Student Design Awards

Architects for Health Student Design Awards 2020

The AfH Student Design Awards challenge students of architecture and design to explore innovative and compassionate design for health and social care settings.


The AfH Student Design Award is an annual design competition for students and 2020 marks our 13th year. As well as promoting good design, AfH is also committed to encouraging the next generation to become passionate about the quality of design for health and social care settings.

Our goal is to celebrate the opportunities for innovation and experimentation and to bring together students from different disciplines to share their creative ideas. We are keen to engage students within all design disciplines, including landscape, public art, interior design and architecture.

Directors Award and Open Award

There are two streams of awards, so that students can participate using different methods which may or may not coincide with the university criteria. AfH support participants through reviews (crits) and seminars on request.

The Directors Award is focussed around a ‘real’ site for colleges and universities without healthcare as part of their course. We work closely with NHS Trust and Clinical Commissioning Groups, who act as proxy clients to support the project through their hospital and community sites. A suitable proxy client can be arranged on request.

The Open Award encourages and support colleges and universities to embed the health programme into their curricula and give exposure to those already engaging in healthcare projects.


Entries are judged by a panel of leading practitioners and clinicians.

Winners are rewarded with a cash prize, a chance to exhibit project work at national conferences, complementary AfH membership for one year and an opportunity to discuss their work with others including architectural and design leaders in healthcare.

All student entries are captured in a beautifully designed and produced A4 bound booklet celebrating the students work.

The Brief for the 2020 Awards

This year’s theme is set around the topic of Humane Design in a Technological World. The provision for healthcare is changing; for both those who provide care and treatment and those who receive the ministrations of others. Human evolution has evolved slowly and carefully over the millennia, however technology is changing at such a pace it is difficult to stay in step and even harder to design spaces.

The arrival of the digital hospital, the incessant and rapid rise of technology, AI and the internet of things is inevitably hanging healthcare and the environments from which healthcare is delivered.

Architect Sou Fujimoto describes the paradigm of ‘Primitive Future’ which identifies the contrast between what he calls the “nest” and “cave” type architectures. The ‘nest’ implies a space that has been specifically prepared for human occupation
customised to comfort them in specific ways. A cave is the opposite of this: a naturally formed space, which to be occupied requires a creative act on behalf of a human. The cave alters the behaviour of its occupant by offering no clear way in which to use the space.

Has healthcare design moved too far along the paradigm of nest architecture? Does the current trend for co-design result in healthcare architecture that is warm and welcoming, that encourages nesting but in conflict with the requirement to deliver high tech and ever changing spaces? Can technology, should technology be planned for in the nest and if so how? For example, how do human beings find their sense of place in the linear accelerator or proton beam therapy cave?

Programme 2020

Oct – Nov AfH Student Design Awards promotion event at HKS Architects Limited, Elsley House, 24–30 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 8BF (date tbc)

Nov – Feb Register tutors into the programme and host visits to proxy clients

Jan – May Design development by students and tutors within schools; AfH can offer support and crits as occasional external tutors by invitation. Tutors nominate students. Students register themselves

May Submission of student entries

June The judging
June Submissions featured at European Healthcare Design Congress 2020
June Award Ceremony and Student Seminar at venue & date tbc

Practice Sponsors (confirmed)

Scott Tallon Walker


For further details of the programme and to register please select Student Awards on our Contact page and send a message.