Jane Priestman

I sat next to Jane Priestman at the award ceremony last night. I half knew how important she had been in architecture, but only half. She was General Manager in Architecture and Design at the British Airports Authority and was responsible for commissioning Norman Foster to design Stansted Airport. Then, from 1986 to 1991, she was Director of Architecture, Design and Environment for British Rail in the days when we still had an integrated rail network and commissioned the new international terminal at Waterloo from Nick Grimshaw after seeing his exhibition Product and Process in 1988 at the RIBA. She should have won the inaugural Jane Drew prize for Women in Architecture, but it was felt that she ought to have commissioned younger practices. But the point was that, in 1988, Grimshaw was in effect a young practice and public bodies have to be confident that a practice has the experience to deliver a big project. And, besides, her faith in Grimshaw was proved right by the result.

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