2011 RAIA Architectural Awards

2011 RAIA Architectural Awards

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) announced the winners of its National Architecture Awards at a sold-out ceremony at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart on November 3.

A total of 34 awards and commendations were selected from a total of 160 finalists. In the 30th year of the awards, however, the best of the winners show that new buildings can conjure a special excitement.

2011 was a year when the big names of Australian architecture dominated. This may indicate a risk-averse economic climate that tells against experimental and emerging architects. The next generation of talent, who only got a look-in around the edges this year, needs those forward-thinking clients, people like David Walsh, the art collector who has built the highly romantic MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart where this year’s award ceremony was held.

An exhibition of the winning projects will be open to the public at the Gallery of Australian Design in Canberra from Wednesday 9 November to Saturday 10 December

To read the jury review, and more images for each winning project please continue here

2011 AIA Jury = Karl Fender is an award-winning architect and the national past president of the Australian Institute of Architects / architect and academic Mel Dodd /  Queensland government architect Philip Follent / architect Richard Nugent / communications specialist Leanne Tritton.

The awards were dominated by major public infrastructure and cultural projects, with Jury Chair Karl Fender announcing that “the jury was very impressed with the high standard of design of public spaces, particularly the Australian War Memorial, Cairns Cruise Terminal, the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia and AAMI Park in Melbourne.

“A highlight of the awards was the extent to which the most pragmatic requirements of extremely functional briefs were so consistently translated into the highest levels of design excellence and sustainable outcomes,” Fender said.

The Institute’s National President, Brian Zulaikha, commended this year’s winning projects for the “diversity, quality and imagination that is inherent in Australian architecture, from large-scale public buildings through to the most intimate domestic spaces. The diversity of thinking they reveal was unimaginable a decade ago.”

Leanne Tritton, put it like this: “Our combined challenge is to broaden the understanding of what an architect does and tell it to a larger audience. We need to encourage more clients in every sector, demonstrate that good architecture is about good business as well as a private indulgence.”

There is much-needed place for a Client of the Year Award to celebrate enlightened patronage. As is often the case, it is private houses and public buildings that have been taking the risks.

The diversity of materials and language and forms on display in public projects range from the artistic collage of BVN Architecture’s Youth Mental Health Building at the Brain and Mind Research Institute in Sydney to the contemplative purity of Johnson Pilton Walker’s Australian War Memorial Eastern Precinct that has won The Sir Zelman Cowen Award For Public Architecture, and show what’s possible in every sector.

Institute national president Brian Zulaikha says the diversity of thinking they reveal was unimaginable a decade ago, “from large-scale public architecture through to the most intimate domestic spaces”.

2011 Categories – Winners and Commendations

Public Architecture

Sir Zelman Cowen Award
Australian War Memorial, Eastern Precinct
Johnson Pilton Walker

National Award
Cox Architecture

National Commendation
Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI) – Youth Mental Health Building
BVN Architecture

National Commendation
Victoria University Learning Commons and Exercise Sports Science Project
John Wardle Architects

National Commendation
St Mary’s Catholic Primary School New Hall and Library, Reggio Emelia Early Learning Centre and Courtyard
Troppo Architects NT

Residential architecture – multiple housing

Frederick Romberg Award
Waterloo Street
Candalepas Associate

National Award
3ohn Street, Box Hill

National Commendation
A’Beckett Tower
Elenberg Fraser

Residential architecture – houses

Robin Boyd Award
Castlecrag House
Neeson Murcutt Architects

National Award
Renato D’Ettorre Architects

National Award
Zinc House (Gallery House)
Denton Corker Marshall

National Commendation
Marion Bay House
1+2 Architecture

National Commendation
Garden House
Durbach Block Jaggers Architects

Enduring architecture

National Award
Magney House, Bingie Bingie
Glenn Murcutt


Lachlan Macquarie Award
Cairns Cruise Terminal
Arkhefield and Total Project Group Architects in Association

