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RIBA celebrates LGBTQ+ History Month 2024

This February, RIBA will be showcasing the work of internal teams and external partners in celebrating the diverse, and often underrepresented, history of the LGBTQ+ community.

14 February 2024

During February each year, organisations across the UK unite to shine a light on the LGBTQ+ community's rich history while advocating for increased inclusivity.

This month, the Royal Institute of British Architects is highlighting the collaborative efforts of its internal teams and external partners in honouring the diverse and often overlooked history of the LGBTQ+ community.

Established in 2004 by the co-chairs of Schools OUT, LGBT+ History Month is an annual celebration aimed at promoting equality and diversity for the betterment of society.

Surrealism's 100th anniversary

This year, RIBA’s internal LGBTQ+ Community is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Surrealism because it was a remarkable period for the development of LGBTQ+ history and the visibility of LGBTQ+ people. By celebrating Surrealism, we are celebrating the history (and the future) of the community.

Read more: A hundred years of Surrealism and its influences

Surrealism aims to revolutionise the human experience. The movement's artists have always found magic and strange beauty in the unexpected and the uncanny, the disregarded and the unconventional.

The year 2024 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first manifesto of Surrealism, and the creation of the core surrealist group in Paris following an initiative of poet and writer, André Breton.

Cover detail of The Minimal Dwelling by Karel Teigem available from the RIBA Library special collections (Credit: RIBA)

Le cadavre exquis toolkit

We've created an interactive toolkit influenced by architecture that allows participants, quite literally, to play with, dissemble and reimagine items from the RIBA Collections. It contains everything you need to host a team-building activity that will help expand your understanding of Surrealism's impact on architecture and promote creativity within your practice.

The Surrealists invented new games and modified old games according to the definition of Surrealism given by the Surrealist writer, André Breton, by casting rationality aside and challenging the very concept of a rule. From this subversive approach, one of the first Surrealist games, le cadavre exquis [exquisite corpse] was born.

From the playing of the game itself, its name was chosen from the first sentence ever contributed to the blank sheet, “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau." [the exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine].

Resource toolkit: A hundred years of Surrealism - le cadavre exquis toolkit

In this same spirit of subversion and joy, this version of the game has been developed by RIBA's LGBTQ+ Community internal group to celebrate the anniversary. It also highlights components of the RIBA Collections that span LGBTQ+ history, including buildings designed both for clients or by architects that were part of the community itself.

Join us for a day of Surrealism

On 29 February, RIBA colleagues will participate in a 'day of Surrealism' as part of LGBT+ History Month, with workshops taking place across our sites. In the spirit of Surrealism, we're inviting practices to take part in a mass cadavre exquis event by hosting their own workshops on the day.

All the information for hosting your own workshop can be found in the above toolkit.

Once your artwork is completed, we want to see it. Share your final results with us using the hashtag #RIBASurrealism and tagging us on socials, or send us an image to

'Le cadavre exquis' using images from RIBApix

RIBA Collections: spotlight on Eileen Gray

This month, our collections team are spotlighting Eileen Gray, architect and furniture designer, through items found in RIBA Collections.

Born in Ireland in 1878, Eileen Gray was an architect and furniture designer whose name is closely tied to the emergence of the Modern Movement. She had aristocratic roots on her mother’s side, but soon left the debutante balls of her youth behind, moving to Paris in 1902 and positioning herself in the city’s bohemian artistic circles.

Read more: Spotlighting Eileen Gray

For Gray, the philosophy of design and private life could be intimately linked. She argued that an “atrophy of sensuality” had resulted in the “poverty of modern architecture”. Domestic space, in particular, had been too often designed in ways that perpetuated rigid modes of living, rather than the specific needs of its inhabitants.

Eileen Gray's Villa E.1027, Cap Martin, Roquebrune: the principal bedroom, 1929 (RIBA Collections)

OUT of Space exhibition

OUT of Space highlights contributions of the LGBTQ+ community within architecture and the built environment. The exhibition was originally organised by the RIBA LGBTQ+ Community internal group, and the RIBA Library and Collections team for display during LGBT+ History Month 2023.

The exhibition presents items from within the collections including books and photographs from architects and clients who designed spaces that expressed (or concealed) their identity.

Out of Space is divided into two sections displaying the relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and architecture throughout history. Starting from the 18th century and ending in the present, this exhibition gives voice to people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and their way of relating to space.

Learn more about the content in our OUT of Space digital exhibition

View of the OUT of Space exhibition when it was on display in the RIBA Library during LGBT+ History Month 2023

RIBA Books

The RIBA Books team have a selection of both available and upcoming on the theme of LGBTQ+ history:

Queer Spaces

With historic, contemporary and speculative examples from around the world, Queer Spaces recognises LGBTQIA+ life past and present as strong, vibrant, vigorous, and worthy of its own place in history. Looking forward, it suggests visions of what form these spaces may take in the future to continue uplifting queer lives. (Available now)

Inclusion Emergency: Diversity in Architecture

Capturing insight from leading voices in the profession, this book encourages understanding and reflection. It addresses critical questions, providing steps towards meaningful change. (Available June 1 2024)

Queer London: A Guide to the City's LGBTQ+ Past and Present

Celebrating the diversity and innovation of queer individuals in London, both historically and today, Queer London features a range of bars, clubs, shops, Pride events, charities, community organisations, saunas and sex shops that cater to the LGBTQ community. (Available now)

Queer X Design: 50 Years of Signs, Symbols, Banners, Logos, and Graphic Art of LGBTQ

The first-ever illustrated history of the iconic designs, symbols, and graphic art representing more than 5 decades of LGBTQ pride and activism - from the evolution of Gilbert Baker's rainbow flag to the NYC Pride typeface launched in 2017 and beyond. (Available now)

Queer Premises: LGBTQ+ Venues in London Since the 1980s

Queer premises provide vital social and cultural infrastructure - a queer infrastructure - connecting different generations and locations, facilitating the movement of resources, across and beyond the city. (Available now)

Find out more about RIBA's LGBTQ+ initiatives and other equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work.

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