Rashid Ali Architects’ 30m² common room for the Town Hall in Hargeisa, the capital of the autonomous region of Somaliland, has been named winner of the AJ Small Projects 2021 award

An efficient, ultra-light, socially driven project in the autonomous region of Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, costing just £9,500, has won the AJ Small Projects 2021 award, announced at a virtual lunchtime event today (Thursday 22 April) by AJ Architecture Editor Rob Wilson.

The 30m² common room for Hargeisa Town Hall was designed by London and Somalia-based Rashid Ali Architects (formerly RA Projects) and constructed with a local carpenter and students from the nearby university’s school of architecture. Unlike familiar building methods in the area, the structure was made from timber frames.

It also takes the People’s Choice award, winning nearly 30 per cent out of over 2,000 votes received via a readers poll run on the AJ’s website.

It is the first time in the award’s 26-year history that a project in Africa has received the £2,500 top prize. The annual award, which has again been sponsored by Marley, celebrates small-scale gems with a contract value of £299,000 and under.

The scheme was chosen from a 20-strong shortlist by a judging panel consisting of Fiona Scott of Gort Scott, Pedro Gil of Studio Gil, Lendlease’s Selina Mason, last year’s winner Martin Edwards and the AJ’s sustainability editor, Hattie Hartman.

The jury hailed the scheme as a ‘modest intervention which greatly improved its context … It is a small scheme with a big impact. This is what AJ Small Projects is all about.’



AJ Small Projects 2021 overall winner: Hargeisa Town Hall Common Room by Rashid Ali Architects

Source:Lyndon Douglas

A separate social sustainability prize was awarded to Automated Architecture’s Block West in Bristol. The £75,000 temporary community hub formed of 145 plywood timber blocks is part of an associated public programme – an arts-led initiative enabling residents to gain skills in designing the spaces they need.

The judges were impressed by how the Bristol practice had collaborated with social scientist Claire McAndrew, arts charity Knowle West Media Centre and local residents, and the way the scheme engaged its community with its digital process, describing it as ‘an intersectional piece of architecture which goes beyond a building’.

The judges said both winning schemes raised ‘important conversations about how we live together’.



Social sustainability prize: Block West, Bristol, by Automated Architecture


All entries to this year’s awards are free to view in the AJ Buildings Library with the full shortlist available here. Copies of the AJ Small Projects special issue are available to buy from the AJ Shop.

AJ Small Projects is run in association with Marley

Past winners: 25 years of AJ Small Projects

2020: House in North Wales, Cymru, by Martin Edwards Architects

2019: The Conservatory Room, Dublin, by David Leech Architects

2018: Wrong House, London, by Matheson Whiteley

2017: Croft Lodge Studio, Herefordshire, by Kate Darby and David Connor

2016: The Welcoming Shelter, London, by Charlie Redman; Avon Wildlife Trust Cabin, Bristol, by Hugh Strange Architects; and Contemporary Lean-to, Harrogate, by Doma Architects

2015: Merseyside Maggie’s Centre by Carmody Groarke

2014: 13 Wapping Pierhead, London, by Chris Dyson Architects

2013: Box House, Hackney, by Laura Dewe Matthews

2012: Old Workshop, London, by Jack Woolley

2011: Jellyfish Theatre, London, by Folke Köbberling/Martin Kaltwasser

2010: The Dovecote Studio, Snape, by Haworth Tompkins

2009: Moonshine, near Bath, by Mitchell Taylor Workshop

2008: Wabi Tea House, Prickwillow, by Mole Architects

2007: Wallace Road House Extension, Canonbury, by Paul Archer Design

2006: Three Seton Mains, Longniddry in East Lothian, by Paterson Architects

2005: Bell Simpson House, Scotland, by Robin Lee Architecture

2004: Ola Mae Porch, Alabama, USA, by Lucy Begg and Robie Gay

2003: TFL International’s Headquarters, Preston, by Studio BAAD

2002: Kaufman Penthouse, north London, by Simon Conder Associates

2001: House in Holland Park by Boyarsky Murphy Architects

2000: Hackney Co-operative Development market stalls by Hawkins\Brown

1999: Maida Vale House by Wilkinson King Architects

1997/1998: Princes Ski Club Pavilion by Chris Wilkinson Architects

1996: Garden Gazebo, Alderley Edge, by Anthony Grimshaw Associates