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The Brits Who Built The Modern World exhibition - RIBA

12th Feb 2014

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MmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmThe Brits are coming! Though one of the music industry's biggest nights will descend on us next week, there's another very different 'Brit' event happening this February and this time it's all about architecture. Spring 2014 will see the Royal Institute of British Architects [RIBA] open a brand new gallery at its Art Deco headquarters in central London. The opening exhibition, The Brits Who Built the Modern World, will tell the story of how a single generation of exceptional architects – born within five years of each other in the 1930s – gave 21st Century British architecture an unrivalled reputation around the world. The exhibition is part of a season of exhibitions and events inspired by the BBC TV series The Brits Who Built the Modern World – which will be broadcast from tonight and will continue into spring 2014.

Norman Foster [Foster + Partners], Richard Rogers [Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners], Nicholas Grimshaw [Grimshaw Architects], Michael and Patty Hopkins [Hopkins Architects] and Terry Farrell [Terry Farrell and Partners] have designed many of the world’s landmark buildings, from the Reichstag in Berlin to the Pompidou Centre in Paris and The Peak in Hong Kong. What unites these six architects is that they left European modernism behind and became protagonists of the next movement in architecture, known as ‘high-tech’ or ‘industrial style’. Their inspiration came from cars, Meccano and engineers. They replaced typically modernist concrete with steel skeletons and lightweight, ‘clip on’, prefabricated materials. It was a style that each of them developed individually, but which they all successfully exported, turning it and them into a global commodity.

Through drawings, photographs, models and film - many from the RIBA’s world-renowned collections - the exhibition charts the rise of these prolific architects, and of the changing world that they were designing for. It gives context to their work, including their influences, contemporaries and the technological discoveries that made ever more dazzling structures possible.

The exhibition also explores the changing identity of cities internationally: landmark buildings were increasingly commissioned to ‘brand’ or regenerate a city and few architects were more popular for the role than the six featured in the exhibition.

The Brits Who Built the Modern World season also includes a series of talks and events at the RIBA including a live Q&A with all five architects and a ‘High Tech’ Last Tuesday evening, also at the RIBA. 


There are also two accompanying RIBA exhibitions:

New British Voices - Today and Tomorrow [13 February 2014 – 27 May 2014, RIBA Gallery 1, 66 Portland Place W1]
Featuring new and soon to be completed international projects by 17 British based practices – both large and small – this exhibition looks at what UK architecture looks like around the world today and tomorrow. With guest contributions from a range of experts and commentators, it also explores what lies behind the strength of the UK design industries today.

Empire Builders: British Architects Abroad 1750 – 1950 [30 November 2013 – 15 June 2014, V&A + RIBA Architecture Gallery, V&A]
Drawing largely on the extensive collections of the RIBA’s Library and archives, this display showcases the variety of international buildings designed and built by British architects over two centuries. From a 19th Century cast iron market in Chile to an art deco church in Delhi exquisite drawings, watercolours, photographs and models, show where, why and how British architects built abroad, both inside and outside the Empire.


The Brits Who Built the Modern World runs from 13 February - 27 May 2014. For details of all the events, visit -

RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1;