2021 Winners

Gold Award

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Buildings Introduction by Jim Greaves Chair of Buildings Judges

In mid-July, as the lockdown was being released, the judges assembled to review over 100 buildings entries. Nineteen projects were shortlisted, and plans were made to visit them. Building visits are an important part of the Wood Awards judging process as the buildings can only really be understood by experiencing them. Visits also offer the opportunity to talk to the building owners and designers and thereby gain a fuller understanding of each project.  Between them the judges have experience in all aspects of building, which enables a comprehensive overview of a building’s merits or otherwise. It is reassuring to see how wood has now become such a mainstream building material, with designers increasingly appreciating its low carbon, biophilic and regenerative potential.

This year we saw a very wide range of projects and as often happens, the high quality of the shortlisted schemes made the selection of a winner sometimes difficult. In Belfast we saw a pavilion that celebrated the area’s ropemaking history by using Belfast trusses which recalled the roofs of the now lost factory buildings. In contrast we visited a beautiful lightweight plywood house extension, which had been delivered to site completely flat-packed.

In addition to the new Northern Royal Horticultural Society building’s simplicity of plan and structural elegance, we were impressed by the composite concrete and timber structure adopted for the Kantor Centre of Excellence which, I am sure, will see many future applications of this construction method.

Our trip to Devon was well rewarded by The Boathouse, a beautifully crafted building using local materials and labour, and constructed with the attention to detail and rigour that one would expect from the boat-builder owner.

In the centre of the medieval village of Nun Monkton in North Yorkshire and tucked away behind the Alice Hawthorn pub (named after a famous Georgian racehorse), is a finely judged assembly of contemporary rural buildings, timber clad with corrugated metal roofs. The buildings provide well designed and spacious sleeping accommodation for the pub, which is fast gaining a reputation for fine cuisine. Clearly a good model for any village.

Education & Public Sector was a particularly difficult category to judge due to the abundance of excellent projects. Sharing joint Highly Commended awards are the David Brownlow Theatre, a simple but bold design sitting comfortably on the north-western edge of a school campus, and the Ibstock Place School Refectory, where the judges were impressed with the splendour of the top-lit interiors and the appropriateness of the forms for their functions.

The Gold Award winner this year, Magdalene College Library, is a tour de force of architectural design and achievement. Experienced sequentially as they lead one through the building, the different spaces and forms of the reading rooms are quite beautiful. The brick, timber and stone have been designed exquisitely with a thorough understanding of their intrinsic qualities. A truly outstanding building.

Winners – Buildings

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Highly Commended – Buildings

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Furniture Introduction by Corinne Julius, Chair of Furniture & Product Judges

Despite the intense difficulties that manufacturers and designers have faced this year, 2021 proved to be a very fertile one for interesting, elegant and comfortable production furniture in wood. Having shortlisted work on zoom the judges were delighted to meet to try out the shortlisted furniture in person. 

The judges cover a wide spectrum of interest and experience of wood and its uses. The discussions between our judges designer/maker Sebastian Cox of the pioneering eponymous company, Yael Mer of leading design practice, Raw Edges, maker and lecturer Rod Wales, maker Eleanor Lakelin, editor of Disegno, Oli Stratford and me Corinne Julius, journalist and curator were wide-ranging and instructive. 

This year we were delighted to be faced with such difficult decisions. The standard of entries in production was probably the highest ever, with a number of really worthy potential winners. The improvement in standards was extremely heartening, especially as one year in the not too distant past we decided not to give an award in this category. The judges feel that the industry (not before time) has really upped its game, which will be appreciated by the buying public. 

The winner Iso-Lounge Chair by Jasper Morrison for Isokon Plus, is not only a comfortable chair, but a piece of interior sculpture, that will definitely become a classic. The chair with its delicately curved back and tapering seat is constructed from a single pressing consisting of 16 layers of veneer. The chair’s elegant cantilever relies on highly technical production to create balance and support. 

The bespoke category saw a slight reduction in entries, possibly because during Covid-19 patrons were less inclined to come forward. However Wycliffe Stutchbury’s Gayles Farm 5, a room divider in European oak was a worthy winner. Stutchbury has been exploring textile techniques using wood and the resulting screen is both sensuous and seductive, showing movement and delicacy, not necessarily characteristics associated with the use of wood. Made from thousands of small oak tiles cut from discarded oak fencing retrieved from the South Downs, it is glued to an open weave cotton twill, creating a curtain. 

This year has again been particularly hard for students, who had had relatively little face-to-face teaching or practical help, so we decided to suspend the student category, but are looking forward to seeing some exciting work next year. We hope that this year’s winners in both production and bespoke will inspire them. 

Winners – Furniture

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Highly Commended – Furniture

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2021 Winners

Gold Award

Magdalene College Library  

Commercial & Leisure

Winner: The Alice Hawthorn

Highly commended: The Welcome Building RHS Garden Bridgewater


Education & Public Sector

Winner: Magdalene College Library

Highly commended: Ibstock School Refectory, David Brownlow Theatre



Winner: St John Street



Winner: The Boathouse

Highly commended: Wooden Annex

Small Project

Winner: Built:East


Structural Award

Winner: The Welcome Building, RHS Garden Bridgewater

Highly commended: Kantor Centre of Excellence



Winners: Gayles Farm 5



Winner: Iso-Lounge Chair