RSUA Design Awards 2021 winners announced


Two historic building restoration projects have been named as the finest examples of architecture in Northern Ireland this year.   

Projects to enhance the potential of Carrickfergus Castle and to ensure continued use of Queen’s University’s Lanyon Building were awarded Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) Design Awards for 2021.   

Ciarán Fox, director of RSUA, said: “This year’s awards celebrate conservation architecture and acknowledge the architects’ unique skills in giving these buildings new life. By awarding these accolades to restoration and conservation projects in existing buildings, we recognise the value of Northern Ireland’s older built environment – not just because of its heritage and cultural value, but because of the need for environmental and economic sustainability. We warmly congratulate these conservation architects whose work often goes unseen, and who are instrumental in the success of these complex and intricate projects.”   

The Lanyon Building Conservation and Restoration Project was designed by Consarc for Queen’s University, Belfast. The judges were ‘moved by the team’s forensic approach’ to the challenging repairs and reconstruction of the original zinc alloy windows and stonework. The project enhanced the building to make it fit for purpose in the 21st century whilst retaining all its significance and inherent character.  

Dawson Stelfox from Consarc Architects said: “We are delighted that this collective effort has been recognised by the RSUA and the RIBA and that the University has received such positive support for its investment in its heritage.” 

The other winning project, Carrickfergus Castle Roof Replacement was designed by Alastair Coey Architects in partnership with Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects for the Department for Communities, Historic Environment Division.  

Judges said that the conservation architects, structural engineers, carpenters, and lead workers responsible ‘should be applauded’ for their work in this project to restore and protect the castle’s Great Keep. They mentioned that the work was completed in a sustainable way with low embodied carbon and little need for maintenance, while still incorporating historic detailing, traditional materials and a high level of craftsmanship and traditional skills. 

Andrew Bryce from Alastair Coey Architects said: “We are proud to have worked closely with the Historic Environment Division to oversee the re-roofing of the Great Hall at Carrickfergus Castle. We are pleased to see the Castle has now reopened to the public who can experience the space which has been enlivened by a historically appropriate oak open-truss design.”  

The RSUA Design Awards 2020/21 judges were:  

  • RIBA appointed judge (architect from GB): Simon Henley, Director, Henley Halebrown Architects, London  
  • RSUA appointed judge (architect from NI): Mervyn Black, Member of RSUA Design Quality Panel and former President of RSUA 
  • RIAI appointed judge (architect from RoI): Fionnuala May, County Architect, Fingal County Council and former Vice President of RIAI 
  • RSUA appointed lay judge: Marie-Louise Muir, Arts Producer/Presenter, BBC   
  • Sustainability Advisor: Dominic Morris, Chair of RSUA Climate Emergency Committee 

The Carrickfergus Castle project was awarded the RSUA Sustainability Award and the Department for Communities were named as RSUA Client of the Year. The Lanyon Building project won the RSUA Conservation award. Both projects will now be put forward for consideration for a RIBA UK-wide award.  

Ciarán Fox continued: “In this climate emergency we need to reconsider the value of all of our existing buildings, not just those of great historic value. Demolishing and building new should be a last resort.  The embodied carbon locked-in to buildings means we should be looking for ways to conserve, restore, enhance and creatively re-use. The architect’s role will be central to this and I expect to see many more awards for this type of work over the coming years.”

For more information on the RSUA Design Awards click here.