Bespoke Access Award winners highlight overlooked aspects of disabled travel, says former RIBA president

by Lauren Heath-Jones | 01 May 2018
It is tremendously encouraging for the future of accessible tourism to see this year's awards attracting interest from around the world, as well as ideas shining a light on some of the more often-overlooked aspects of disabled travel
– Jane Duncan, RIBA Immediate Past President

Architects MnM Studio, Maria Brightei and Marcello D'Orsi were named as joint winners of the Celia Thomas Prize at this year's Bespoke Access Awards.

Now in its second year, the Bespoke Access Awards is an international design competition run in association with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The Celia Thomas Prize, named for Baroness Celia Thomas, is designed to champion accessible hospitality design to make the hotel experience more inclusive for guests with physical and learning disabilities, and features a £20,000 (US$28,000, €23,000) prize fund.

This year's judging panel included Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and architect and RIBA Stirling Prize-winner Alan Stanton OBE.

Architecture consultancy firm MnM Studio's entry, 'Empathy through aesthetics', is an accommodation solution with a design based on the senses of sound, sight, smell and taste, and heavily features braille throughout. It aims to support the emotional state of the guest, whilst retaining a distinct visual appeal with the stylish, curved design.

"'Empathy through aesthetics' perfectly encapsulates what we are aiming to do with the Access initiative," said Baroness Celia Thomas, chair of Judging Panel and Patron of the Awards. "The emphasis placed on the emotional state of the guest was particularly impressive, given that this is an area that is often overlooked."

Maria Brightei and Marcello D'Orsi's submission focused on the ways in which existing accommodation can be adapted to suit disabled travellers, paying particular attention to public spaces in hotels. The design showed the small changes that can be made to significantly improve a disabled guest's journey through the hotel.

Architect and judge Alan Stanton said of the design: "I was particularly struck by the attention they had paid to the customer journey through reception and the lobby areas. These are areas that are often overlooked by both architects and business owners alike, and it is easy to think of them as merely transient. But they can significantly improve or disrupt a guest's experience, so it was exciting to see them highlighted and approached with such care."

"The architectural community across the country has really embraced the Access Awards since their launch in 2016", said Jane Duncan RIBA Immediate Past President.

"It is tremendously encouraging for the future of accessible tourism to see this year's awards attracting interest from around the world, as well as ideas shining a light on some of the more often-overlooked aspects of disabled travel."

Bespoke Access Awards  international design competition  design  MnM Studio  Marcello D'Orsi  Maria Brightei  inclusive  RIBA  Jane Duncan 
Architects MnM Studio, Maria Brightei and Marcello D'Orsi were named as joint winners of the Celia Thomas Prize at this year's Bespoke Access Awards. Now in its second year, the Bespoke Access Awards is an international design competition run in association with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The Celia Thomas Prize, named for Baroness Celia Thomas, is designed to champion accessible hospitality design to make the hotel experience
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Award-winners Maher Hadid from MnM Studios (right) and Marcello D'Orsi (left) with Baroness Celia Thomas
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