BCKJ Architects wins the Royal Academy's 2020 Dorfman Award

Chinese studio BCKJ Architects has been announced as the winner of the 2020 Royal Academy Dorfman Award for Architecture

Badaling Forest Experience Center, Beijing
Badaling Forest Experience Center, Beijing, 2014. Photography: Zhang Yong
(Image credit: Zhang Yong)

Dong Mei and Liu Xiaochuan of BCKJ Architects have been named the winners of the 2020 Royal Academy Dorfman Award for Architecture. The Chinese practice, founded in 2004, was praised for its core values and the way it addresses heritage, history, nature and human relationships. BCKJ are the third winner of the award, which was established to acknowledge ‘an international talent that represents the future of architecture.'

The two architects are experts in combining a striking aesthetic with a challenge, an architecture that responds to often complex contexts and places a focus on both humans and nature. It was this mix of the visual with architecture's ability to make a difference that prompted Dong Mei to become an architect, she recalls: ‘I find that I am very sensitive to images and space, and I can use this ability to help other people, help change their lives, and build a better living environment. Being an architect is a good way to achieve this.'

Dong Mei and Liu Xiaochuan of BCKJ Architects sat at a table with a drawing

(Image credit: TBC)

Every project brings out something different in the team. ‘I don't like to repeat myself, especially when the project is in a complex environment,' she continues. ‘Many building types of various forms have been built in recent years because of my curiosity about each given challenge. If there is a certain type of work that excites my heart more, regardless of the building function, is ethereal buildings designed in beautiful natural environments or complex humanistic environments.'

The pair is currently working on a renovation project: an abandoned airport in Hefei, where the 2022 China Horticultural Expo will be held. ‘Our design strategy is to preserve and utilize the original buildings as much as possible, activate the original space through interventions, meet the needs of a 21st century living environment and make sure there is space for future uses after the garden fair, opening up different possibilities,' says Dong Mei. A school project in a rural part of the Jiangsu province is the next one their list. 

For the Royal Academy Dorfman Award this year, the judging panel included the 2019 Dorfman Award winner, Thai architect Boonserm Premthada, as well as panel chair, architect Norman Foster, co-founder of Stanton Williams, Alan Stanton RA, artists Jane and Louise Wilson RA, architect Anupama Kundoo and Professor of Urban Studies at the London School of Economics, Ricky Burdett. The winner of the 2020 Royal Academy Architecture Prize, Cristina Iglesias, also joined them. 

Announced the winners in a London digital event today, the architects are thrilled. ‘Receiving the RA Dorfman Award is first of all an affirmation of the design philosophy and values we have adhered to for many years,' says the architect. ‘This is also the first award BCKJ has won outside China. It means that the wider world has seen us. We have also seen a wider world. This gives us encouragement and hope to move forward.'

Badaling Forest Experience Center, Beijing detail showing wooden walkway

Badaling Forest Experience Center, Beijing, 2014. Photography: Zhang Yong

(Image credit: Zhang Yong)

Badaling Forest Experience Center, Beijing exterior

Badaling Forest Experience Center, Beijing, 2014. Photography: Zhang Yong

(Image credit: Zhang Yong)

Black Tiger Primary School Mao County

Black Tiger Primary School Mao County, 2010. Photography: Dong Mei

(Image credit: Dong Mei)

Polus International College Students Apartment Chengdu

Polus International College Students Apartment Chengdu 2014. Photography: Dong Mei

(Image credit: Dong Mei)



Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).