Professor Nigel Coates Named Winner of the RIBA Annie Spink Award 2012

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named Professor Nigel Coates as the winner of the 2012 RIBA Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Architectural Education.

The biennial award, established in 2000 by architect Herbert Spink FRIBA as a lasting memorial to his wife Annie, was conceived as an honour for the ‘advancement of architectural education’. It is open to individuals who have made a significant contribution to architectural education.

RIBA Director of Education and chair of the judging panel, David Gloster said:

'On behalf of the RIBA and the our judging panel, I would like to congratulate Professor Nigel Coates for receiving the 2012 RIBA Annie Spink Award in recognition of his sustained impact on architectural education for over three decades. Not only in his early years at the Architectural Association did he inspire many of his own students, but he pioneered a distinctive culture and pedagogy at the Royal College of Art that influenced many more indirectly through its wider influence on the landscape of British architectural education.'

On receiving the news of the award, Nigel Coates said:

'Over the years I’ve often been referred to as an enfant terrible, so clearly it’s time to bury that idea. This is an honour from the architectural heartland, and it comes as a warm and wonderful surprise.'

Nigel Coates was taught by Bernard Tschumi at the Architectural Association, before going on to teach Diploma Unit 10 with his former tutor, in 1978 he took over the unit. He introduced ‘Transavantgarde’ art techniques, picked up from New York, to challenge the conventions of architectural representation. In 1982/83 the work became more pointedly political as the students (and Coates himself) depicted proposals for a memorial to Thatcher’s Falklands war.

In 1995 Coates became Head of the Architecture Department at the Royal College of Art, where he led his teaching staff to develop their own critical strands and lines of enquiry until 2011. He has combined a successful career in architectural practice and product design with his life in academia.

He has also used writing to propagate his ideas, most notably in his book Guide to Ecstacity, and more recently, with the publication of Narrative Architecture in the prestigious AD Primer series (Wiley, 2011).


Notes to editors

  • For further press information contact Howard Crosskey in the RIBA Press Office: 020 7307 3761
  • The judging panel this year included:

       David Gloster, RIBA Director of Education (non-voting chair)

       Neil Lamb, Course Leader, Robert Gordon University

       Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

       Charlotte Reynolds, winner of the RIBA Donaldson Medal 2011

       Melkan Gursel Tabanlioglu, Partner, Tabanlioglu Architects

       Ivana Wingham, Leader of Architecture University of Brighton

  • Professor Nigel Coates was born in 1949 and studied firstly at the University of Nottingham before continuing his training at the Architectural Association. In 1983, during his tenure as a Unit Master at the AA, he set up his subversive magazine NATO (Narrative Architecture Today) where he espoused his approach to architecture and the concept of narrative. Central to his exhibitions and monographs was the idea of narrative, through which architecture could interact with popular culture and experience. With this in mind he formed Branson Coates Architecture and began working in Tokyo, which eventually led to his 1990 Japan Inter-design Award for Cities. In 1995, he became Professor of Architecture at the Royal College of Art and concurrently taught and designed, producing interiors and buildings, most notably the Body Zone in the Millennium Dome and the Museum of Popular Music in Sheffield. In 2008 he became Art Director for Slamp SpA in Rome creating products, collections and exhibitions in Italy, France and the UK. He is now an RCA Professor Emeritus and was awarded the FX Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Design Award in 2012.
  • Nigel Coates’s publications include the Guide to Ecstacity (2003), Collidoscope (2006) and Narrative Architecture (2012).
  • The £10,000 award is financed by the Annie Spink Trust Fund, which was established in 1974 by architect Herbert Spink FRIBA. He bequeathed the trust as a lasting memorial to his wife Annie, who died in 1938, and conceived it as an honour for the ‘advancement of architectural education’. For further information about the award, please visit
  • For further funding information please visit the RIBA Education pages at or contact John-Paul Nunes, Head of Education Projects on 020 7307 3604 or
  • The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) champions better buildings, communities and the environment through architecture and our members follow us on Twitter for regular updates.