Image of student winning award

Nottingham architecture student wins national building conservation award

Tuesday, 08 December 2020

The winner of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ Philip Webb Award 2020 is a beautifully-executed proposal to reinvigorate a block of buildings in the centre of Nottingham.

First place was awarded to University of Nottingham 2020 graduate Jess Tyson. Spurred on by the climate emergency, Jess’s project challenges why so many buildings sit vacant or are earmarked for demolition when redevelopment through imaginative new design could give them a new lease of life.

Jess, 24, chose three sites in Nottingham city centre - all with distinct characters and in various conditions - and reimagined them as a community arts centre. The scheme looked at the Grade-II listed 1888-built Nottingham Guildhall; the Art-Deco inspired fire station; and the 1954 ‘island’ building that extends the Guildhall. Jess visualised them as a cultural hub for local communities to enjoy while celebrating the existing architecture and history of the site.

Judges commended Jess for her focus on sustainability and her exciting elements of new design.

“My project aims to look at conservation in a new light, by challenging current listed building procedures and breaking down socio-economic and environmental barriers to make existing building redevelopment a more inclusive, achievable and sustainable venture.”
Award winner Jess Tyson, who graduated from the MArch Architecture with Collaborative Practice Research (ARB/RIBA Part 2) and also completed her undergraduate Architecture degree at Nottingham

Founded by William Morris in 1877, the SPAB is Britain’s oldest building conservation charity. It was established in response to the work of Victorian architects whose enthusiasm for harmful restoration caused irreparable damage. Today the SPAB encourages excellence in new design to enrich and complement the built historic environment.’*

The SPAB’s Philip Webb Award is open to all Part 2 architecture students in the UK. The Award recognised the importance of retaining existing buildings over demolition and the inventive reuse of old buildings can have on sustainability in the construction industry and for community cohesion. Jess beat six other finalists in the competition.

Tim Collett, who oversees the University of Nottingham MArch Architecture (ARB/RIBA Part 2) course, helped Jess over the summer (via Teams) to hone her design thesis ready for submission to the Phillip Webb Award.

“Retrofit, sustainability, and seeing value in all existing buildings is core to the ethos of the Part 2 course. It has been my goal for one of our Part 2 students to win this award and I can't believe it has already happened. I am so pleased for Jess.
Tim Collett, tutor on the MArch Architecture (ARB/RIBA Part 2)

“Conceptual rigour applied with sensitivity and skill runs through her project from start to finish. Her proposal for an alternative approach to the conservation of existing buildings is of vital importance for a sustainable future and for achieving the UK 2050 and Nottingham 2028 net-zero carbon targets. The richness of her architectural language is a direct result of the depth of research and sensitivity and appreciation shown to all the existing buildings. All this is synthesised beautifully to create a deserved winning scheme,” Tim added.

Jess who hails from Coventry, is passionate about working with existing and old buildings. She said: “The course at Nottingham - and now the SPAB competition - have both helped me delve deeper into this field, enabling me to evolve a personal method of thinking and working that I will definitely take with me into my future career.” Jess is currently working at MCW Architects in Cambridge towards her Part 3 qualification.

Jess Tyson, SPAB Philip Webb Award winner 2020

Story credits

More information is available from Tim Collett from the Department of Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Nottingham on or Emma Lowry, Media Relations Manager (Engineering) on or 0115 84 67156.

Emma Lowry final
Emma Lowry - Media Relations Manager Engineering
Phone: 0115 846 7156
Location: University Park

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798