Commercial architecture

Harry Seidler Award
Ecosciences Precinct

National Award
Myer Bourke Street Redevelopment
NH Architecture

National Commendation
Donovan Hill

Interior architecture

Emil Sodersten Award
State Theatre Centre of Western Australia
Kerry Hill Architects

National Award

Nudgee College Tierney Auditorium

Urban design

Walter Burley Griffin Award

National Award
Australian War Memorial, Eastern Precinct
Johnson Pilton Walker

National Commendation
National Centre of Indigenous Excellence
Tonkin Zulhaika Greer

International architecture

Jørn Utzon Award
School of the Arts, Singapore

International Award
Kerry Hill Architects

Suzhou Industrial Park Logistics Centre
Johnson Pilton Walker

Small project architecture

National Award
Small House
Domenic Alvaro

National Commendation
Law Street House
Muir Mendes

National Commendation
Little Big House

Sustainable architecture

National Award
The University of Adelaide Innova21

National Commendation
Hill Plains House
Wolveridge Architects

National Commendation
Tarremah Hall
Morrison & Breytenbach Architects

Steel architecture

Colorbond Award
The Hangar
Peter Stuchbury Architecture

National Commendation
Caritas College Junior School External Covered Area
Tridente Architects

Australian War Memorial Eastern Precinct by Johnson Pilton Walker won the National Award for Urban Design

The Eastern Precinct development is the final phase of an overall development plan for the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. The architect was faced with unique urban design challenges. Not only is the site of significant national importance, it is also included in the Commonwealth Heritage List, the National Heritage List and the Parliament House Vista Heritage Management Plan. The brief included the development of a cafe and amenities building; resolving the logistical problems of improving the movement, parking and arrival of thousands of buses and their passengers; and providing an appropriate site and surroundings for the National Service Memorial, which honours the National Servicemen who have died in active service.

The success of this project rests with the architect’s elegant and discreet solution, which leaves the first-time visitor almost unaware that any major intervention has taken place. At each stage the architect has respected the broader setting, enabling the main building to remain the hero and the existing views to be completely unspoilt. The design approach has delivered an overwhelming and emotional sense of national place with appropriate yet masterful simplicity

AAMI Park by Cox Architecture won the National Award for Public Architecture

Creating a new stadium in the heart of Melbourne, arguably Australia’s sporting mecca, is a challenge. Ensuring that it suits the requirements of four highly competitive, emerging football codes is almost impossible. However, the architects have successfully established AAMI Park stadium as a much-loved and instantly recognizable player on the Melbourne skyline. Incorporating a multi-sports campus, it is a vibrant example of a public building put to maximum use seven days a week.

The already iconic roof is a lightweight steel structure that uses no more material than is absolutely necessary. Each bioframe shell is unique in form and designed to suit its position. The end result is a dramatic atmosphere – every spectator enjoys an uninterrupted view around the ground.

The original brief was altered mid-project and the capacity increased by 10,000 seats to 30,500. Undoubtedly, this must have caused the architects a few headaches, but for the spectator there is no evidence that this was ever a problem. Making that level of adjustment without compromising on comfort is indeed a skill.

The base of the stadium is put to full use, with offices for various sports organizations, club training rooms, therapy areas, swimming pools and gyms. While the judges were on site, team members from Melbourne Storm demonstrated the rejuvenating properties of the spa and ice plunge pool. From what we could see, all was in perfect working order.

BMRI Youth Mental Health Building by BVN won a National Commendation for Public Architecture

The Youth Mental Health Building delivers an impressive and gutsy street elevation that serves as a perfect reflection of its client’s ambition to be an alternative institutional health building. Calling for a combination of research laboratories, academic offices, clinical consulting spaces and a social drop-in centre, the brief demanded inventive, robust and economical architecture.

The new forms are inserted adjacent to, and over the top of, an existing two-storey heritage facade, part of the gritty context of this previously industrial quarter in Sydney. This constraint has only benefited the project’s final form, creating a provocative and mannered solution that addresses the street with originality and character. It presents an embodied representation of the complexity of social and clinical research and consulting facilities within. Inside, these functional areas are layered through floor plates with generous interconnecting stairs and hallways, including tall vertical spatial connections, links to street views and social spaces.

