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​RIBA Gordon Ricketts Fund

The RIBA Gordon Ricketts Fund was launched in 1968, in memory of Gordon Ricketts, Secretary of the RIBA from 1959 until his death in 1968. It is offered biennially to provide grants for RIBA staff to pursue research in a personal field of interest related to architecture.

Past and present members of staff at the RIBA can apply for up to £2,000 to complete their chosen research project.

We are very pleased to announce three recipients of the Gordon Ricketts Fund in 2018:

Jonathan Baker (Marketing Executive, RIBA HQ)

Paul Overend (Facilities Assistant, RIBA North)

Wilson Yau (Digital Outreach Manager – Library, RIBA HQ)

Jonathan Baker, Wilson Yau and Paul Overend; recipients of the 2018 RIBA Gordon Ricketts Fund

Jonathan Baker

Research title - The old in the new: Comparing the symbolic use of spolia and reclaimed materials in Late Antique and contemporary architecture

In Late Antiquity, the city of Rome was a sprawling group of settlements centred around the ancient ruins of an empire in decline. The process of reusing construction materials from these classical ruins, known as “spolia”, soon began to flourish. Far from being a pragmatic approach to material reuse, this was often a symbolic connection to place and past identity, as well as Roman decorative tradition and the prestige associated with it, with churches becoming selva di colonne, “forests of columns”.

In contemporary architecture, salvaging and reusing building components has become a marginal practice. Nevertheless, from the 1960s architects such as Aldo Rossi were arguing that the city remembers its past, and that one should use that memory in the conceptualisation of an architectural design. It could be argued that spolia is the use of materiality to create this physical connection between place and design and, since the work of Rudolph Olgiati, the use of reclaimed materials has again seen a rise in popularity. However, the materiality appears to have shifted to include a wider range of salvaged materials and a definition could be broadened to include so-called in situ spolia, whereby original features such as columns are maintained in an isolated format within designs.

This project aims to understand and critically assess how the use of historic and salvaged construction materials differ from Late Antique to contemporary architecture, and to question how these have been, and are being, used to cement a sense of place and identity connected with the past. Through selected case studies and research both at the RIBA and the British School at Rome, Jonathan hopes to redefine and understand the usage of spolia through the core themes of place, identity, authenticity and tradition.

Paul Overend

Research title - LGBTQ Spaces and Places; a look at the architectural history of the vernacular

The LGBTQ community occupies a diverse array of buildings and spaces, embodying the changing shape of its identity, its strive for equality, acceptance and ultimately, providing a tangible source of LGBTQ heritage.

The research will focus on the physical, vernacular spaces that are and were symbolic institutions, each with individual character and architectural history that contributed towards a sense of place for LGBTQ communities. The onus is placed on the architectural history of LGBTQ places and the journey the structure or space has undergone through the intergenerational element of society. The research will detail how these vernacular buildings and places, rarely discussed by historians, became part of the foundations of LGBTQ culture and provide examples of its architectural/cultural identity.

Over the two year period the study will review archives and research literature on buildings and spaces with LGBTQ narratives, in particular, focusing on architectural and historical significance and the sense of place created.

As the proposal notes an area of interest in creating knowledge and awareness of tangible heritage assets with LGBTQ narratives, the main objective will look into promoting and highlighting diversity and inclusion through knowledge sharing. This will be achieved by providing an underlay of information to present to RIBA Staff, RIBA members and the wider public audience through:

  • Curating a pop-up exhibition to be held at either RIBA North / or a prominent City location
  • Production of a limited release print publication (and digital source) highlighting the research
  • Utilising the RIBA North Digital City Model to enhance and add to the cultural offering of information (LGBTQ remit)

Wilson Yau

Research title - A legacy in paper and stone: How the architecture, culture and urban planning of cities from Liverpool to Shanghai were shaped by the British Empire and its architects

This research will look at the way the British Empire (1700s - 1950s) was not just a commercial and military operation, but a transformative global network that enabled culture and architectural ideas to spread. It will aim to uncover and understand the influence of the empire and its architects on the architecture, culture and urban planning of its colonies and cities, and assess if this exchange was multidirectional and what its legacy is. Research will be carried out primarily by exploring the rich collections of the RIBA, supplemented by visits to other institutions and via topographical studies. The grant will provide invaluable material support to access these institutions and make site visits.

In such a potentially expansive topic, this investigation will focus on certain British cities that have strong commercial and cultural connections to the empire, such as Liverpool, London and Glasgow, and the cities overseas to which they have close historical links, like Shanghai, New Delhi, Calcutta and Hong Kong. The outputs would be writing, photographs and drawings to gather together these findings. This is a fascinating and controversial topic that Wilson would like to share online, both as he progresses and as a completed body of research that adds to the report he will submit.

The next application cycle will run in 2020. If you would like any further information about this fund please contact

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