Academic Lectures

Innovation, Liability and Risk: Architecture and the Law

The Peter and Muriel Melvin Debates, RIBA, 20 May 2011

The second in the Melvin Debates series, focusing on architecture and the law, brought together architects and representatives from the legal profession to consider the following themes:

  • Balancing innovation and risk
  • Insurance: professionals’ responsibility, clients’ benefit?
  • Design, Innovation and Risk Management
  • Results and Resolutions 



Margaret Bickford-Smith, QC (chair)

Alfred Munkenbeck, architect Munkenbeck+Partners

John Barber, Director, Centre of Construction Law, KCL

David Jones, consultant, Watson Burton; Architects Registration Board; adjudicator

Andrew Morris, architect, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Sir Peter Coulson, specialist High Court Judge sitting in the Technology and Construction Court

Robert Hogarth, Senior Partner, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP


About the Melvin Debates



Margaret Bickford-Smith introduces the themes for the debate (duration 5:50) 

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Alfred Munkenbeck discusses how architects balance innovation and risk (duration 22.51)



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John Barber'The essential function of the Architect Changing Perceptions' (duration 24.57)

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David Jones responds to the first two speakers (duration 16.38)


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Questions from the floor to respond to the first speakers

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Andrew Morristakes the audience through some of the work of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, highlighting projects that have demonstrated innovation, but also encountered difficult contractual issues (duration 37:37) 


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Sir Peter Coulson discusses his experience as a specialist High Court judge (duration 40:22)

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Robert Hogarth discusses his experience working as a specialist in insurance law and the construction industry (duration 20:21)


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Questions  from the floor to respond to the second set of speakers (duration 19:36)

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The Peter and Muriel Melvin Debates

The Melvin Debates initiate discussion of three vital aspects of architecture in the context of contemporary social, economic, and political conditions.

The debates reflect the wide and varied interests in architecture of Peter Melvin (1933-2009) and Muriel Melvin (1931-2008). They 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 the RIBA Council for many years, and twice a vice-president. The debates are funded in their memory by their children, Joanna, Jeremy and Stephen.


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