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Accessible hotel design competition returns with wider remit

The industry is beginning to tackle the whole hotel experience.

05 October 2017

Following the success of the first competition last year, the Bespoke Access Awards for fully accessible hotel accommodation are back with a bigger prize fund of £30,000 and a wider remit that now looks beyond hotel room design.

Administered once again by RIBA Competitions, the 2017 awards are an international competition open to all and remain the only hotel industry awards of their kind.

With the Design Council joining as a partner this year, the design competition is split between architecture/interior design and product design, and there are two new strands covering service design and training. The prize fund of £30,000 will be awarded at the discretion of the judges, with the overall winner awarded the Celia Thomas Prize. In addition, the Leonard Cheshire Award for Inclusive Employment will be awarded to the design concept that best assists employees with disabilities to work in a hotel environment.

Last year’s winner of the main £20,000 Celia Thomas Prize were collaborators Ryder Architecture and Motionspot, specialists in accessible bathroom design, for their ‘AllGo’ room, a ‘standard’ room that can readily be made fully accessible with simple adaptations.

This year’s competition launched last week on 26 September and widens the scope of the awards to look at the whole hotel experience, from the front door and reception to any room or service within the hotel.

The instantly adaptable AllGo room was a winner last year for Motionspot and Ryder Architecture. Image © Motionspot and Ryder Architecture.

Robin Sheppard, chairman of competition sponsor Bespoke Hotels Group, is also the Hotel Sector Champion for Disabled People. He reports that his personal industry contacts are all revisiting the area of disabled access in their hotels and starting to look beyond requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

‘There’s signs of activity across the spectrum, from taking a view on accessing the whole hotel to the little details, like Braille on soap. Even so, it’s a snowball just beginning to roll down the hill – I’d expect a lot more to happen over the next three to four years,’ says Sheppard.

‘We’re seeing a welcome blurring of the lines between standard and accessible provision. The challenge is not to give people the impression that have been regulated to a disabled room with medicalised features such as grab rails. Staying at a hotel should be a treat for everyone.’

Sheppard reveals that Bespoke has just appointed last year’s winner Motionspot to work on one of the latest hotels in its management portfolio, the Townhouse Hotel in Manchester’s Portland Street.

Motionspot received a huge amount of enquiries about last year’s winning AllGo room concept, including a high level of interest from overseas.

Speaking one year on, Ed Warner, founder and managing director of Motionspot said: ‘The Bespoke Access awards provided the ideal platform for Motionspot and Ryder Architecture to challenge the perceptions that often surround accessible design.’

‘Over 40 people with different disabilities contributed to our focus groups to help us understand the main problems they faced when staying in accessible hotel rooms. Their stories inspired our winning design concept, which has subsequently received interest from hotels around the world, with many of the concepts now being adopted by properties across the UK.’

Judges for this year’s competition will once again include Paralympic Gold Medallist Baroness Grey-Thompson, Stirling Prize winner Alan Stanton, and peer and disability rights campaigner Baroness Celia Thomas.

The judging panel will be looking for creativity and originality in the proposals and design ideas submitted, capacity for development and adoption by the hotel industry, and clarity of communication.

The competition is international call for design ideas and is open to individuals and groups as well as design professionals. The competition organisers particularly welcome entries from designers and architects with disabilities.

Closing date for submissions in 8 January 2018. See further details, including the timetable which allows for pre-submission queries.

Award winners will be announced at the House of Lords on 18 April 2018.

Thanks to Robin Sheppard, Chairman, Bespoke Hotels Group.

Text by Neal Morris. This is a ‘Practice News’ post edited by the RIBA Practice team. The team would like to hear your feedback and ideas for Practice News:

Posted on 5 November 2017.

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