Open Door project – a celebration of heritage conservation in the UK and China

The Open Door project, delivered in partnership with Royal Institute of British Architects, will recognise and pay homage to exemplar heritage and conservation sites and buildings in the UK and China.

There are numerous examples of successful heritage conservation in both China and the UK. By shining a light on these, the Open Door project will strengthen understanding of heritage buildings, their uses, and how they influence communities and societies.

The project will facilitate meaningful conversations on heritage themes, showcase how heritage buildings can be successfully maintained, repaired and updated, and promote architectural conservation's environmental and cultural benefits.

Video of Director of Arts at British Council China, Rehana Mughal

Video of RIBA Director of International Azlina Bulmer

How will Open Door celebrate architectural heritage?

The project will highlight the environmental and cultural benefits of building conservation and foster knowledge sharing between experts in both countries, facilitating future UK-China dialogue on architecture and design.

14 outstanding heritage projects from the UK and China will be selected by an Expert Advisory Group, chaired by Ben Derbyshire, Past President of RIBA and Commissioner for Historic England, made up of leaders in the field of conservation in China and the UK, to be exhibited later this year.

Projects will be collated through:

1. A call for short papers: Open to qualified emerging architects, researchers, practitioners, designers and academics involved in conservation, renovation, preservation or transformation of buildings and spaces, in the UK and China. Six projects will be selected.

2. RIBA Award winners: The Expert Advisory Group will consider heritage and conservation projects from the UK and China that have won RIBA International Awards or RIBA National Awards in the past two decades. Eight final projects will be selected.

The Expert Advisory Group seeks examples of renovation and re-invention of two project types: 20th Century heritage buildings and pre-1901 buildings.

The 14 projects will be showcased online and at a public exhibition in Shanghai and through two professional masterclass events, which will also provide a forum to discuss contemporary heritage conservation.

Projects will fit into two categories:

  • Twentieth Century (C20) heritage buildings
  • Historic buildings built before 1901

Key Dates: 

Entries open:  10:00 (BST) / 17:00 (CST) 21 April 2022
Entries close: 16:00 (BST) / 23:00 (CST) 23 May 2022
Assessment by Expert Advisory Group: 20 June 2022 
Announcement event and showcase launch:  15 September 2022 restrictions permitting
Masterclass events:  from 17 October 2022

Why enter Open Door?

  1. Your work will be assessed by a prestigious Expert Advisory Group,  all leaders in the heritage sector from the UK and China:
  • Group Chair: Ben Derbyshire, Chair of HTA Design LLP London and Commissioner for Historic England
  • Lu Wenyu, Co-founder of Prizter Prize winning firm - Amateur Architecture Studio, Hangzhou
  • Chen Xiong, Director of BOD, Deputy General Manager and Chief Architect of Guangdong Architectural Design and Research Institute Co., Ltd. (GDAD) 
  • Geoff Rich, Architect and Managing Partner at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Bath, London and Manchester
  • Dr Wei Yang, Chair of Wei Yang & Partners, Immediate Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute 

2. This could provide an opportunity to promote your work and practice to a global audience, via RIBA and the British Council channels through the digital showcase. 

3. Winning proposals will be included in a live announcement event and exhibition on 15 September in Shanghai, if the situation permits. 

4. The six winning projects will be featured at a professional masterclass event alongside award winning work and academic experts in October. 

5. Winning proposals will receive a RIBA certificate.


Open door aims to promote young talent in the conservation sector.  The project is open to emerging architects as individuals or to a group of young professionals that include a person with a recognised architecture qualification. For this project, 'emerging' means no more than ten years qualified.

We accept submissions from emerging architects as individuals and those who work for an established firm, who have led or had a significant contribution to the design of the project.

Open Door is open to practitioners and academics and entries can be made by an individual or a person on behalf of an organisation or practice, but the entry must be led by the individual with a recognised qualification in architecture.

Only one proposal per category per person (or practice) can be entered.

We welcome proposals from an individual or team:

  1. country of residence in Mainland China or the UK and;
  2. with a recognised architecture qualification as an individual or as a member of the design team who’s less than 10 years qualified. 

Submission criteria

Submitted case studies must fit into one of these categories: 

  • Twentieth Century (C20) heritage buildings
  • Historic buildings built before 1901

Proposals can include completed built conservation projects, work in progress or submissions for well-resolved ideas for an existing building requiring improvement. Projects should take a holistic approach to the built environment and consider social context, technical challenges, cultural significance, aesthetics, and physical settings.

Submissions should show how the project contributes to and advances architectural conservation and demonstrates how heritage buildings can be transformed and treasured, using the unique talents of architects for the benefit of their communities and for the environment. Proposals should be visually exciting and inspiring. They will evidence innovation and a creative approach in:

  • design concepts, strategies and solutions
  • use of new and existing materials
  • retrofitting for thermal efficiency
  • environmental considerations
  • cultural significance
  • challenges of delivery
  • benefits to the client and or user

We are particularly interested in projects that include innovative contemporary additions for new use whilst retaining their historic value.

Submission guidance

Please submit your proposal in a concise presentation format. A digital portfolio or brochure, for example. The proposal should comprise: 

  • No more than 800 words in language for a public audience ie non-technical information
  • A maximum of 10 JPEG images with all credits showing the project before refurbishment, the site or location map
  • Please include a selection of sketches, colour photographs & technical drawings
  • A separate written description (Word document)

You may also submit the project description in English or simplified Chinese.

Please mark your submission ‘Open Door Submission + individual / team name’.

Fill out the online application form and submit proposals via email or WeTransfer to by 1pm BST / 11pm CST on Monday 23 May 2022.

Open Door is free to enter. 

Assessment process

The Expert Advisory Group will assess all submitted proposals to select the three most impactful and innovative projects from each category, to give six final proposals to be showcased. 

If your project is selected, you will also need to supply a short film about your proposal to be used in the showcase. We will supply you with the directions and a full brief.

Data protection

The details you provide will be used in line with the RIBA's GDPR obligations. For information on how we handle your personal data please see our Privacy Policy.

By registering for the Open Door and taking part, you are agreeing to have your data processed in the UK and shared with the British Council.

Submissions will be used by the RIBA and the British Council for the promotion of the project, on the associated digital channels and in associated physical exhibitions. 


 Please contact with any queries.