The Executive are currently pondering the possibilities of staging our Annual Awards 2020, there are two decisions to be made: i) do we collect nominations and allow the judges to decide on those entries worthy of an award and ii) do we hold an Awards evening or distribute the certificates in a Covid-safe manner?

You will appreciate that these are two separate but linked decisions, we could decide on the Award winners without the presentation evening (with the problem of how do we let the winners, and our members know), the opposite is obviously impossible.

Deciding on the projects worthy of an Award is relatively Covid-free. The nominations can be submitted electronically; the judges can visit each project* on their own (which is their usual practice), create their own shortlist and discuss the merits of possible winners at a video conferencing meeting.

There is of course one key question before all of this; that is: are there any new buildings, public realm projects or road enhancement schemes that come anywhere near the judges’ criteria? There is certainly a lack of new large buildings and – don’t blame the Coronavirus – we are looking at buildings that were substantially underway throughout 2019 (and completed in 2020). 

What disappoints me is the architectural quality of two of the educational buildings completed this year, Copleston and Thurleston High Schools (now called Ormiston Endeavour Academy). Both are of remarkably similar design, and almost identical externally to the new school at Gainsborough, previously Holywells but now Ipswich Academy, which was completed in 2013.

All have been built by the Department for Education’s Priority Schools Building Programme, designed to renovate, or replace schools where conditions are so bad it affects teaching and learning. I am sure that they provide a better learning environment than the structure they replaced, that there was no choice as far as the occupants were concerned, take it or leave but they are a low cost (per square metre) functional stack of boxes without style or identity.

They simply don’t compare with Suffolk New College in Rope Walk or ONE in Scrivener Drive, both of which have panache and an individual identity that enhances learning. Yes, I appreciate that OFSTED will say that good quality teaching can happen irrespective of the building but, I know which I’d rather teach in. ONE (formerly Suffolk ONE) in particular, with its central street, its library floating over the heads of students in the refectory below and the many places to sit, relax, revise and discuss the finer points of earlier lectures.

Nominations for the 2020 Awards are now open; (nominations close: Friday 16 October 2020) all you have to do is email the Vice Chair: with the name and location of the project you consider worthy of further consideration. If we cannot present the Awards this year we’ll hold the Certificates and present them at the same time as the 2021 Awards.

John Norman

*the nominated projects are only ever inspected from the public highway, it is the contribution the projects make to the street scene (and thus to the ambience of Ipswich) that is critical for these awards.

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