Images: Cristiano Lamarque's scheme focusing on the conversion of the former Convent of Sao Bento de Castris at Evora, Portugal into a centre caring for Alzheimer’s patients (left) and Bethan Watson's scheme Citta della Memoria, focussing on the earthquake-damaged Italian town of L’Aquila (right).

An expert panel met at Spital Square in November to judge the entries in this year’s Philip Webb Award architectural competition. Named in honour of SPAB’s co-founder, the award encourages the sympathetic reuse of existing buildings and sensitive new design in historic contexts.  The demanding dual brief – to give new life to an old building through conservation and repair of historic fabric, in tandem with honest and appropriate intervention - provides a unique opportunity for students and architects in the early stages of their career to engage with the SPAB approach and showcase their skills.  

The SPAB was delighted to receive a number of well-presented and thought-provoking entries, submitted by both current Part II students and graduates from a range of UK architecture schools. Our judging panel was struck by the powerful theme of memory that underpinned many of this year’s schemes.

Joint first prize was given to Bethan Watson of Cambridge University and Cristiano Lamarque of Oxford Brookes University for their carefully considered and well-presented schemes.

Bethan Watson received a prize of £750 for her scheme Citta della Memoria, focussing on the earthquake-damaged Italian town of L’Aquila.

Bethan Watson says: “I am immensely proud to be the joint winner of this Award. My Masters project challenged current heritage conservation practice in post-earthquake L’Aquila, Italy by proposing an alternative reconstruction approach that stresses an inseparable relationship between tangible and intangible heritage. This project was a fantastic opportunity to engage with the SPAB’s principles which are so central to my own architectural philosophy. It makes me feel extremely humbled and privileged to have won the support of the judges, who are experts in the conservation field.”

Cristiano Lamarque of Oxford Brookes University, joint first place winner, also received a prize of £750, for his scheme focusing on the conversion of the former Convent of Sao Bento de Castris at Evora, Portugal into a centre caring for Alzheimer’s patients.  

Cristiano Lamarque says: “Historic environments are infused with memory. I feel that working with the built environment is an essential part of the architectural practice and sustainable development. My scheme was developed through an understanding of the many layers and various functions of the building, creating a threshold between the old and new – incorporating its inherited modesty. To have my work recognised and receive the merit of a first prize is an incredible honour.”

Highly commended was the outline masterplan and proposal by Jordan Green of the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff and Rhys Waring (a Nottingham graduate) for the creation of new facilities, alongside repairs, at William Lethaby’s remarkable country house, Avon Tyrrell, in Hampshire. The house is now used by charity UK Youth – the SPAB’s competition partner this year – as its outdoor education centre.  Jordan and Rhys win an activity break at Avon Tyrrell, and will have the opportunity to present their concepts and designs to UK Youth, who are currently drawing up a major refurbishment and development scheme for the site.

The judges were impressed by the high standards of articulation and visual presentation in this year’s competition. They agreed that Jennifer Bull, a graduate of Kent University, should be congratulated on the clarity and impact of the supporting material for her scheme Vinopolis – an imaginative reuse of the ancient wine cellars of Winchelsea as a prompt for regeneration.  They also appreciated the drawing abilities of another Kent graduate, Hannah Couper, in setting out her fascinating narrative and intriguing proposal for the remains of St Thomas Becket’s well at Otford.  Jennifer and Hannah will each receive a copy of A R Powys’s Repair of Ancient Buildings.

The judges were Michael Drury, architect, Arts & Crafts expert and author of Wandering Architects on Philip Webb and his circle; Ptolemy Dean, architect, presenter and Surveyor to the Fabric of Westminster Abbey; Elinor Gray-Williams, whose Copper Kingdom in Amlwch, Anglesey won RIBA’s Welsh Building of the Year Award 2014; Elizabeth Hopkirk, Assistant Editor of Building Design; and David Watts of UK Youth, Director of Operations and Avon Tyrrell.

The Philip Webb Award will be held again in 2017 for current Part II students, and recent graduates of UK Schools of Architecture who completed their studies in 2015 or 2016. The submission period for entries will open on 14 July and close at 5pm on 11 September 2017. Judging will take place in early November.

Notes to editors
For more information and photos contact Alison McClary, SPAB press office, 0207 456 0908, email:  

The SPAB is Britain’s oldest building conservation body. It was set up by William Morris in 1877 to oppose the destructive restorations of the Victorian era and promote the alternative of “conservative repair”. By law it must be notified of applications to demolish listed buildings in England and Wales and comments on hundreds each year. Today its broad remit is to advise, educate and campaign.  The Society also trains architects and craftsmen; produces a range of helpful publications and campaigns on issues like VAT.  It also has a separate section devoted to Mills.

Philip Webb Award
Philip Webb and William Morris were the main founders of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877. From the start, Webb devoted time to teaching young architects the principles and methods of practical conservation.  The Society maintains that educational tradition today and the annual Philip Webb Award is part of that commitment.

The competition is open to all students at UK Schools of Architecture who have achieved RIBA Part I and who are working towards RIBA Part II, and recent graduates. The award aims to develop students’ appreciation of the unique needs and demands of old buildings by asking them to undertake a drawing-board project that strengthens their understanding of architectural and historical value along with their knowledge of the purpose, philosophy and techniques of conservation.

The Brief is to devise a scheme which sympathetically revitalises a historic building for reuse. The scheme should incorporate both careful repair of existing fabric and a significant element of new construction in a contemporary design.