Victoria University Learning Commons and Exercise Sports Science Project by John Wardle Architects won a National Commendation for Public Architecture

The Victoria University building is an exemplary illustration of how architecture can be a transforming mechanism for institutional change and growth. The complex works as an urban ensemble to catalyse and articulate an emerging centre of excellence at the university’s Footscray Park Campus.

Consisting of learning and teaching spaces, laboratories, social spaces, offices and a learning commons, the building operates like a sophisticated machine, revealing advanced programs through architectural gestures: distorted windows and openings, pattern and materiality, detail and furniture.

The building adopts a dramatic site strategy, creating a wall-like edge to the campus above the Maribyrnong River flood plain. It draws allusions to the institution as operative city, with buttress walls and robust exterior. Within is a carefully considered “town centre,” with entry courtyard sequences that stitch the new spaces back into their campus context through an inhabited bridge

St Mary’s Catholic Primary School New Hall and Library, Reggio Emelia Early Learning Centre and Courtyard by Troppo Architects NT won a National Commendation for Public Architecture

The interventions of shade structures, an early learning centre, a hall and a library transform the primary open space of St Mary’s School from a courtyard into a village. This reimagining of the school precinct from one static space to a number of dynamic spaces will increase the potential for school activities and enhance the teaching mission of the school.

An architectural replacement was needed for a series of large trees removed from the school courtyard. The architect’s solution to this challenge, using a fragmented group of shed roofs, elegantly references the previous natural canopy without being too literal and provides amenity with a sense of intangible openness.

The new facilities help define linked and overlapping activity nodes that can provide for both larger and smaller gatherings, expanding across the open space network as required. A layered, structural system of elements reaches out from supporting columns to embrace space and to allow light to penetrate to the schoolyard below.

The careful modulation of built and open space within the project extends the school footprint towards the cathedral, essentially completing the precinct by drawing the cathedral into the composition as one edge of a larger complex of spaces.

Waterloo Street by Candalepas Associates won the Frederick Romberg Award for Residential – Multiple Housing

Waterloo Street demonstrates a number of responses to its site that go beyond the usual massing and programmatic concerns. The project is located in Surry Hills, an inner-city neighbourhood well-known for its mix of uses and home to Sydney’s fashion trade and other creative industries. Waterloo Street references this overall vibe while carrying on a specific dialogue with its immediate neighbour, the Reader’s Digest Building.

Within Waterloo Street, a variety of apartment sizes and layouts have been fitted into the L-shaped plan on the rectangular site. The mix is quite appropriate to the location, catering to the broad cross-section of residents who call Surry Hills home.

Access to the apartments is generally along open-air corridors, allowing residents to have “front doors” within the building. In the northern wing, the length of the access corridor is broken by the introduction of a horizontal atrium that allows light and air to circulate through the block. Both wings provide street wall profiles to the Surry Hills grid and free up space in the rear of the site for a courtyard. This move naturally benefits the residents of Waterloo Street, but also provides amenity for the rest of this crowded neighbourhood.

Some of the expressionist features of the Reader’s Digest Building find their counterparts in the entrance slot and the blades of the corner treatment of Waterloo Street. While the palette for the project is deliberately limited and disciplined, a rich spatial and architectural experience has been created. Heavy timber screens, smooth concrete and straightforward brickwork all come from the honest materiality of the semi-industrial nature of this part of Sydney.

The building itself steps back slightly at the corner in a counter-intuitive gesture that actually emphasizes the public domain. It is fitting that a restaurant has taken the corner space and colonized this outdoor plaza. Additional restaurants and small bars appear to be on the way, as Waterloo Street settles into its Surry Hills life.

John Street, Box Hill, by Hayball won the National Award for Residential – Multiple Housing

Student housing, by its very nature, presents considerable challenges for an architect. Typically, the budget is low and the key requirement is to maximize the return and accommodate as many units as possible.

