The 2023 Building Beauty Awards winners have now been unveiled by The Royal Fine Art Commission Trust, and they include some fascinating designs. The awards celebrate new buildings, engineering structures, and urban landscaping schemes that add beauty to Britain’s built environment. Let’s get a flavour of the awards and take a look at the top three winners.
The judging panel for the 2023 Building Beauty Awards was led by Stephen Bayley FRIBA, chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust and one of Britain’s foremost design critics. Prizes were presented by Booker prize-winning author Sir Ben Okri in the Sea Containers House amphitheatre in London.
Beauty in the built environment
Sir Ben said:
The Building Beauty Awards has scored another triumph in choosing buildings, structures, and schemes that bring hope and give delight. They remind us that we always have a choice between the indifferent and the beautiful, and that beauty in architecture enhances freedom.
Overall winner and building winner.
The overall winner, chosen from four category winners, was Bayside in Worthing, which received a £12,000 cash prize and will now represent the UK in the contest for the International Building Beauty Prize at the 2023 World Architecture Festival in Singapore. This mixed tenure housing development designed by Allies & Morrison for Roffey Homes, comprises a 170ft sea-facing tower, a six-storey garden square and a beachside café amid the built environment of Worthing seafront.
Successful urban planning
Stephen Bayley, chair of the judging panel, said:
This is an impressive exercise in using local references to create an original and powerful landmark – a worthy replacement for the depressing 1960s swimming pool that previously occupied the site and which, ironically, turned its back on the sea. It sits literally beachside and forms an exclamation mark that balances the horizontal mass of the pier. At the same time, it bookends the seafront terraces of Regency Worthing, harmonising with their white stucco while steering clear of weak historicism. Seen from the distant pier, it announces itself as a destination – not aggressively, but as a complement to the historic town.
Woolbeding Glasshouse in Midhurst, Sussex, was designed by Heatherwick Studio for the Woolbeding Charity in collaboration with Eckersley O’Callaghan, who worked on the structural and façade engineering. This 10-sided, 1500 sq ft subtropical greenhouse is inspired by Victorian ornamental terrariums and has an opening roof that uses a hydraulic mechanism to give the plants direct sunlight and ventilation.
Public spaces winner
Elephant Park in Elephant & Castle in London is a public infrastructure project by Gillespies for Lendlease. It’s a sequence of landscaped spaces conceived as part of the regeneration of the old Heygate Estate in south London. It involves a range of scales, from a new set-piece park – at two acres one of the largest post-war parks in central London – to a transformation of the urban space and streetscape along a major traffic artery.
Judges noted that it has improved an area that had fallen into decay by introducing green space into the built environment. Introducing green, human made space into urban areas meets various aspects of human needs, from physical space to opportunities for relaxation in the built environment, creating a better live work balance and combating climate change.
Little Gem winner
Plas Glyn-y-Weddw Café in LLanbedrog, Gwynedd, was designed by Sanderson Sculpture, Mark Wray Architects and Fold for Plas Glyn-y-Weddw. This spectacular sculptural addition to Wales’s oldest art gallery comprises marine-grade structural glazing wrapped in an envelope textured with nearly 90,000 handcrafted stainless-steel barnacles, creating a permeable layer that filters natural light to the interior.
The judges commented:
Inspired by the globular form of sea urchins, covered in welded encrustations and with a touch of Oriental exoticism to the interior, it has enough chutzpah and romantic appeal to become a destination in its own right.
• The Royal Fine Art Commission Trust is a registered charity established in 1987 to sit alongside the Royal Fine Art Commission, the Government’s independent advisor on matters affecting public amenity and aesthetics in England and Wales. The Trust works to promote visual awareness and public appreciation of high-quality design in the built environment.