Cultural Transformation before Architectural Awards

Studio Bark is a growing practice that considers environmental design as integral to our process. As a studio, we have collectively decided not to submit any award entries this year.

In 2019, we entered for a number of awards. In response, we were recognised on the Deezen Emerging Architect longlist, BD Sustainability Architect of the Year shortlist, and won a regional RIBA award for our recently completed Paragraph 79 project Black Barn. Though hard to measure, we have benefited from the recognition we have received in response to these – with regards to new work and from those within the profession.

As a small emerging practice, we are finding it increasingly difficult to justify the resources necessary for award entries. If we do find ourselves shortlisted, the fees for attending events can be prohibitive. With this the architectural awards season finds itself weighted in favour of larger, already successful practices with large marketing budgets. With the potential of judging projects on images alone, the already pervasive culture of architecture for imagery rather than use is exacerbated. Whilst we appreciate that they can be a major contributor to financing independent journalism, some organisation’s sponsorship sources are damaging to professional culture.

We estimate that in 2019, Studio Bark spent over 150 hours compiling award submissions. We are becoming more aware that we should be investing our time on other areas of practice and professional development, such as Climate Emergency House, our research project which looks at a detailed approach to site-specific environmental design. Whilst award wins do give you connections and resources, equivalent time spent elsewhere will hopefully provide the same.

There is a climate emergency – and in the UK the built environment is responsible for 42% of national emissions. The Declared Architects (875 and counting), have stated that they will ‘Establish climate and biodiversity mitigation principles as the key measure of our industry’s success: demonstrated through awards, prizes and listings’, whilst ACAN (the Architect’s Climate Action Network) calls for ‘Cultural Transformation’ of our profession in their network aims.

Part of this is to challenge the concept of sustainability ‘tokenism’. A single award devoted to a project’s environmental credentials is no longer acceptable, especially when it stands beside those which are in direct conflict with it’s position. It should now be expected that if we are to surpass the 2050 Government target for net zero carbon emissions (or meet the 2030 Challenge set by the RIBA), a truly environmental agenda should be integral to all projects.

If we are to meet these aims, we must achieve ACAN’s call for cultural transformation – something we are constantly reviewing and striving for within the studio. We see this withdrawal from the awards process and a focus on other areas of professional development as a small step towards this.

Goto Top