site unseen The RIBA Building, London

Related Topics
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has been much in the news recently. Firstly due to a contentious dismissal, and secondly, much more happily, because of the Institute's plan to move its incomparable Drawings Collection into the Roundhouse at Camden.

Built as a turn table for railway trains in 1847, and then used as a warehouse before enjoying a distinctly chequered recent career as a music venue and arts centre, the Roundhouse would seem to be an ideal location to house the drawings of Sir Christopher Wren and many other architects. Whether this plan comes to fruition depends on the National Lottery.

RIBA's headquarters are in spacious Portland Place, sandwiched between the BBC, the Langham Hotel and Regent's Park. The purpose-built location was put up between 1932 and 1934 by architect Grey Wornum.

The interior is stunning, full of exquisite detail which deserves to be examined at leisure. Whether it be the marble columns, panelling and woodwork, or the decorative plaster and etched glass panels, this is a building that appeals both to the heart and the mind.

Perhaps the piece de resistance is the Florence hall, with its plaster reliefs which commemorate the craftsmen who worked on the building. Nearby is the sumptuous Dominion screen of Quebec pine.

By comparison, the exterior of 66 Portland Place appears austere. Made of Portland stone, it is dominated by the vast central window guarded by two tall columns bearing the figures of Man and Woman.

Look again, however, and you will see that even this simple but elegant outside is a far cry from the baldness of much post-war architecture. On the Weymouth Street frontage, for instance, the central figure high up above depicts Sir Christopher Wren.

But the glory of the exterior is rarely seen by pedestrians, namely the two massive bronze doors which are pushed back whenever the Institute is open.

The relief portrays "London's river and its buildings" and shows St Paul's, the Houses of Parliament, St James's Palace and much more besides. The three children swimming in the pool apparently represent Grey Wornum's own children. It is a neat and personal touch that sums up the virtues of the building, both inside and out.

The doors also act as a reminder that, when entering Aladdin's Cave, don't forget to look at the cave doors on your way in.

RIBA is at 66 Portland Place, London W1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary General Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Southampton: We are looking for Primary School ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album