Professor Neil Spiller from Greenwich University

Angela Brady, RIBA President (as of September 2011)

Professor David Dunster, sometime Roscoe Professor of Architecture

Professor Jo Noero, University of Cape Town

At a time when higher education is facing significant changes which may limit opportunities for professional study, the debate will focus on:

o  Speculation or apprenticeship; what is the purpose of an education in architecture?

o  Schism or synergy; what is the role of practice in education?

o  Value, cost, and alternative educational models

o  Architectural education; making comparisons in a global context


Peter Melvin (1933-2009) and Muriel Melvin (1931-2008) both studied architecture and worked together for almost 50 years after they married in 1960.  They established what became Melvin Lansley and Mark in 1965, and Atelier MLM in 1994.  Peter Melvin was a member of RIBA Council for many years, and twice an RIBA Vice-President.  The Melvin Debates reflect their wide and varied interests in the discipline of architecture, and are funded in their memory by their children Joanna, Jeremy, and Stephen Melvin.

Notes to editors

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