Honorary Membership of RSAW
the President's citation


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.

Peter Finch and Jonathan Adams at Portmeirion 2007
Peter Finch & 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 Gymraeg.

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 Cardiff',

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



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