Selwyn Goldsmith Award

The Civic Trust Awards also delivers an Awards scheme in recognition of architect and founding figure of universal design, Selwyn Goldsmith.

Established in 2011, the Selwyn Goldsmith Awards for Universal Design is delivered in parallel with the Civic Trust Awards application process, all CTA entries are automatically considered for the Selwyn Goldsmith Award. The winner will be selected by a specially convened panel of universal design experts with the announcement made at the Awards Ceremony in March each year. Universal Design is about ensuring that places work for all people, no matter your age, ethnicity, gender or ability. An environment or building that is responsive, flexible, welcoming, easy to use and occupy; allowing all to use with dignity and equality. The Selwyn Goldsmith Awards (SGA) seek to promote and applaud those schemes which achieve this and exceed regulation. To be considered for the SGA’s your project should have gone beyond the building regulations, as a minimum using best practice guidance, putting people at the heart of the project and showing exemplar design.

Mr Goldsmith wrote the groundbreaking manual Designing for the disabled, published in 1963, which became the indispensable access guide for built-environment professionals. Following interviews with wheelchair users for the 1967 edition of the book, Mr Goldsmith designed dropped kerbs which have since become a feature in public-realm environments around the world. The third edition of Designing for the disabled was used to inform the guidance documentation accompanying Part M of the Building Regulations in 1992.

In the 1970s, while working for the Department of the Environment, he produced accessible housing reports which were widely accepted as standards for public sector housing. In the 1980s Mr Goldsmith began surveying toileting provision to find out why women so frequently had to queue for toilets in public places, while men did not. His surveys suggested a great disparity in male and female toileting provision.

Mr Goldsmith’s book Universal design, published in 2000, outlined his shift in thinking from ‘designing for disabled people’ to ‘universal design’, which focuses on making buildings safe and convenient for use by everybody, including disabled people.

Selwyn’s widow, Becky Goldsmith said “having become hemiplegic after polio, Selwyn’s total lack of self-pity, a characteristic that was to endure until his death, meant that he simply adapted to his new circumstances and got on with living. His positive and optimistic approach meant that he maximised the possible and philosophically accepted what was not possible. During his life he experienced severe ambulant and wheelchair-using disability, which lent impartiality towards either set of needs in his design considerations, thus underlining his universality in interpretation of needs. His work was objective and therefore broad in application and ethos of provision for all but the most extremely limited. He would be thrilled by the Award and would hope that it be won on the basis of truly universal application. To quote him, ‘even little boys in loos have their needs’.”

Malcolm Hankey, Civic Trust Awards Managing Director said “Universal design will continue to be a fundamental component of the Civic Trust Awards and the Selwyn Goldsmith Awards will identify, reward and promote exemplars specific to universal design. It is an honour for us to be able to deliver this scheme as a tribute to Mr Goldsmith, I’m sure it will be very popular and highly contested.”

Selwyn Goldsmith sadly passed away on 3rd April 2011 aged 78 and in 2017, we were deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and long standing supporter Becky Goldsmith, who sadly passed away following an incredibly brave and spirited fight with illness. No words can express the level of commitment and dedication that Becky exhibited in championing the legacy of her late husband Selwyn. For those of you who have attended any of our Awards ceremonies over the last 6-7 years, we are sure you will remember Becky’s enthusiasm for the principles of Universal Design. She will be sadly missed. We thank the Goldsmith family, sons David and Ben, grandchildren Harry, Eloise and Sammy, brother Roger and sister Jane for their continued support of the Civic Trust Awards and Selwyn Goldsmith Awards for Universal Design.

Recent winners include:

  • National Army Museum, Kensington & Chelsea by BDP with Access Design Consultants
  • HOME, Manchester by Mecanoo architecten
  • dlrLexicon, Dublin by Carr Cotter & Naessens
  • Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo architecten
  • Timber Lodge and Tumbling Bay Playground, Newham by erect architecture
  • Canada Water Library, Southwark by CZWG Architects.