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Judges verdicts and comments - our Summer Awards 2023

Future Cities Forum is releasing some comments from the judges at our Summer Awards 2023 event at The Haymarket Hotel, London.

The judges were:

Ellie Evans, Managing Partner, Volterra Partners,

Ruchi Chakravarty, Head of Place Shaping, Westminster City Council

Amanda Saunders, Development Director, Royal Opera House

Heather Topel, Director of Development, Grosvenor Property (UK)

Nyasa Beale, Director, Scott Brownrigg,

Ros Lawler, COO, National Portrait Gallery

Anna Shapiro, Partner, Sheppard Robson

Claire Clement, Associate, HOK

Kelsey Stewart, Associate Partner, Pilbrow & Partners

Olivia Forty, Associate, Wright & Wright

Above: approach to the Contact Theatre Manchester (courtesy Sheppard Robson)

1 Cultural cities – theatre projects Cultural organisations have been relieved to see the back of Covid-19 restrictions, but many have been left with hefty debts. Covid-19 has shown us however just how vital accessible cultural infrastructure (galleries, museums, theatres, live music and performance venues) is to human health and well-being as well as the prosperity and attractiveness of cities. In addition to recovery in footfall, do they have practical strategies to open out to communities beyond their physical walls and how are they doing this? Are there awards to be given for those projects that protect cultural heritage while modernizing for new audiences? Do they act as cultural anchors for the confident self-expression, brand, and identity of their districts and cities? WINNER

Contact Theatre, Manchester - extension and re-modelling (Sheppard Robson for Contact Theatre) Sheppard Robson Contact Manchester Ethos | Contact, Manchester (

The judging panel had a strong new theatre shortlist to choose a winner from. However, they voted heavily in favour of Manchester’s Contact Theatre remodelling and expansion project.

Contact is the leading national theatre and arts venue to place young people at the decision-making heart of everything, and it offers a diverse and accessible artistic programme for everyone. The project comprised of a £6.5m extension and remodelling of the Contact Theatre’s existing building. Aiming to transform the visitor experience and improve the building’s visibility from Oxford Road, the works added two new performance spaces and vastly improve disabled access.

Working alongside Sheppard Robson Architects, Max Fordham provided performance design of the M&E systems with an on-site monitoring role during construction and aim to future-proof the building through a complete overhaul of the engineering systems. This included the addition of new signage and architectural lighting over the entrance.

Amanda Saunders, the Royal Opera House’s Director of Development commented,

‘The Contact stood out. It was re-purposed. Soho Place (Theatre) could be anywhere, like the Apple Stores. However, I like the heart and soul of Contact.’

Ros Lawler, the COO of the National Portrait Gallery, said:

‘I really liked Contact for their values, and their manifesto. Brixton very good on community out-reach – with the café being very open.

Oliva Forty of Wright & Wright Architects said:

'You can really tell they (Sheppard Robson) are trying to respond to original building, which is really strong.' RUNNERS UP

Brixton House (Foster Wilson Size Architects for Lambeth Council and Brixton House) – a new home for the Ovalhouse theatre, and part of a Lambeth Council project to regenerate the Somerleyton Road area, near the Brixton Covered Market, with new homes, workspaces and a cultural anchor. Brixton House Theatre + Workspace → Foster Wilson Size Brixton House | Brixton House Soho Place (Derwent London and Nimax Theatres) – creation of a replacement theatre as part of the Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station development, which involved demolition. Soho Place – Office Projects – Allford Hall Monaghan Morris | AHMM

Above: Looking towards the O2 Arena across the the old graving dock and the Thames from Blackwall Yard.(Hadley Property Group / LDA Design)

2 Master planning, regeneration & mixed-use In this category, we looked at the sustainability of districts. What will survive as a piece of ‘leading planning and design’ that future generations will consider as outstanding? What are the characteristics of places that people love to both live and work in? How important is biodiversity and re-designing car dominated districts? WINNER

Blackwall Yard – London. Thameside mixed-use redevelopment of an unloved piece of city, including a historic ‘graving’ dock, opposite the O2 Arena (Hadley Property Group / LDA Design / Tower Hamlets Council) Blackwall Yard, Poplar | Places | Hadley Property Group

Nyasa Beale of Scott Brownrigg: 'I was drawn to Blackwall Yard for its use of the old (graving) dock, and keeping something for the community instead of building on it. I have been there. It’s really lovely.'

