Ab Rogers Design wins £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize

The winner of this year’s Wolfson Economics Prize, which has invited proposals to “radically improve” hospitals for patients and staff in the UK and around the world, was announced at a Gala Dinner in Central London last night.

The £250,000 prize was awarded to Ab Rogers Design and their ‘Living Systems’ submission which envisions the hospital building as a ‘third carer’ alongside medical staff, patients and the public. Their proposal sets out a vision for smaller hospitals which could be built across England and sit within the community as centres of wellness as well as cure.

The 200-bed sites in their plan would be constructed out of a prefabricated, modular design of 12 storeys, with an internal shell of cross-laminated timber so that wards can be easily partitioned into isolation rooms, for example in response to infectious disease outbreaks.

A central open area on the ground floor – termed the podium – would incorporate a thriving market and be accessible and used by the entire community.  Other thoughtful considerations included locating the bulk of patient rooms and wards on the south side of the building to maximise levels of natural daylight, with greenery and views accessible from every bed.

Ab Rogers of Ab Rogers Design said:

“We are thrilled to have won the Wolfson Economics Prize. Our proposal is the result of the collective intelligence of an extraordinary team of hospital workers, patients and thinkers, all coming together to create a humanist hospital. We now look forward to developing this into a real life hospital.”

Rt Hon Professor Lord Kakkar, Chair of the Wolfson Economics Prize 2021 Judging Panel, said:


“Whilst the Judges were deeply impressed by the calibre of thinking behind each of the finalist proposals, Living Systems stood out. Good hospital care is about teamwork. The submission by Ab Rogers is a visionary proposal to make the hospital itself part of that clinical team, with the building aiding healing and recovery. The result is a thoughtful, consultative design which recognises the needs of human beings in medical environments – whether they are patients, visitors or staff.”

The four runners-up, which included proposals to base hospital design on neuroscience and the symmetry found in nature, redesign hospitals into starfish shaped pods to modernise hospital activity, reimagine the emergency department, and relocate acute and non-acute health facilities to town centres, will receive £10,000 each.

The Judging Panel had also previously recognised three ‘Highly Commended’ entries and made two ‘Light Bulb’ awards, which recognised particularly innovative elements contained within a submission.

Entrants to this year’s competition were asked: “How would you design and plan new hospitals to radically improve patient experiences, clinical outcomes, staff wellbeing, and integration with wider health and social care?”

It is the fourth time the prize has been awarded since its inception in 2011. The prize was awarded as the government embarks on a national programme of hospital building over the coming decade.

Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, founder of the Wolfson Economics Prize and Chief Executive of Next, said:

“This year’s Wolfson Economics Prize has generated important new thinking on how to plan and design hospitals. I am thrilled by the quality of the proposals we received, there are so many powerful ideas.  Between them they have the potential to radically improve medical outcomes whilst creating spaces that are a pleasure to work, recover in, and visit. The winning entry from Ab Rogers Design is a powerful and compelling proposition where the hospital building itself becomes an intrinsic element of patient care: nurturing people instead of simply housing them.”

Read an op-ed from Lord Kakkar and Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise in the Times Red Box.

Read this year’s winning submission and find out more about this year’s Finalists and Award Winners on the Wolfson Economics Prize 2021 homepage.

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