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.

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Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. 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. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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