Spanning suburbia

Who doesn’t love a suburban home? Our competition invites architects to rethink the typology for the 21st century

In association with

Suburbia, that early 20th century typology, still holds a fascination for the architect, despite the rise of the larger metropolis and megalopolis. Even in our modern world, the aspirational middle-class values it embodies retain their draw. History has charted suburbia as a battleground for artistic movements –from Mod to punk and now bedroom-generated electronic music; and that’s tracked by competing architectural styles: arts and crafts, neo-vernacular, modernism... even post-modernism.

Now we are asking architects to rethink suburbia with a design for a one-off house which expresses the needs and aspirations of its occupants and is highly creative with a wide range of lintel features. These styles have stood the test of time. From the first inter-war estate housing to the rise of the archetypal 1950s semi-through to the toy-town developments of the 80s that characterised the free-market expansionism of Thatcher’s Britain, the utilitarian nature, flexibility and potential for expansion of suburban housing endured.

With such potential for the individual to put their stamp on their home over its long life, the suburban house reflects the lives of its occupants. Mass-produced by default, over time it embodies the potential to express its owners’ taste in the most curious ways – a kind of architecture without architects.

Inspired by this our competition, Spanning Suburbia, in conjunction with the UK’s largest steel lintel manufacturer, IG Lintels, invites architects to offer us their own vision with a design for a 21st century suburban family villa – whatever that might constitute; perhaps non-nuclear, online, atomised! 

  • Credit: jgareri
CRITERIA   The main construction material should be traditional brick or block, and the main structural support for its features should be the steel lintel. Each entry must incorporate at least three of the following features in their designs (entrants will be provided with weblinks to IG Lintels technical product information and technical telephone support will be available) : 
  • Gothic arch 
  • Parabolic arch
  • Bullseye window
  • Apex arch
  • Segmental arch
  • Semi-circular arch
  • Sun lounge
  • Corner windows
  • Square bay windows
  • Splayed bay windows
  • Glazed apexes
  • Brick feature details
Using these lintels, our challenge to you is to create a home that meets the needs of its contemporary occupants; which can be minimalist or highly decorative; restrained or exuberant. Whatever the formal language, thermal comfort and efficiency is a key consideration. Rooms may be functional but must include an abundance of natural light and decorative features. 
THE SITE  Entrants are at liberty to pick their suburban site – but we will want to see evidence of it – as the building will have to respond to the context you have decided on. Why did your fictional residents choose the site?
JUDGING   Judges will be looking for a winning design that is highly creative in its employment of a wide range of lintel features, and which joyfully expresses the needs or aspirations of its occupants. It should be energy efficient, it may be innovative or playful. The winner will be the design that best embodies the utility, contingency, personality and joy that the best suburban homes can manifest.
SUBMISSIONS  Entries must include the following and be laid out on no more than two A3 sheets, supplied electronically as pdfs: 
  • Site plan and critical images of the chosen site
  • Plans of the villa, including north point
  • Elevations and a key section
  • Axonometric or 3D visualisation showing lintel construction methodology 
  • Optional supplementary images you consider helpful
PRIZES  There will be a cash prize of £2000 for the winner and £500 for each of the three commended entries.

Winning entries will be published in the September 2019 issue of the RIBA Journal.


  • The jury’s decision is final
  • No correspondence will be entered into by the organisers or judges regarding feedback on entries
  • The competition winner and commended participants will be notified in writing
  • Please email questions to

Enter here 

Deadline for entry: 11:59 pm, 14 May 2019.

Entry support

Hotline: 01633 486 486

Further online information


Prolific designer and recipient of many prizes including the Pritzker, one half of Roche Dinkeloo, which developed and built on Eero Saarinen’s legacy

Pritzker winner and half of Saarinen successor Roche Dinkeloo

A design-led practice without a design policy? Glenn Howells has filled the gap with his CLEAN philosophy

A design-led practice without a design policy? Not any more

Recticel's Eurowall+ insulation board allows architects and homebuilders to maintain existing cavity wall build-ups without compromising thermal efficiency

Eurowall+ full-fill board measures a snug 90mm

Gone are the magnolia paint and clumsy additions to John Soane’s country mansion. It’s gloriously engaging after detailed restoration by Jestico+Whiles and Julian Harrap

Soane's country retreat is restored to glory

The flooring manufacturer has expanded its now carbon-neutral Marmoleum Marbled collection with designs inspired by the colours and textures of nature

Natural flooring range now includes new designs