In September 2007 Peter Finch was made an honorary member of
the Royal Society of Architects in Wales (RSAW). The award was
presented at a ceremony held in Portmeirion, Clough Williams-Ellis'
fantasy Italianaite village outside Porthmadoc.
& Jonathan Adams at Portmeirion
RSAW President Jonathan Adams delivered the following citation:
Peter Finch is a poet, author and critic. He was born in Cardiff
and has lived and worked in the capital throughout his career.
In the late 'sixties he created and edited the international poetry
journal 'Second Aeon', that brought modern Welsh poetry - including
his own - to the attention of a new international audience. His
work has always been pioneering. His early work is radical; sometimes
quite strange, but always precise and astute when dealing with
issues of identity and nationhood. He has never confined himself
to the medium of text. He is a great exponent of performance poetry
and has exhibited visual works and collaborated with artists in
many other media. He is also an accomplished photographer. His
techniques have always been inventive, and his observation always
acute. His explorations of new frontiers have earned him a place
as the only living Welshman in the definitive American "Dictionary
of the Avante Gardes".
Despite the fact that he once shook the assumptions of their
milieu, he is now greatly respected by his literary contemporaries
who see him as something of a national treasure: a man whose creative
intelligence and originality and whose professional integrity
make him the ideal Chief Executive for the Welsh Academy, Yr Academi
One of his previous responsibilities was to manage the Welsh
Arts Council bookshop, Oriel, in the ground floor of the Pearl
Assurance Building. This was perhaps a formative experience, being
at the business end of modernist architecture; an experience that
clearly drew his critical attention to the connection between
memory, identity and the nature of our buildings. His observations
of 'the Pearl' are a highlight of Peter's 2002 publication, 'Real
The 'Real Cardiff' books deal with the totality of the experience
of the city, its buildings and its spaces; relics and traces still
eloquent in the present and faint echoes of the cities that were
there before. Other writers have referred to his approach as 'psycho-geography'.
Readers from our discipline will recognise it as being all about
architecture, in the most complete sense.
As Peter himself observes:
"Existing histories of Cardiff either drowned the reader
in dates and detail or simply showed them old photographs. Cardiff
is the capital - it deserves better than that."
In these words Peter identified the first predicament of Welsh
architecture: that for generations Welsh architects have lacked
any worthwhile critical writing that originated in Wales, looked
through Welsh eyes and focused on the distinct built environment
of even our capital city, let alone the rest of the country.
To have the distinct architectural forms that our society needs,
we first need our distinct critical corpus, and Real Cardiff,
with its erudition, its poetry and its original insight is as
good an overture as any emerging architectural culture could hope
for. It is for his achievement in writing that book and its follow
up, 'Real Cardiff 2' that Peter has been elected to Honorary
Membership of the Royal Society of Architects in Wales.
Jonathan Adams, President, RSAW