Within this framework, the architects have delivered an impressive result with John Street, Box Hill. The exterior is a welcome relief in the existing streetscape and has the potential to lift the aspirations of the entire street.

The architects invested heavily in the briefing and design process to ensure low-cost but high-quality facades. Treatments include timber and brick. Their decision to retain the existing trees provides a welcome deception that you are surrounded by bush, when in fact you are in a completely urban locality.

The use of internal space in each individual unit is well thought through, and every available opportunity has been taken to maximize storage and workable living and study space

A’Beckett Tower by Elenberg Fraser won a National Commendation for Residential – Multiple Housing

Emerging heroically at the edges of the RMIT [University] city campus, A’Beckett Tower has a brilliantly conceived facade of shallow three-dimensionality, colour and repetition on a small, 900-metre-square block. Created through a decorative application of shading devices to the north elevation, the scale and geometry complement the piecemeal and low-rise building stock of A’Beckett and Little La Trobe streets. The tower operates as a dramatic set piece in the urban realm, adjacent to Swanston Street and within the eccentric character of local architectural form.

At ground level, its arcade connects the two streets and offers views of Melbourne laneway graffiti. Above the street, at the podium level, front apartments allow a series of parking levels accessed by car elevator to eliminate street-level ramps. This is unashamedly high-density living in the city, yet it is intent upon nurturing a strong aesthetic quality, not only through the north face but also through applied decoration on the south facade (by John Warwicker of Tomato) and a sequence of interior finishes and installed objects.

Castlecrag House by Neeson Murcutt Architects won the Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture – Houses

A surprise and a delight, Castlecrag House makes an effortless and timeless contribution to architectural speculations on domesticity. The interconnections between a rich contextual response to site and a close attentiveness to physical and spatial manifestations of personal family history give the project a sort of seamlessness, so that it is hard to know where one stops and the other begins.

Constructed around three aspects of physical site – a sandstone outcrop, an angophora forest and a view of Sydney’s harbour – the spaces connect through a complex circulation or pinwheel, which introduces and overlays other notions of “homeliness.” Here we uncover the sentimental, the nostalgic: memories and times past. This interweaving of narrative and formal journeys provides an experience that resists simplistic spatial readings of hierarchy or sequence, of architectural style or era.

Exquisitely detailed, the house contains vignettes that seem to synthesize distant memories and contemporary life: the mirrored and faceted dressing table window, recessed into a wall overlooking angophoras; remnant brick wall segments and romantic bridges on the exterior; children’s bathrooms resting on sandstone; a softly furnished inset lounge with draping curtain walls. This project has poignancy and depth, created through threads of materiality and narrative that reveal an exemplary working of house as home.

Solis by Renato D’Ettorre Architects won the National Award for Residential Architecture – Houses

Solis is a breathtaking house. The architect has carved into a steep edge of Hamilton Island, brilliantly sculpting three interlocked levels to frame extraordinary views of islands in the Whitsunday waters.

The house is approached through an unremarkable, albeit leafy, suburban precinct. Down a steep driveway, the buggy garage frames the first views of the waters below and a hovering balcony reflection pond provides the first experience of the house.

An open living platform cut into the hill is separated by another reflection pond, while hovering above the sea and further living spaces below. The experience as you navigate the various levels of the house is of seemingly endless water encounters: reflection ponds, lily ponds, swimming ponds and constructed views of the azure ocean.

The house changes its mood on descent. The upper living areas are light-filled and airy, with little distinction between indoor and outdoor space. In fact, only a small section of this floor can be closed down by screens to provide security, particularly during tropical storms. The lower reaches of the house are more cavernous – cool bedroom chambers, again formed on the ocean views. The palette is concrete and travertine, designed for easy, maintenance-free, cool living in the tropics, while acting as a calm counterpoint to complex spatial and sculptural interactions.

Every level of this house, every turn and every vantage point provides enormous surprise and delight. Corners of the house float above the terraced landscape, garden terraces and nooks set into the hillside, which feature natural stone retaining walls and continuing encounters with water pools and ponds.

