Awards 2020

National Urban Design Awards 2020


In June last year, after 10 years of the National Urban Design Awards we thought it was the prefect time to investigate the lessons to be learnt from the 88 winners and finalists of previous Practice Project and Public Sector Awards. How do we create, build, deliver good urban design?

And that investigation is well underway - we've been mining the wealth of experience and expertise of our past shortlists and in reviewing, find out what these projects can tell us about how to deliver best practice in urban design in the UK. With the UK outbreak of Covid 19 this undetaking has of course now come to a halt as we all focus on the health of ourselves, family and community, the nation and doing our bit.

We will at some point return to a relative normality, probably a little shell shocked, but hopefully collectively more prepared to make the difficult decisions required to make our urban environment healthier, fairer and more sustainable. And this will of course inform how in the future we identify exemplar urban design. We didn't realise just how important a review would be back in the summer of 2019.

We have made no change to the Student, Book or Lifetime Achievement Awards for 2020 and we have been delighted by the quality of entrants.

The Awards ceremony planned for the end of April was of course cancelled but at some point during the year we will host an event to celebrate the achievements of the Student and Book Finalists, declare the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award and share the findings of our review.



Before we announce our winner and three deserving finalists, a word or two from our judges:

"This year’s awards demonstrated the amazing opportunities available to students to explore and respond to urban design’s changing context. The best projects were outstanding because they dealt well with uncertainty, ways of influencing others, and creating a vision which was both broad-brush, as well as detailed in its intentions. It is reassuring that newer urban designers are thinking in physical, environmental, economic and social terms.”   

"It was fantastic to see the variety and volume of entries to this years awards which made the task of judging many great entries challenging and stimulating for the judging panel. We were delighted by the response to the call for entries and very encouraged to see not only the great work being produced by students in the UK but also to see the interest in the UDG Student Awards growing year by year." 





The project is part of the response to the environmental concerns facing contemporary societies and the role urban designers can play in challenging the way cities function and city dwellers' lifestyles. The module in which this project has been developed seeks to tackle specific topics that defy mainstream approaches, focusing instead on transformative actions for a sustainable future. 

See full project  The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London 




  My House, Our Neighbourhood – Minha Casa, Nosso Bairro – is a proposal developed to provide high quality and affordable social housing in Brazil. The scheme prioritises housing for Brazilian minorities, displaced residents from the Olympic developments, low-income households and former favela residents. It aims to create a spatially, socially and economically integrated community while incorporating site specific urban design practices. 

See full project  Oxford Brookes University


POPLAR CONNECT  Paco Pui Chong Chan, Cecilia Hiu Ying Lam, Man Pok Leung and Ka Hei Kristin Leung


Large-scale development has taken place in the Borough of Tower Hamlets in the past three decades, with Canary Wharf being transformed into one of London’s financial centres. Just north of Canary Wharf, Poplar has been seemingly disconnected from the massive redevelopment of its neighbouring ward, detached both physically and socially from the fast-paced and rapid development. 

See full project  The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London




In the present climate of rapid urbanisation and the increasing pressure for new developments, cities are facing bigger and more complex issues. It has become almost impossible for cities to tackle local issues without engaging its residents. Using the idea of the commons approach, or knowledge shared for the common good, this project aims to study whether when applied to abandoned and neglected railway arches, it can help to generate a socially inclusive regeneration process.

See full project  The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London


The Awards are supported by the Francis Tibbalds Trust who generously fund a £600 prize to the winner of the Student Award. The winner of the Book and Student Award will be announced end of April.


With many thanks to our panel of judges who gave their time generously with commitment and expertise. Read more about the judging panel and their thoughts on this year's entries.

Graham Smith Hannah Smart Laura Alvarez Yann Leclerq
Chair Edge Urban Design Nottingham City Council Dar
Louise Thomas Alan Thompson Nidhi Bhargava  
TDRC Ltd A P THOMPSON Built Environment Consulting Practitioner  






CLIMAX CITY  David Rudlin and Shruti Hemani  RIBA Publishing

"The title of the book is drawn from a biological metaphor: the concept of ‘climax vegetation’ is the distinctive natural state towards which an area of landscape will move in the absence of human intervention; each part of the planet has a different climax state dependent on climate and local context, and this seemed to the authors to be analogous to the diversity of urban conditions around the world. Climax City is an optimistic celebration of that diversity. It is a fascinating read and a beautiful artefact that will be enjoyed by – and should be strongly recommended to – a wide range of professionals, academics and a curious general audience."


Read the full review here




"In the context of England’s acute housing shortage, this book presents a reasoned, yet impassioned and practical argument identifying the key barriers to rural development.

…Ruth Reed’s Building in Arcadia tackles these deep-set issues with aplomb and in less than 200 pages. The book is socially important especially in the context of the climate change emergency. The desire of many people to live in the countryside can be satisfied by more rural areas being made viable places to live for a wider range of people."


Read the full review here


  Navaz Davoudian  RIBA Publishing


Urban Lighting is an impressive multi-disciplinary collaboration between researchers from five universities and practicing lighting designers. They bring their experience of large-scale high-profile masterplans and public realm projects such as the Olympics and King’s Cross, and of generating innovative exploratory research. The book aims to exemplify an evidence-based approach to design."


Read the full review here


WALKABLE CITY RULES  Jeff Speck  Island Press

"…these 101 steps are actually an excuse to tell us stories about why previous rules didn’t work, and therefore, what we should do instead. Organised into 19 parts that contain the 101 rules, the book’s logic is designed to send effective messages to design decision-makers: designers, officials and importantly, political leaders such as mayors. The book debunks or at least moderates many current rules of thumb of designing cities, by showing us the implications that those earlier rules had not anticipated."


Read the full review here


Again with many thanks to our judges: Georgina Butina Watson (Chair), Louie Sieh (academic), Juliet Bidgood (practitioner), Jonathan Kendall (practioner) and Marc Furnival (practitioner).

About the Chair: Georgia Butina Watson is Professor of Urban Design at Oxford Brookes University. She has been the Chair of the UDG Book Award since 2018 when she took over the role from Louie She.

Georgia has keen interest in promoting book publications to a range of audiences, from academics and students and urban design practitioners. She is a published author of a number of urban design books and journal articles and is always looking for interesting material to be included in the book review process.

"The judges of the UDG book award represent practice and academic perspectives and are part of a global community being based in the UK, Europe and Asia. Over the last decade a conversation has evolved between us about what makes a good book about urban design. One that contributes to practice and academic discourse or preferably both. Each year the books we see span: practice manuals based on case studies, research compendia and collections of essays on urban design theory, practice and history. We are always keen to see in the winner a book whose design is exemplary, and that tells a compelling story advancing our knowledge in a significant way.

This year from a longer list of ten or so books we have selected four, which each distil learning from practice in different ways. Urban Lighting for People merges practical knowledge about lighting design with theory and research, Building in Arcadia documents the design challenges encountered in rurality, Walkable City Rules offers a guide for how to negotiate modal shift and Climax City offers an account of why and how cities are shaped and how we can intervene in them in an interactive way. This is my last year as a judge; it’s been a privilege and one I feel it’s time to hand on. Looking back, we have seen some era defining books that I know have shaped how I practice, research and teach."

Juliet Bidgood is a practicing architect/urban designer – she is currently leading research and engagement for a placemaking charter for the West of England and is a Design Review panel chair.


  2019 shortlist, winners and presentations

  2018 shortlist, winners and presentations

  History of the Awards and past winners