Student Design Awards


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 2021 marks our 13th year, having taken a pause in 2020 due to the pandemic.  As well as promoting good design, AfH is 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.


The awards are split into two streams to enable students to participate whether healthcare forms part of their course or not. 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 – the brief, below, can be used at the tutor’s discretion. We work closely with NHS Trust and Clinical Commissioning Groups, who can act as proxy clients to support the project through their hospital and community sites. A suitable proxy client can be arranged on request but is not essential.

The Open Award supports colleges and universities where healthcare already forms part of the curriculum, encouraging those undertaking healthcare design projects to extend and embed their learning – the brief, below, can be used at the tutors’ discretion.


2020 saw a step change in the way we deliver healthcare services in the UK.

Covid-19 accelerated long-planned programmes of digital transformation, including the immediate adoption of virtual consultations and digital delivery of outpatient services. Surging patient numbers necessitated swift adaptation of existing healthcare spaces, the creation of temporary hospitals, new step-down facilities and a heightened focus on function – and flexibility.

Arguable, the emphasis on wellbeing – both for patients and staff – was watered down.

Post-pandemic, what does this mean for our healthcare environments?

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 changing 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?


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

Winners will be announced during a virtual session in late June and rewarded with prizes (tbc), certificates and the opportunity to discuss their work with others including architectural and design leaders in healthcare.

Students who submit work will receive a complementary AfH membership for one year as part of their registration.

All submissions are captured in a beautifully designed and produced A4 bound booklet celebrating the students work and each participant will receive a copy.

practice sponsors

Sponsorship of the AfH Student Design Awards is invited from Architects practices only and for this year, because of the virtual nature of the awards, we have reduced the sponsorship package down to £300 per Practice. This benefits of this are…

    • Practice logo and hyperlink included on:
      • AfH Sponsors page for one year
      • AfH 2021 Student Design Awards Event page and Events page
      • All email notices to AfH members
      • All advertising of the event (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn)
    • Inclusion of Practice logo on sponsors banner (virtual)
    • Inclusion of Practice logo in SDA booklet (if available in 2021)
    • Plus an invitation to join us for the Awards ceremony on ZOOM
    • For more information



AfH reconnect with universities who have already expressed interest in participating to confirm we are running. We will also contact all other universities in our database as well. If there is sufficient support, we will make some awards and cash prizes.

Tutors: by the end of March:

  • Please confirm you would like to take part in the Student Design Awards 2021
  • Nominate students using Google Sheets – the link will be sent to you individually after confirmation of above.

march - may

Virtual Crits are arranged with selected members of the Exec Committee and other seasoned healthcare architects at a mutually acceptable time. By the end of March:
  • AfH will send registration information to tutors to pass onto nominated students. Students will receive free AfH membership for 1 year using a dedicated code – this will also act as their registration to the AfH Student Design Awards 2021.
  • Once students have registered, they will receive a Dropbox upload link to submit their work.
    • 31 May | Deadline for Project Submissions using DropBox.


  • 1-15 June | Judges review entries and score them.
  • AfH team compile digital loop and printed documentation.
  • 15-22 June | Scores are moderated, winners selected, prizes prepared and certificates printed!
    • All shortlisted entries can then be compiled into a video file which can be shared back to the universities and viewed on our website.
  • 24 June (provisional) | ‘Virtual’ Presentation sessions:
    • Students are invited to join AfH members, judges and sponsors on ZOOM for a Q&A session about their projects
    • Awards will be presented after the Q&A sessions
  • For further consideration/discussion:
  • We normally present the Susan Francis Award for Art and Architecture each year and might do that in 2021 if there are entries of high standard in that category.


1st week of July: We’d like to propose that we add a webinar session into our ‘Community’ stream of the AfH Events Programme, showcasing the winners and highly commended Student Design Awards talent. This gives us an opportunity to invite participating universities and students to join the AfH Community for a 1-hour session (with networking to follow afterwards).

Our speakers for the evening could include a selection from the award-winners and a participating university plus a special guest speaker with a design profile for example.

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