Quirky Facts about RIBA Venues
15 things you may not know about 66 Portland Place!….
1. RIBA was established in 1834 in a pub! 100 years later the headquarter building was opened on Portland Place by King George V and Queen Mary.
2. The style of the building itself was considered to be modernist with a heavy Swedish influence. A lot of elements of the building were modelled on the Stockholm Town Hall. The word Art Deco was a phrase only coined in the 1960’s and so the building was considered to be Art Deco only retrospectively.
3. When the building was listed (Grade II*) in 1970 it was not well liked by the architectural profession – ‘it caused great hilarity among the RIBA Council’ and a famous architect (Alison Smithson), told the Evening Standard that “the building was lousy and should be dynamited”!! Thankfully they see it very differently now
4. There is a bomb proof room on site that was built as an air raid shelter in WW2. This is now used by ICT as a server room!!!
5. The fifth and sixth floors of the building were added in 1957 which is why we have a great mix of traditional and contemporary spaces.
6. The bronze front doors weigh one and a half tons each!! They depict London’s river and its buildings – Guildhall, Houses of Parliament, St Pauls and Horse Guards.
7. Our reception desk was designed by Barber & Osgerby who also designed the London 2012 Olympic torches!
8. On the stairs leading down to the Jarvis auditorium is a bust of Grey Wornum, who was the architect of the building. The bronze bust shows him wearing a monocle – this was not just for fashion, Grey Wornum was wounded during the Battle of the Somme in WW1 and sadly lost his right eye (as well as badly injuring his left leg for which he required a walking stick for the rest of his life).
9. The four massive columns on the first floor landing are Ashburton marble mined in Devon (locally sourced like our food)!! When the sun shines through the Weymouth street windows you can see the red coming through the marble.
10. The majority of materials used in the building were sourced from the Commonwealth countries. We have a room completely lined in leather (Aston Webb) and two rooms totally lined in wood (Jarvis auditorium and the Council Chamber)
11. The decorative features around the building tell the story of its construction and the people involved.
12. The RIBA library is the largest architectural library in Western Europe. The design was based on the layout of a cruise ship (!) and it was deliberately built north-facing to keep the books at a cooler temperature.
13. The oldest book in the library dates back to 1478!
14. The Council Chamber room is Grade 1 listed, despite the rest of the building being Grade II* listed!!
15. All of our rooms are named after architects and information on each architect and their famous works can be found in each room.