McGonigle McGrath and Patrick Bradley in running for Northern Ireland accolades

Fort House

Fort House, by Patrick Bradley

The £12.2m refurbishment of Belfast’s Grand Opera House, a new-build home in Armargh that was inspired by the design of a nearby fort and a community farm in West Belfast are all in the running for Northern Ireland’s top architecture awards.

Consarc Design Group’s Opera House and Patrick Bradley’s Fort House are joined on the 10-strong shortlist for the Royal Society of Ulster Architects’ 2023 Design Awards by a striking new-build home near Belfast designed by McGonigle McGrath. The practice won the 2019 RIBA House of the Year Award with it’s £335,000 Lessans House project in County Down.

With a price tag of £120m, Avanti Architects and Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects’ Ulster Hospital Acute Services Block at Dundonald is at the upper end of the 2023 Design Awards shortlistlist in terms of cost.

RSUA director Ciarán Fox said all of the shortlisted schemes demonstrated “some element of delight, invention or ambition” that meant they deserved a more thorough examination on the part of judges.

Fox added that he was “almost certain” that Belfast-based MMAS had clocked up a first for the awards with its St James Farm project.

St James Urban Farm

St James Farm, by MMAS

“It’s great to once again see the reworkings of a number of existing buildings have made the shortlist,” he added.

“Retaining our built heritage is more important than ever, not just from a cultural point but also from an environmental perspective.”

All of the shortlisted projects were required to have been in use for at least a year so that the judging panel for the awards can factor in sustainability and the buildings’ overall performance into their decision.


Hill House, by McGonigle McGrath

Fox said the stipulation ensured that the competition remained a robust measure of the quality of architecture emerging from Northern Ireland.

“RSUA will continue to make sure that the focus is not just on the projects’ aesthetics but the full range of design considerations including crucially the environmental impact and carbon footprint,” he said.

Design Awards winners will be announced on 19 May, and go forward for consideration for the Liam McCormick Prize – Northern Ireland’s building of the year, which will be announced in June.


Ulster Hospital Acute Services Block, by Avanti Architects with Kennedy FitzGerald Architects

RSUA Design Awards 2023 Shortlist

Grand Opera House, Belfast, by Consarc Design Group

Windmill House , Hillsborough, by Marshall McCann Architect

Ulster Hospital Acute Services Block, Dundonald, by Avanti Architects with Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects

Ballyhackamore House, Belfast, by Studio idir

Hill House, Belfast, by McGonigle McGrath

Braidside Integrated Primary School, Ballymena, by Isherwood & Ellis with Knox Clayton Architects

St James Farm Belfast, by MMAS

Magheracross Coastal Walkway Trailhead and Scenic Viewpoints, Bushmills, by GM Design Associates Ltd

Fort House, Armagh, by Patrick Bradley Architect Ltd

The Chapel, Belfast, by  Alskea Ltd