The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Hugh Pearman elected as new C20 Chairman

Hugh Pearman – Journalist, editor, author and new C20 Chairman

C20 trustees are delighted to announce that following election by Society members at the recent AGM, Hugh Pearman has been appointed to take on the role of Twentieth Century Society Chairman.

Pearman is a distinguished journalist, editor and author. He was architecture and design critic of The Sunday Times for 30 years (1986-2016), editor of the RIBA Journal for 14 years (2006-20), and has written extensively for other media. His latest book, ‘About Architecture: An Essential Guide in 55 Buildings’ was published by Yale University Press in May.

In addition, Pearman served on Arts Council England’s architecture advisory group, was one of the instigators of The RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture in 1996 and chaired the “Art for Architecture” initiative at the Royal Society of Arts from 2000-04. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2001 and was awarded an MBE for services to architecture in 2019.

Previous chair Ian McInnes stands down after helping to steer the Society through a period of considerable change. We’d like to thank him immensely for his service as chair and as a trustee over the past decade.

‘C20 is the only one of the national architecture amenity societies to have an expanding remit into the future.’


The appointment marks the first time the Society has conducted an external recruitment process to fill this key position. Pearman outlines his three main priorities in the role as fundraising, strengthening the board of trustees, and exploring ways to broaden membership.

A particular target for membership recruitment is large architecture and design practices, and the most responsible property developers – finding common ground with those working imaginatively yet sympathetically with buildings from our period.

Heritage of the Future

An increasing focus for the Society is proactively assessing the architecture and design of the late twentieth and early twenty first century, helping to define what the built-heritage of the future may be.

This builds on the Society’s forty five year legacy as a highly successful campaigning organisation, and as one of the National Amenity Societies – fulfilling a key role in the planning process as a statutory consultee for buildings from 1914 to the present day.

Pearman stated:

‘C20 should be seen as studiously neutral, not biased in its style choices – to an extent we have to work ahead of public taste, identifying the best of the recent past at the moment when it may be at its most unfashionable. The raft of Millennium projects will soon be coming up to their 30-year anniversaries [one of the main thresholds for consideration of national listing in England and Wales]. Moreover, what and where will be the first 21st century listed building?

You can read a Q&A between Director Catherine Croft and Hugh Pearman here



Director Catherine Croft welcomed Hugh to the role:

“I’m delighted that Hugh is enthusiastically taking on this role and look forward to working with him.  He writes with enormous insight and knowledge about buildings and how people respond to them.  He is keenly aware of the current challenges of retrofitting architecturally significant buildings to address the climate crisis, as well as the enormous contribution which the conservation and reuse of existing structures is already making to securing a more environmentally friendly future. Many of the buildings we will be campaigning for in the years to come will no doubt be ones which Hugh covered when they were first constructed, and whose architects he has known and interviewed—that unique insight will be invaluable.

I am extremely grateful to our current Chair, Ian McInnes who steps down after seeing us through the latter stages of the Covid pandemic and contributing to the Society in a huge range of roles, not least as a charismatic and popular tour leader.”

Hugh Pearman added:

“What I admire about the C20 Society is the breadth and depth of expertise that its people represent. It already covers 109 years of architectural history from 1914, and is the only one of the national architecture amenity societies to have an expanding remit into the future. It is style-neutral, dealing with everything from fine traditionalist buildings on to modernism in all its variants and alternatives, including public art. It has a vital statutory role as a consultee in the planning system, safeguarding many of the best buildings of the recent past through its activities. And it has a great series of events and lectures.

This work is especially vital now for another reason: avoidance of climate-endangering waste. Too many good buildings are needlessly demolished when they could be imaginatively re-used, and it is part of the C20 mission, alongside our colleagues in the other societies, to get that message across.

My trade has always been communicating architecture to both public and professionals and I hope to bring that experience to my role as  chair of the Society, not least in helping to gather support to expand its vital programme of casework on threatened buildings”.