United Kingdom-based publications The Architectural Review and the Architect’s Journal have announced the recipients of the two most prestigious prizes—the Jane Drew Prize for Architecture and the Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for Contribution to Architecture—of the W Awards (previously the Women in Architecture Awards). Held annually since 2012, the W Awards recognizes “architects who identify as women and non-binary in order to promote role models for young architects in practice and encourage respect, diversity and equality in architecture.”
Winning the 2021 Jane Drew Prize, which is awarded to “architectural designers who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to design excellence and made a significant contribution to architectural production,” is pioneering Edinburgh-born architect, educator, and housing activist Kate Macintosh.
Now retired from practice although still an active voice in the push for affordable and dignified housing, Macintosh is best known for designing post-war social housing estates, most notably Dawson’s Heights in Southwark, London. An undulating modernist ziggurat atop a hill the edge of a nature reserve, Dawson’s Heights features 298 housing units and was roundly lauded upon its completion in 1972 (the same year Macintosh first joined the Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects) for its humanistic approach. Although monumental in scale, Dawson’s Heights stood as a stark departure from the cramped and oppressive housing estates dominating the British landscape at the time. Macintosh, educated at the Edinburgh School of Art, was just in her 20s at the time she designed Dawson’s Heights while under the employ of the Borough of Southwark’s Architecture Department.
In a 2015 interview published by The Guardian, architecture critic Rowan Moore referred to Macintosh as “one of Britain’s great unsung architects of social housing.”
Other housing projects such as the Grade II-listed 269 Leigham Court Road (now known as Macintosh Court) in Lambeth, South London, followed. Macintosh later joined her life partner, the late George Finch, in establishing a private architectural practice in 1995. One of the better-known works to emerge from this partnership was the RIBA Award-winning Weston Park Adventure Playground in Southhampton.
“I am absolutely thrilled by this news, not least because I knew Jane Drew personally and occasionally we shared a platform in schools of architecture,” said Macintosh in a statement. “Our values systems chimed as we discovered when we overlapped on RIBA council.”
As for the 2021 Ada Louise Huxtable Prize, it has been awarded to another Scotland-born architect and educator, Lesley Lokko.
Born in Dundee to a Ghanaian father and a Scottish mother, Lokko, is perhaps best known, and recently recognized by RIBA, as a globe-spanning academic who has held teaching and leadership roles at architecture schools across the U.K. and the United States. In 2015, Lokko established the Graduate School of Architecture (GSA) at the University of Johannesburg, an innovative postgraduate program modeled on the Architectural Association in London and the Harvard Graduate School of Architecture. Most recently, she served as dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York from 2019 until the end of 2020 following a much-talked-about resignation, which she referred to as a “profound act of self-preservation,” in October of that year.
Said Lokko, who in addition to her academic work is also a prolific novelist, in a statement: “Over the past decade, social media has blurred the lines between personal and public, fact and fiction, opinion and critique. It’s made the role of the critic more fraught, especially since criticism requires time, both to digest and to craft. Particularly in this moment, it’s such an honour to be given an award by one’s peers who look at a body of work, sometimes going back decades, long before the issues make the headlines. I’m deeply grateful.”
AN will be publishing an interview with Lokko in the coming weeks on her future plans.
In observance of International Women’s Day on March 8, the W Awards will kick off a week of virtual programming including lectures, digital events, and a conversation between Lokko and the 2020 winner of the Ada Louise Huxtable Prize, Beatriz Colomina, on March 8. On March 11, Macintosh will be featured in conversation with Pakistani architect and 2020 Jane Drew Prize winner Yasmeen Lari. The winners of the two other A Awards prizes, the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture and the MJ Long Prize for Excellence in Practice, will also be announced in March.