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Competition: William Sutton Prize 2019

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Clarion Housing Group has again launched an ideas contest for radical concepts to transform the lives of social housing residents, featuring two prizes of £20,000 each

The competition, now in its second year, seeks ‘groundbreaking’ proposals that could make a positive social impact on an existing community. It is open to English organisations and all UK individuals aged over 18.

The two awards – the William Sutton Prize for Social Innovation and William Sutton Prize for Placemaking and Affordable Housing Design – are named after Clarion Housing Group’s founder, a Victorian entrepreneur who bequeathed his fortune to providing public housing.

Last year’s inaugural award was won by the all-women VeloCity team (pictured) – featuring Jennifer Ross (Tibbalds), Sarah Featherstone (Featherstone Young), Kay Hughes (Khaa), Petra Marko (Marko and Placemakers), Annalie Riches (Mikhail Riches) and Judith Sykes (Expedition Engineering).

Marko said: ‘Thanks to winning the William Sutton Prize, we’ve been able to bring our VeloCity vision closer to reality, meeting experts and visiting projects as part of our research phase.

‘The backing of Clarion Housing Group has helped us immensely in the process of building partnerships with potential clients and gave us a lot of insight into enabling development, as well as supporting and encouraging us along the way.’

Clarion’s chief executive Clare Miller said: ‘William Sutton’s legacy was to transform lives and communities and we believe this prize can help do the same.

‘It is very rewarding to see the difference already being made by our inaugural winners and I am looking forward to supporting more innovative social entrepreneurs this year.’

Clarion Housing Group formed three years ago following a merger of Circle Housing Group and Affinity Sutton, which was founded after Sutton’s death in 1900. The housing association is today the largest in the UK, managing 125,000 homes across 170 local authorities.

Sutton was born in the City of London in 1833 and created Sutton Carriers, the country’s first door-to-door parcel service. He bequeathed his entire fortune to a range of charitable projects including providing much-needed public housing across the capital.

The two awards celebrate excellence in social entrepreneurship and social housing design. The first prize focuses on concepts, services or products intended to make a positive social impact on a community while the second seeks a ‘groundbreaking’ concept for the benefit of social housing residents or a mixed-tenure community.

Judges include Miller, Academy of Urbanism director Biljana Savic, Social Enterprise UK chief executive Peter Holbrook, and Peter Fortune, Clarion Housing Association Board member and deputy leader of the London Borough of Bromley. The winners of each category will receive £20,000 to further develop their concept or idea that will benefit a community.

The deadline for applications midday, 31 July.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information



Clare Miller, Clarion Housing Group chief executive 

Clare Miller

Clare Miller

Clare Miller

Why did you launch the annual William Sutton Prize?

Clarion Housing Group would not exist today without William Sutton, a 19th century entrepreneur who bequeathed his fortune to provide much-needed housing for the working poor in towns and cities across England. We launched The William Sutton Prize to celebrate his legacy and the spirit of innovation and philanthropy which have sat at the heart of our organisation for over a century.

The world is changing and we need to keep pace with the way communities are evolving and how our residents live their lives. The William Sutton Prize not only allows us to support some inspiring projects, it is a celebration of how innovation can be used for social good.

What would you like to see in this year’s winners?

No idea is too big or too small, and we’re looking for projects which identify imaginative and innovative ways to use design to make a positive impact on people’s lives. We’d like to see applications that will engage communities and are looking for an architectural idea that has the potential to achieve sustainable social impact.

Ultimately, the £20,000 on offer for The William Sutton Prize for Placemaking and Affordable Housing Design will be awarded to an architect or designer who applies an evidence-based approach, showing how the money will take their bright idea and turn it into reality.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Thoughtful designers from all disciplines – from architects to urban designers and engineers – who are enthusiastic to develop solutions to housing challenges, coming up with innovative ideas to create places that improve residents’ wellbeing and quality of life.

It’s not just for those with housing experience. Some of the best innovations in placemaking and design have come from architects transferring ideas from other sectors so it would be great to see some examples of this in the applications we receive.

Finally, it’s not limited to housing projects that are completed or in progress. We’re looking for emergent ideas – perhaps client or community-led, speculative or arising from a student project that a designer wants to evolve further.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects / designers be procured?

At Clarion we’re always on the lookout for innovative architects to collaborate with, delivering quality, sustainable homes and communities for our residents and incorporating new materials into buildings to achieve net carbon zero targets. At our major regeneration scheme in Merton, for example, we’ve implemented our Circular Economy Strategy to keep materials and resources in use for longer and achieve as much economic and social value for our residents as possible.

Looking at the bigger picture, we’re delighted that design and placemaking is rising up the government agenda and are eagerly awaiting the publication in the autumn of the placemaking manual.

Are there any recent innovative social housing research projects you have been impressed by?

I’ve been fascinated to see the progress of a piece of research by ZCD Architects in collaboration with the London Borough of Hackney which looks at a local social housing neighbourhood through the eyes of children: an unrepresented group in urban development policy and practice. They listened to local children, observed their activities and analysed their use of outside spaces, before developing a set of conclusions which propose new ways of considering space, urban design and participation to better meet the needs of the younger generation, and in turn the rest of society. Hackney’s desire to be the first borough to fully embrace the best built environment practice for children is admirable and should provide food for thought for councils and housing associations up and down the country.


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