Ellie Evans of Volterra: 'I worked on Blackwall Yard. It’s a really good use of brownfield, with a new primary school and a mix of amenities. An amazing job with a difficult site.'

Amanda Saunders of the ROH – 'It is really good that the (buildings of) Blackwall Yard do not go right to the edge. On Gloucester, I like idea of taking students to regenerate city centres as they are lively (and noisy!) but they bring so much life.’

RUNNERS-UP Gilston Park – East of England Plan for new homes in collaboration with East Hertfordshire Council supporting Harlow’s regeneration (MICA and Grimshaw) MICA – MICA gains planning permission for 8,500 new homes at Gilston Park Estate ( The Gilston Park Estate ( Gloucester City Centre campus and King’s Quarter district development (‘Forum Gloucester’) – including Debenhams remodelling and King’s Square regeneration (Gloucester City Council with University of Gloucestershire / ADP Architecture, and Reef Group) Gloucester City Centre Campus: A major catalyst for a rising city's rebirth - ADP Architecture ( Forum Gloucester – Reef Group (

3 Science Cities – healthcare This summer we are using our science cities category to look at hospital development, as the extending of hospital buildings or the creation of new healthcare facilities is very much in the news. How can the design of new hospital buildings serve patients’ needs more effectively, how does the design fit in with the surrounding environment, how have architects pushed the boundaries on net zero considerations?


Cambridge Children’s Hospital (Cambridge University Health Partners – design team: White Arkitekter with Hawkins Brown, MJ Medical and Ramboll) Plans for children’s hospital progress for 2023 | Cambridge Children's ( Cambridge Children's Hospital - White Arkitekter

Ros Lawler said: – ‘From a lay person point of view, UCLH has a sensible approach. Pittsburgh tipped it...using a blind architect is walking the talk. There is so much in that project. Roof-top garden and so on.’

Olivia Forty of Wight & Wright Architects added – ‘the vision at Cambridge is amazing, really taking in patient experience with bedrooms on the top floor and views, but I prefer UCLH and Pilbrow’s design because it is contextual in its architectural approach.’

Nyasa Beale said: 'Colour does invite children in, but it's about the families as well at Cambridge. The whole ethos for Cambridge is very engaging.'

UCLH Phase 5 – Pilbrow & Partners for University College Hospital London For UCLH the practice designed a new specialist facility for ear, nose, and throat medicine: Phase 5. The site on Huntley Street is set at the heart of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area adjacent to listed residential neighbours. UCLH Phase 5 | Pilbrow & Partners | Listed Buildings ( UPMC Mercy Hospital (Pittsburgh) – new facility and rehabilitation building for people with impaired vision – HOK with Chris Downey UPMC Mercy Opens Revolutionary Vision and Rehabilitation Facility - HOK UPMC Vision and Rehabilitation Tower at UPMC Mercy - HOK

4 Hotels/net zero New hotels are often the anchor for major developments in cities, but are they sustainable in design? There is a now an awareness of how important it is to make travel and ‘city stays’ eco-friendly. How are hotels being designed to consider climate change, and how can new hotels (be they conversions of department stores / heritage buildings or new structures) help re-invigorate the centre of cities, and high streets?


Jenners Department Store, Princes Street, Edinburgh – conversion into hotel, bars and restaurants (David Chipperfield Architects with 3D Reid and Loader Monteith for Frasers Group) Jenners • David Chipperfield Architects Planning approval for Jenners restoration in Edinburgh | 3DReid Ellie Evans of Volterra – ‘Jenners was the winner for me. Loved the atrium use. In the City of London conversion of offices to hotels has a lot going for it.’

Kelsey Stewart of Pilbrow & Partners said: 'Easily the winner. Jenners is a really good use of an existing building. Working with rather against the building.' Citicape House, by Holborn Viaduct, City of London (Dominus Group / Sheppard Robson) Sheppard Robson Hotel Indigo, Exeter – transformation of redundant House of Fraser on Exeter High Street (Prydis) Exeter's empty House of Fraser will become boutique Hotel Indigo - Devon Live

5 Sports and performance stadiums, community, and regeneration How can sports stadiums become less fortress-like and welcome in the community for social wellbeing and entertainment– beyond match days? How can they provide a spotlight for the prowess of UK sport through hosting major tournaments? Do they lead to regeneration in the districts in which they are placed? WINNER

Liverpool – Bramley-Moore Dock (Everton FC / Dan Meis Architects) EVERTON STADIUM | About The Project

Claire Clement of HOK, and a sports stadia specialist, said: – ‘Everton has amazing sustainability credentials with 95% of materials being from re-used sources. The project has a very interesting logistics approach with all construction pieces digitally checked and scanned before delivery, so no waste.’

