Welcome to the website of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust Building Beauty Awards, sponsored by Ballymore.
The awards celebrate the best of beautiful new architecture – and because each one of us is affected by the presence or absence of beauty, we’d like your input. Can you think of a beautiful new building that makes you happy, that you would take a detour to see, that makes a street you know a more delightful place? You might have designed a building that has just that effect. The deadline for the 2023 awards has now passed but please keep it in mind for the 2024 awards – we’ll be inviting entries from Spring 2024 for projects completed since the start of 2023.
There are also categories for engineering structures, public spaces and small physical interventions (we’re calling them Little Gems) that make a neighbourhood a jollier place to be. So don’t forget to nominate whatever piece of creative excellence gives you a lift whenever you see it.
The designer of the Overall Winner, chosen from the category winners, is awarded £12,000, making this the richest architecture prize in the UK, and is automatically shortlisted for the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust International Building Beauty Prize, presented at the World Architecture Festival – an ideal opportunity to showcase work at the world’s largest international architectural event.
Alongside the awards, we offer small grants to promote beautification projects – physical interventions that make the public realm look better, and therefore work better. You can read more about them, and apply for a grant, here. Applications for 2023 grants should be submitted by 1 October 2023.
Lord Foster of Thames Bank OM presented the 2022 awards at Bloomberg European Headquarters in the City of London on 21 November 2022. The winning and commended projects were:
Engineering Award / Winner (and Overall Winner) Tintagel Castle Footbridge, Cornwall (Ney & Partners and William Matthews Associates for English Heritage) / Commended: Leeds Footbridge (Gagarin Studio with DP Squared for Citu)
Building Award /Winner: McGrath Road, Stratford, London (Peter Barber Architects for the London Borough of Newham) / Commended: Oglesby Centre, Manchester (Stephenson Hamilton Risley Studio for Hallé Concerts Society) / Welcome Building, RHS Bridgewater, Salford (Hodder + Partners for The Royal Horticultural Society)
Public Space Award / Winner: Illuminated River, London (Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and Leo Villareal Studio for the Illuminated River Foundation) / Commended: Borough Yards, Southwark, London (SPPARC Architects for MARK) / Walala Parade, Leyton, London (Camille Walala for the shop owners of Leyton High Street)
Little Gem / Winner: Tower of Light and Wall of Energy, Manchester (Tonkin Liu Architects for Manchester City Council and Vital Energi) / Commended: 69 Old High Street and The Cabins, Tontine Street, Folkestone, Kent (Neat for the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust) / Floating Church, Hackney Wick, London (Denizen Works for The Diocese of London) / House in Leyton, London (McMahon Architecture for a private client) / Ivy Street, Hoxton, London (Sam Jacob Studio for Sam Jacob and the Ivy Street Family Centre)
Why these awards?
There are plenty of architecture awards, so why these ones? We’re running them because architecture is the only art that none of us can avoid. Whether we spend much time thinking about architecture or not, we all consume it on some level, whether we live or work in a building, visit it, pass it by or just glimpse it on the morning commute. In a fractured world, it’s one of the last great shared experiences.
And what we see affects our mood. Buildings have the power, at their best, to lift us up – at their worst, to depress us. Between one extreme and the other, the impact on our wellbeing can be considerable. So every one of us has skin in this game, and we all have a right to say what works for us.
Of course we know that successful architecture is about more than surface appearance. There are lots of things a building ought to be, functional and sustainable among them. But the outside of a building is all most of us see of it; so how it presents itself externally is important. When buildings delight those who have to look at them, they add real social value.
Beauty in buildings is topical, and rightly so. The National Planning Policy Framework has been revised to give councils more power to reject applications on aesthetic grounds. Whether a building is beautiful really does affect whether it gets built.
And so to get planning permission, people will need to think about what makes a building beautiful. In practical terms, whether they are deemed to have succeeded will be a matter for local planning committees. But as we know, local authority resources are limited and their judgements aren’t always consistent. They are going to need guidance. The Government will give them some, in the form of design codes.
But it will still be useful, we think, for planning committees and developers to have a body of live examples to draw on. By holding up examplars and advertising excellence, we hope these awards will help.
Not everyone, of course, will agree with the conclusions of our award judges. We don’t expect them to or even necessarily want them to. What we want to do is get people thinking – and then, we hope, get them demanding buildings that look good and make our daily lives richer and better.