The Royal Institute of British Architects, abbreviated to RIBA, is a global professional membership body, promoting excellence in the field of architecture. The primary focus of the organization is on the advancement of architectural practice, with a constant commitment to good quality, design, and customer service. With the help of its members and fellow architects, RIBA champions better buildings and places, stronger communities, and a sustainable environment. Inclusivity, ethics, environmental awareness, and collaborations, are the backbone of the organization.

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Royal Institute of British Architects ©Archisoup

To enhance your knowledge about this international architectural body, here is a list of 10 must-know facts about RIBA. 

1. RIBA was founded in 1834.

The professional body was found almost 200 years ago, in 1834, by several prominent architects. The royal charter was granted in 1837, under King William IV, with supplemental charters in 1887, 1909, and 1925, with minor amendments. These were subsequently revoked and replaced by a single character in 1971 with an amendment in 2020.

2. The original name of the organization was the Institute of British Architects in London.

Originally named the Institute of British Architects in London in 1834, it was only in 1837 that with the accordance of the Royal Charter, the body became known as the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. The reference to London was eventually dropped in 1892, helping it arrive at its popular name today.

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Royal Institute of British Architects in London ©Architectural Digest

3. Non-profitable charity.

RIBA is a not-for-profit charity, registered in the United Kingdom, sans government funding. The RIBA Enterprise is the commercial arm of the organization, which publishes journals, operates bookshops, and functions for the benefit of the RIBA members. The membership subscriptions and commercial activities also cover a part of its operating costs. The organization predominantly relies on the members, sponsors, and charitable trading operations, to make their work possible.  

4. RIBA is governed by a Council of 50 members. 

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RIBA Council ©

The RIBA Council is responsible for the proper conduction and development of the institute. Led by a team of 50 members, the majority of whom are chartered architects, the board is responsible for directing the overall business is in alignment with its mission and vision, as well as coordinating the operations of the subsidiary companies. The team is spread between more than 10 regional offices throughout the UK. 

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Alan Jones, Current RIBA President ©Joe Laverty

The Council is headed by a President, elected for a term of two years by the RIBA members. Alan Jones, a professor of architecture and principal architect at A Jones Architects, is the current president.

5. RIBA has more than 44,000 chartered members.

RIBA is a member organization with a strong family of 44,000 members. Consisting of professionals as well as student members, the chartered members are entitled to call themselves chartered architects and append the post-nominal letters, RIBA, after their names. The professional members are spread across the UK, the US, as well as other countries. They relish the recognition, standards, training, and support of it. These members work with their respective governments to improve the design quality of public buildings, new homes, and communities, as a whole.

6. Headquarter in London.

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66, Portland Place, London ©RIBA Library Photographs Collection
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RIBA Headquarters, View from the South-west ©Historic England, Chris Redgrave

Since 1934, RIBA’s headquartered in London. Designed by George Grey Wornum, the building is of immense architectural significance. The national center is open to the public and houses a lecture theatre, exhibition spaces, a bookshop, café, bar, and an extensive library.

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The principal reception room: Henry Florence Memorial Hall ©Historic England, Chris Redgrave
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The entrance hall with atrium and main staircase ©Historic England, Chris Redgrave

The public program offers a great variety of events such as talks, debates, workshops, film screenings, et al, exploring a wide range of topics and themes. The rooms can be hired out for events as well.

7. RIBA has the third-largest architectural library in the world.

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The British Architectural Library ©Historic England, Architectural Digest
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The British Architectural Library ©Historic England, Chris Redgrave
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RIBA Library Catalogue ©

The British Architectural Library, also known as the RIBA Library, was established in 1834. With a collection of over four million items, it is the largest library in Europe and the third-largest architectural library in the world. The wide range of collections includes 1.5 million archives, audiovisual materials, 20,000 biographical files, 150,000 books, 20,000 pamphlets, 1 million drawings, 2,000 periodicals, 1.5 million photographs, and models of buildings. The art deco interiors, with open bookshelves, study rooms, and double-height central space, are a few features of this massive library. 

8. RIBA annually awards the President’s Medal.

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The RIBA Silver Medal ©Wikipedia

Since 1836, RIBA has awarded the annual President’s Medal, possibly making them the oldest awards in the field of architecture in the world. These awards are presented to architectural students or recent graduates for exceptional work in the field of architecture and design. An exhibition of winning work and selected entries are exhibited at RIBA headquarters in London, for two months, before touring nationally and internationally.

9. Competition is a dedicated unit of RIBA.

RIBA Competitions Guide for Client ©
RIBA Competitions Guide for Entrants ©

RIBA has a dedicated unit for organizing architectural and other design-related competitions, namely RIBA Competitions. Established over 40 years ago, the competitions are floated for a diverse range of project types and budgets, both on behalf of the public and private sector clients. These competitions help bring expertise, provide RIBA endorsement, promotion and are therefore a complete value for money.

10. RIBA’s motto is ‘Usui civium, decori urbium’.

Bookplate of Royal Institute of British Architects ©Pinterest

The Latin motto means, For the Use of the People and the Glory of the City. The design of the motto and the Institute’s Mycenaean lion’s medal is attributed to Thomas Leverton Donaldson. The description of the RIBA logo is: gules, two lions rampant guardant or, supporting a column marked with lines chevron, all standing on a base of the same.



Kavya Jain is an architect by profession with a zest for writing, travelling, reading and eating! She is a young designer trying to use her knowledge for the betterment of the society. She spends her free time pursuing her passion of teaching kids in slums across the city. She is a firm believer of living life one day at a time, because the future will come your way, no matter what anyway!