The prestigious 2021 Royal Gold Medal, which is awarded annually by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), was presented to Sir David Adjaye in a ceremony streamed live from Accra, Ghana and London, UK on Wednesday 26 May.

Presented in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved by Her Majesty The Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence ‘either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture’. Normally run as a physical event with a dinner for around 240 guests, this year’s ceremony was a virtual occasion featuring live and pre-recorded content; it was the first time in RGM history that the RIBA could open this event up for worldwide attendees.

In order to maintain viewer engagement via this virtual broadcast from London and Ghana, the RIBA team commissioned some excellent films to deliver all of the key aspects of the ceremony; a new online platform was brought in to allow networking among guests, so they could chat with each other in a 1-2-1 capacity as they would at a live in-person event. An Expo section of the platform with additional messages and content that could be accessed during and post-presentation was also included.

The event itself featured a welcome address and speech from the RIBA President and CEO; pre-recorded messages of congratulations from significant people around the world including former US President Barack Obama and U2 signer Bono; a film showing the significance of the medal and Sir David Adjaye receiving it; a conversation between Sir David and Lucy Tilley, Associate Principal at Adjaye Associates, discussing his past and in-progress projects; and a live Q&A with Sir David himself from Ghana, with viewers able to submit their questions.

Despite the challenges of lockdown affecting the creation of the films in London and Ghana, and factoring in sufficient time to make sure the audience understood all aspects of the event platform prior to the live broadcast, the first ever virtual Royal Gold Medal ceremony was a huge success. Most notably, it was a fantastic opportunity to broaden the reach of the presentation to audiences who may otherwise have been unable to attend and celebrate the achievements of Sir David.

For more information about hosting a virtual, hybrid or live event at RIBA, contact [email protected].