RUNNERS-UP Birmingham – Villa Park (Aston Villa FC / Grimshaw / Trivandi) – Project Architect Sarah Williams of Grimshaw The future vision of Villa Park | AVFC Peterborough – River Nene Park regeneration and new stadium for Peterborough FC (‘The Posh’) Embankment Stadium | Peterborough United - The Posh

6 Future workspace What are the design ingredients that will draw employees back to the office? How do these new designs embrace health and wellbeing with break-out spaces? How are they integrated into their surroundings? Can we give new life to unloved buildings? Can architects re-purpose cost-effectively (and with carbon awareness) rather than demolish? WINNER

New town hall and offices for London Borough of Tower Hamlets in remodelled Royal London Hospital building (Bouygues UK for Tower Hamlets Council) Our New Town Hall story ( Tower Hamlets Town Hall - Bouygues UK (

Ellie Evans of Volterra said: 'Sony really worked out what they needed. Anyone working for Sony will want to get back to work! Being from Birmingham, I loved the look of how BBC Tea Factory will be. I remember the Mail Box for the BBC and it was not successful but the new project in Digbeth shows how much Birmingham is changing. I have been to Tower Hamlets Tower Hall and it is impressive. Lots of break out spaces.

Amanda Saunders of the ROH commented: 'My vote is for Tower Hamlets and its commitment to community. When people think (usually) about town halls, it's best case getting married, worst case lots of queues and terrible lighting. I really like this project as it speaks differently about your role as a council, and speaking confidently.'

Heather Topel of Grosvenor said: 'Tower Hamlets is a great example of the public sector leading the way in terms of reuse. The project is really about what we all trying to do: making sure that work places are fit for use in terms of accessibility and all types of users.'

RUNNERS-UP BBC Birmingham new offices / adaptive re-use of Typhoo Tea Factory in Digbeth (Stoford / Glenn Howells Architects / BDP) BBC Birmingham to relocate to Digbeth's Typhoo Tea factory - BBC News BDP to deliver regeneration of Typhoo Wharf for new BBC broadcasting house in Birmingham Sony Music HQ at King’s Cross, London (MoreySmith for Sony) Sony Music KX Sony Music HQ | Kings Cross - MoreySmith - Sony Music HQ | Kings Cross

Above: CGI from LDA Design of the Strand Aldwych after the removal of traffic

7 Place-making and healthy streets Cities are working hard to re-invigorate central business districts, high streets and those forgotten side streets with independent shops ravaged by Covid-19, changes in working patterns and the decline of physical retail. How inventive are the projects in concept, how do they embrace sustainability, create free access, and how do they re-connect communities across dividing infrastructure attracting footfall? WINNER

Strand Aldwych pedestrianization – Westminster City Council, King’s College London, Somerset House Trust, Society of London Theatres, Transport for London and the Northbank BID – and LDA Design (completed late 2022) Strand Aldwych Consultation The Making of the Modern City ll - 'New Districts' (

Ros Lawler of NPG: ‘I think the Strand is brilliant but the other two projects will have a much wider impact on the whole city by changing the rhythm. I grew up in Leeds and 20 years ago it (the South Bank) was a ‘no go’ area. Aire Park has opened a half of the city which you wouldn’t have gone to in the past.'

Kelsey Stewart of Pilbrow & Partners: ‘From a sustainable point of view taking car centric spaces – in Leeds -and converting them to nature is important – it’s people focused infrastructure.’

Nyasa Beale of Scott Browrigg: ‘I was drawn to the Leeds for the scale of ambition, but I am worried how that space will be controlled at night.’

RUNNERS-UP Aire Park, Leeds (part of Tetley Brewery district regeneration (Leeds City Council / Vastint / Sisk) Double delight as work on landmark Aire Park hits two key milestones ( Aire Park | Vastint United Kingdom Newcastle City Council / LDA Design – City Centre place-making (announced 2021 to complete 2024) City Centre Transformation: The Proposals | Newcastle City Council Greener Grey Street Gets Go Ahead - Connecting people and place through landscape | LDA Design ( Future Cities Forum is very grateful for the time and commitment that the judges gave to our half-yearly awards and look forward to including them in our future judging panels.


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