posted on May 10th, 2024

Northern Ireland’s Building of the Year 2024

The Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) has awarded the Liam McCormick prize for Northern Ireland’s Building of the Year to the new Ulster University Belfast Campus.

The £364 million campus, stacked 14 floors high in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, was designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, with McAdam Design, Scott Tallon Walker and White Ink Architects. The projects also received the Living Places Award, which honours developments that excel in placemaking.

Ulster University’s new Belfast Campus.

The judges noted how ‘the complex, expansive brief has been accommodated on a challenging, irregular site through the architects’ intelligence and skill’ and how the project is ‘socially, economically, and culturally important both to Belfast itself and to the very idea of ‘city’.’

Northern Ireland’s House of the Year accolade was won by House on Redbrae Farm, by McGonigle McGrath architects, with Alice Nickell named Project Architect of the Year for her work on this rural Co. Down project. McGonigle McGrath also scopped a second design award for Longhurst, a private house in South Belfast.

House on Redbrae Farm.

Hall Black Douglas Architects won two awards for conservation projects. The first as the refurbishment of the long-abandoned St Comgall’s School in West Belfast into a multi-use community hub. This also earned the Falls Community Council an award for Client of the Year. The practice’s second winner was a £100 million project they delivered in partnership with JCA Architects, that saw Primark’s Bank Buildings resurrected from the ashes following a devastating fire in 2018. This project picked up the Conservation Award.

St Comgall’s School.
Primark’s Bank Buildings.

Architect Patrick Bradley secured both the Sustainability Award and the Small Project Award with his shipping container home, Barney’s Ruins, which he built floating above the ruins of his family’s 200-year-old farmstead near Maghera.

Barney’s Ruins.

Ciarán Fox, RSUA Director, said: “Belfast, as with many city centres, is facing multiple challenges with depopulation, working from home, online shopping and limited public investment. It is bold properties like the new Ulster University campus and the rebuilding of Bank Buildings by Primark that help bring life and energy to the city centre.  One, an exceptional example of the conservation of our built heritage, and the other an embodiment of the city’s future aspirations.

“The quality of the architecture in a city has a direct bearing on its success. I hope these two projects can act as an encouragement to our political, business and civic leaders to work even harder to create the conditions that allow architecture to flourish in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.

“On the housing front, hats off to McGonigle McGrath who have completed a hat trick, winning Northern Ireland’s House of the Year for the third year running. Every year we change our judging panel experts from across Britain and Ireland but, time after time, each new panel reaches the same conclusion – that McGonigle McGrath’s work is outstanding.”

The RSUA Design Award Gala Dinner took place on Thursday night in The MAC Belfast, designed by Hackett Hall McKnight, which itself was awarded a prestigious RIBA National Award in 2012 and was nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture.

At the ceremony, guest of honour Infrastructure Minister, John O’Dowd, said: “Architects, clients and built environment professional have a critical role in designing and creating an environment in which diverse and sustainable communities can thrive – a positive environment in which people live, work, study and relax.

“I am very aware of the critical role that my Department plays upon the lives and well-being of every person, every hour of every day. Whether it’s roads and greenways; waterways; drainage and flood defences, or by the provision of public transport, if we get out infrastructure and strategic policies right, and if we invest in them appropriately, it can be a real game changer.

“We all know that they can create the foundations for a more productive and prosperous economy. They can also lay the foundations for future growth for our businesses – and for the great architecture that enriches our lives. The RSUA Awards allows us the opportunity to recognise and celebrate those great works of architecture and I want to congratulate all the teams involved in delivering the varied projects that were shortlisted this year.”

All entries for the RSUA Awards were required to have been in use for at least one year so that the judging panel could better evaluate the sustainability and real-life performance of the projects. The six winning projects are now in the running for a RIBA National Award, celebrating the best of architecture across the whole of the UK.

The Awards were sponsored by JP Corry and Meta Technologies, the Department of Infrastructure, the Department for Communities and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

To stay up to date on news and events.

Link to Ulster Tatler Awards 2024 About page