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Hugh Pearman

If industry prizes are the marker of success, which practices came out on top this year? We thought it was time to find out

Croydon’s Boxpark by Besties-ranked BDP doubles as food court and entertainment venue.
Croydon’s Boxpark by Besties-ranked BDP doubles as food court and entertainment venue. Credit: Antony Keiler

We live in an era of ever-proliferating architecture and design awards. Every year brings a fresh crop. Some are specialist, some generalist, some promote a trade organisation or manufacturer. Most of the newer ones – especially those launched by media organisations – are intended mainly as money-makers, to compensate for the steep decline in conventional advertising revenues that has affected the publishing industry. So the publishing industry has morphed into an awards industry. 

You can always spot the ultra-commercial ones. They have the most categories, because the more categories you have, the more people will pay to enter and the more people will shell out to buy an expensive table at the awards ceremony hosted by this or that comedian or commentator. Yet, as with café culture, there seems to be almost limitless demand for awards of all kinds – the customers keep on coming. And the more awards a practice collects, the better it cumulatively looks. They are not all of equal value however. 

So as a journalistic exercise we decided to see what happens if you put all the main awards together, weighted according to relative importance, and see which practices pop out with most ‘awards value’ over the past year. We fondly call it the ‘Besties’. Easy, yes?

Oh no, not at all easy. There are challenges, and here are the main three.


Who does the weighting? We do, here on the Journal. For us the RIBA Awards are the gold standard with the Stirling Prize at the top, and so on down through the various categories of RIBA and other awards, ending with the lowest-scoring which are those of trade associations. We do this in good faith but others would certainly come up with different scores, or have a wider spread from top to bottom. Awards organisers might feel they have been unfairly ranked, or unfairly excluded. We hear you. We welcome feedback. We are prepared to negotiate and refine for next time. But this is not an award for awards. It’s a celebration of successful practices overall.

Which awards do we include? 

Different people would compile different lists. We cover some 20 awards programmes. Some, such as the RIBA, Civic Trust and the various awards run by us and our fellow architecture magazines, demand to be there; some are optional. We decided to concentrate on awards for buildings or practices in the UK and to include one or two more specialist ones. We cover general, sector specific and some trade association awards but exclude single-city and single-manufacturer awards and anything not practice-related. We don’t necessarily include every single category of every single award out there, because we might go mad. If we have overlooked something really obvious, do let us know.

What period do we cover? 

This is also a bit tricky. It’s one year. But some awards declare early in the year, some at the very end, and one helpfully straddles two calendar years. They’re not necessarily looking at the same crop of buildings, though most broadly are. So we have to make a judgment as to which year of a particular award to pick that most says – in this case – ‘2017’.

All this means that the Besties are by their nature a bit suck-it-and-see, though we have gone through several adjustments and number crunches to get to this point. But we hope that the result is a useful and informative guide to who is doing well out there in awards world. 

Disclaimer: as you can tell from the light-hearted name, our Besties are in no way any kind of official RIBA pronouncement on the matter of awards. It’s just us being inquisitive in a what-if manner and then realising too late that it involves loads of fiddly work and will probably make some people hate us. In the end, though, it’s another way to celebrate the best and most successful practices in the UK. Of course this favours the better larger firms who do most work and who are most assiduous at entering awards. Perhaps they can teach us something. Don’t just look at the top – scroll down the list and see who features. 

Interested? Amused? Outraged? Let us know what you think at with criticisms and suggestions. Informed by those, we are fully prepared to do this again next year.

Research: Michèle Woodger

Awards weighting scores  (for projects and practices in the UK only):

50 - The RIBA Stirling Prize

30 - Stirling Prize shortlist (if not the winner)

30 - Stephen Lawrence Prize winner

30 - RIBA House of the Year winner

30 - RIAS Andrew Doolan Award (Scotland)

30 - Civic Trust Awards: National Panel Special Award 

30 - World Architecture Festival overall winner 

25 - RIBA National Awards winners

25 - RIBAJ MacEwen Award overall winner

25 - RIBAJ Rising Stars overall winner (practice)

25 - BD Architect of the Year Schueco Gold Award 

25 - British Council for Offices (BCO) overall winner

25 - World Architecture Festival special commendation

20 - RIBA Regional Awards winners

20 - RIBA House of the Year shortlist

20 - Wood Awards Arnold Laver Award

20 - AJ Awards Special winners

20 - AJ Small Projects Award overall winner

20 - AR Emerging Architecture Awards winner

20 - Beazley Designs of the Year (Design Museum) architecture winner

20 - BREEAM Awards winners

20 - British Construction Industry Awards Building Project of the Year categories

20 - Brick Awards overall winner

20 - Concrete Awards overall winner

20 - Structural Steel Design Award overall winner

15 - AJ Awards category winners

15 - AJ Retrofit of the Year

15 - BD Awards category winners

15 - Housing Design Awards winners

15 - Civic Trust Awards winners

15 - GAGA architectural galvanising awards winner

15 - RIAS awards

15 - RIBAJ MacEwen Award commendations

15 - RIBAJ Rising Stars shortlist

15 - Stephen Lawrence Prize shortlist

15 - Wood Awards category winners

15 - World Architecture Festival category winners

15 - World Architecture News awards UK category winners

10 - AJ Retrofit Awards category winners

10 - AJ Small Projects shortlist

10 - AR Emerging Architecture Awards shortlist

10  - Beazley Designs of the Year (Design Museum) architecture commendations

10 - BREEAM Awards shortlist

10 - BCO national winners

10 - All trade association award categories and commendations