Bespoke Access Design Competition to Award £20,000 Celia Thomas Prize

International design competition launched at House of Lords to make the hotel experience more inclusive for disabled people

Largest prize fund for design excellence in UK totalling £30,000*

Paralympic Gold Medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Stirling Prize architect Alan Stanton to be competition judges

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), in association with Bespoke Hotels, launches the Bespoke Access Awards at the House of Lords today (Thursday, April 14th, 2016).The 2016 Awards aim to improve access to hotels worldwide for disabled people, including those with learning difficulties, as well as all other guests. The Awards seek to challenge the perception of hotel facilities set aside for disabled people, which can often be viewed as joyless, poorly designed and over-medicalised.

The Awards are the first of their kind. They draw on the legacy of the successful 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, which drew worldwide attention to the capacities of those with disabilities and – in the Olympic venues themselves – to the importance of good design.


Lord Rogers of Riverside (the Architect Richard Rogers) said:

“I am delighted to support this worthwhile and timely design competition. The needs of disabled people should be celebrated by designers (some of whom have disabilities), rather than seen as merely satisfying building regulations.”

“We need to imagine what a more joyful experience for disabled people could look like and articulate it in better architecture, product design and service design.”

“The Olympic and Paralympic Games created a legacy of optimism about disability, which this competition will reinforce by promoting genuine design innovation.”

The scope of the competition is wide-ranging. Three strands of inclusive design are identified for entrants to consider: Architecture, Product Design and Service Design.

Prizes will be awarded for the most imaginative, innovative and potentially realisable ideas in any or all of these strands.

The first prize of £20,000 will be the Celia Thomas Prize*. There are also awards worth a further £10,000.

The design competition aims to reward entrants who address guests’ experience from the front door to any room or service within a hotel; and includes the process that has to be undertaken before a visitor arrives or during check out.

The winning ideas and shortlisted proposals will be published for the benefit of the public and for the hotel industry worldwide.

The Paralympic Gold Medallist and Peer Baroness Grey-Thompson, whose interest in design was fostered by her father, a professional architect, was named today [14 April] as a competition judge, together with the distinguished architect Alan Stanton, winner of the 2012 Stirling Prize for Architecture.

Baroness Grey-Thompson said:

“As I have travelled the world, I have had experience of how poor design standards in some hotels can affect how you feel – not only about staying but also about the whole experience.

“The Bespoke Access Awards are a chance to let the imagination run free and to conceive how a more inclusive design experience can help not just disabled people but every guest.”

“The industry needs to do better but it can never just be about technical standards.

Great architecture is about spaces that make you feel better and which make you want to return.”

The competition will open for entries from today, April 14th until September 1st, 2016.

Winners will be announced on December 1st 2016, ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on December 3rd 2016.

Entries are open internationally to everyone. The organisers particularly welcome entries from designers and architects with disabilities themselves. Collaboration between people with disabilities and design professionals is also encouraged, as is collaboration amongst design disciplines. There is no age limit.

Detailed rules are published today online.

Prizes will be awarded on December 1st, 2016 at an event held at the Palace of Westminster in London. Judges include Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson, Robin Sheppard *, Chairman of Bespoke Hotels, Baroness Thomas of Winchester and the architect Alan Stanton, winner of the 2012 Stirling Prize for architecture. Details about judges and judging criteria are published online today.

Robin Sheppard, Chairman of Bespoke Hotels, said:

”We are pleased to be leading the charge in making the hotel world a better place, not only for hotel guests with disabilities, but also for all patrons.”

“The challenge we have set ourselves is a simple one: how to address the issues that affect the delivery of outstanding service for all guests.”

“We aim to challenge the status quo and inspire the hotel industry worldwide to provide better experiences for all visitors.”

Peers in the House of Lords first suggested the competition, which has been developed with the generous support of a UK registered charity, The Federated Foundation.

Awards sponsors Bespoke Hotels, formed in 2000, represents over 170 properties worldwide. It is the UK’s Largest Independent Hotel Group. Ranging from specialist golfing hotels to award-winning spa resorts and chic city centre properties, the group prides itself on its individualised management style.

Robin Sheppard, who has suffered and recovered from Guillain Barre Syndrome, is Company Chairman of Bespoke Hotels. He is passionate about providing an enhanced experience for hotel guests, particularly for those with disabilities.

Celia Thomas (Baroness Thomas of Winchester] is a peer in the House of Lords who has limb girdle muscular dystrophy. She is a notable campaigner for the rights of disabled people.

Alan Stanton is a director of architectural practice Stanton Williams, winners of the 2012 Stirling prize for architecture (an award for completed buildings), for the Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University. Current projects include the British Museum and Royal Opera House. Alan Stanton is a wheelchair user.

The first prize of £20,000 (The Celia Thomas Prize) is believed to be the largest cash prize in the UK for a design concept.

Awards administrators Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a UK registered charity, which promotes knowledge and understanding of the art of architecture to the public.

Awards design adviser Rory Coonan, honorary fellow of RIBA, director of architecture at the Arts Council of Great Britain [1991-96], chair of the National Lottery design panel, creator of NESTA (1994-97) and leader of infrastructure projects including Circle Bath hospital [2006-12] designed by Norman Foster.

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