PRESIDENT'S AWARD

This special Award is presented for an outstanding contribution to the property industry. This might be a project, company or individual, or perhaps a combination of all three.


 Paul Finch OBE

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 Paul Finch may not be an architect, but he has an architect’s eye; he is not an engineer but he knows how things work and whilst not a surveyor, he appreciates what makes commercial sense. What the recipient of an OBE for services to architecture ‘is’ is one of property’s most influential and revered commentators, and champion of best practice in the built environment. In 1972 the Cambridge history graduate joined Estates Times as a cub reporter, in an era of punitive government policies which would make even Jeremy Corbyn blush and when UK surveyors were expanding overseas.

For the young Londoner this meant more than the odd foreign junket; it laid the foundations for a career based on appreciation of great design and that buildings are more than bricks-and-mortar. The future Cabe founding commissioner moved to Building Design as editor in 1983 when UK architecture was conquering the world. The then prevalent architectural philosophy of ‘commercial property bad; social projects good’ was being dismantled, thanks in no small part to BD’s editor amongst others. This appreciation and encouragement of commercial property being a tool for good, and refusing to tow the fashionable-line of demonisation of modern design has been fundamental throughout the Cabe Olympic Design Review Panel Chair’s career. Hence when many were blaming building design rather than people for a spate of terrorist attacks, a voice of reason prevailed.

“There is a stream of architectural determinism which tries to blame crime on high-rise council estates. It is never explained why the Krays were so vicious when they were brought up in nice traditional homes.” AJ 8/6/17 This ability to interpret the bigger, complex picture and coherently and entertainingly distill the information to a wider audience is indicative of a wider contribution to property. The UCL honorary fellow’s reasoning skills are in constant demand from review panels and for major public inquiries such as Heron Tower, the Shard and the WalkieTalkie where he gave supportive evidence on Cabe’s behalf. 

The 68 year-old’s stint as Architects’ Journal editor - from 1994, when he became an FRIBA - was an unqualified success. He helped to resuscitate the title’s commercial health while also sponsoring the Stirling Prize and RIBA Awards programme. From 2005 to 2009 he edited the Architectural Review, and launched the World Architecture Festival which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Still the magazine’s editorial director, he is currently back in the editor’s chair – as maternity cover! Time spent in the company of the Design Council’s former deputy chair usually prompts a good discussion, and he is valued participant at BCO events.

Chewing-the-fat with this bon viveur is a MIPIM highlight. Because as well as being a great intellect, an industry champion, a gifted journalist and reasoned debater, Paul really is a ‘great bloke’ as we say in Blighty. It is why 11 years ago the BCO gave him honorary membership and why now the BCO would like to recognise the immense contribution made to the offices sector by awarding Paul Finch the 2017 President’s Award.