Herman Hertzberger RIBA Gold Medal
by Michael Crosbie
When Dutch architect and architectural theorist Herman Hertzberger was named the winner of the Royal Institute of British Architects' 2012 Gold Medal, he lamented the fact that architects don't garner the respect they did just a generation ago, and that their status in the construction industry has been downgraded, a reflection of the fact that they are not the master builders they once were. "We're not buried next to the king anymore," he observed.
This sounds a bit uncharacteristic of Hertzberger, whose architecture has for the past half century celebrated the lowly more than the lofty. His designs have elevated the everyday, anonymous users of his buildings, whom he sees as the ultimate critics of his architecture.
His body of work expresses a welcome dose of humility in a culture that venerates the figure of the all-knowing, genius architect at the same time as the profession's influence on the built environment continues to dwindle.
Ever focused on the architect's social role, Hertzberger observes: "My type of architecture is about trying to improve living conditions with architecture," a goal that has once again gained favor among many of today's architecture students and practitioners.
Hertzberger, who turns 80 on July 6, 2012, was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He studied architectural engineering at Delft University of Technology, graduating in 1958. That same year he opened his own firm in Amsterdam (now known as Architectuurestudio HH) where he has practiced for the past 54 years.
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