Every year, students on our civil engineering and architecture courses work together in teams to compete for the prestigious Ted Happold Award. This year’s winning group earned the award for their innovative project 'The City and the City', which addressed a persistent societal issue in Oxford: the division between 'town and gown' (a socioeconomic gap in the city).
A vision to bridge the divide
The Ted Happold Award 2023 presented a unique challenge - to design a sustainable new college building for Oxford university with bedrooms, dining, and meeting spaces catering to a group underrepresented within the University community. The design also needed to be energy-efficient and environmentally responsible, reinforcing a strong focus on sustainability.
The winning team tackled this challenge by recognising Oxford's notable 'town and gown' divide and the significant socioeconomic disparities within the city. Their project sought to connect Oxford's less affluent residents with the university by providing good links to active travel methods such as buses, trains, and cycling.
Creating a sustainable and inclusive future
The group’s design was not only conscientious of environmental sustainability but also social sustainability. In the context of a housing crisis, where people were being pushed away from Oxford's centre, their design aimed to create a hub that could also serve as social housing. This move was intended to attract visitors from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, thereby addressing the city's socioeconomic disparities in a practical and inclusive way.
'The challenge our project aimed to solve was providing a college for students that were underrepresented in the University of Oxford. We wanted to make greater provision for practical professions.' — Alexander Barry, MEng Civil Engineering
The judging panel commended the team’s endeavour to break down barriers and foster collaboration. They were particularly impressed by the team’s effective communication and learning from each other.
Industry input and collaboration: a key to success
The students had consultant tutorials with industry professionals in the fields of architectural design, environmental design, landscape design, and structural engineering. Their placement experience also helped inform their decisions.
'One of the best parts of working in a group is that everyone brings a different opinion and point of view to the table, making bouncing ideas off each other much more meaningful.' — Maria Valderrabano, MEng Civil and Architectural Engineering
'I really enjoyed that group working means everyone is bringing unique insights, and their specialisms to the table, often because of diverse placement experiences or simply personal interests.' — Bethany Kippin, BSc Architecture
Future outlook: the power of design in social transformation
The team’s triumph in the Ted Happold Award 2023 serves as a shining example of design's role in addressing social inequalities. It underlines the potential of thoughtful design and shows how architects and engineers can contribute to social change by prioritising inclusivity and design. Their project is a testament to how design can impact society, highlighting the potential for future projects to create positive social change through innovation and collaboration.