Zinc House (Gallery House) by Denton Corker Marshall won the National Award for Residential Architecture – Houses

The trust, respect and familiarity that exists between the architects and their clients allowed this extraordinary home to materialize in the absence of a brief. And given that the clients are leaders in their respective fields of property development and the arts, their expectations were high. The built result transcended those expectations.

Ingeniously integrated with factory remnants and existing level constraints on the site, the new building is a strong but respectful neighbour within its suburban precinct. The experience hidden within, however, is remarkable.

Upon entry, a section of thick, zinc-clad wall, medieval in substance, pivots to allow almost ceremonial access through a private art gallery to the living areas of the house. Art and family living merge and flow throughout. An external courtyard shaped irregularly by the triangular neighbourhood block plan enriches the living areas and views from the upper levels. Upstairs, the master bedroom and a study capture neighbourhood views from each end of the house, while a light court provides otherwise internal guest bedrooms with monastic tranquillity.

This complex, sophisticated house brilliantly synthesizes art, design and one family’s dignified living aspirations.

Marion Bay House by 1+2 Architecture won a National Commendation for Residential Architecture – Houses

The massive timber wall, necessarily over-scaled to have any presence on the open hillside, elicits the visitor’s intrigue. That which is “contained” is much smaller, crisply detailed and glassy on the leeward side but does not disappoint. The panorama of landscape and ocean is both generously revealed and selectively framed.

A roof, falling consistently and gently against the slope, softly compresses the uphill, cosy family quarters, leaving the higher ceilings for the dramatic entry and living spaces.

Simultaneously, in this isolated and often hostile environment, the building must offer a sense of security and self-sufficiency. Here the sustainability features, from services to structural systems to interior finishes, are at work and remain integral to the building architecture without distraction. The big wall, clad in unfinished macrocarpa that will weather to a silver grey, remains the identity and anchor of the project – offering protection and the silent, dependable embrace within which the occupants will nestle.

Garden House by Durbach Block Jaggers Architects won a National Commendation for Residential Architecture – Houses

While Garden House nestles unassumingly into its eastern Sydney suburban context, it unfolds on entry with surprise, discovery and allure. The bold, simple, L-shaped form of the house is located at the rear of its sloping site to create the maximum possible consolidated area of tiered garden frontage. It then presents to this landscape and the street beyond as a large, textured, folded brick facade in the background, which lifts to connect living areas to the garden and distant views.

Internally, the house flows with clear planning logic, which is enriched by highly imaginative volumetric manipulations and carefully considered detailing. The main bedroom is perched on the upper level to make the most of its views. It is separated from the secondary bedrooms by the living areas, which all in turn connect directly to the garden environment.

Moving through the house is a memorable experience of unfolding spatial events. The house is a confident display of the way fluid volumes, captured and ever-changing natural light, elegant finishes and sculptural connections to outdoor spaces can enrich the otherwise often predictable patterns of day-to-day living.

Magney House, Bingie Bingie, 1982–84 by Glenn Murcutt won the National Award for Enduring Architecture

Things that endure provide a connection over time and yet have a timeless essence. The Magney House is one of these. It is a house, yes, but it is actually a place – made up of the house itself, its setting and the relationships created by the presence of this intervention in the landscape. The Magney House belongs to its landscape in a very inevitable way.

At the start of the project the client envisioned the house on the ridge line, commanding the view over the surrounding paddocks to the sea. During early siting discussions, however, the architect suggested that the house would perhaps be better located below the ridge, facing north to the sea, as this would provide a more appropriate response to the topography, climate and seasons. In fact, as construction started on the house, foundations of an earlier house were discovered at that location. Some places are meant to be.

The making of this place was all about continuing an experience of life on the site. The Magney family’s camping experience was seamlessly translated into the form and openness of their house and in turn passed on to future generations of the family.

The house itself, envisioned as a response to the climate and site, was developed by listening to the site. The form of the house provides a windbreak from southern winds, opens to the north in response to solar angles, and can be closed in depending on temperature and weather. A water axis runs the length of the house, reinforced by the roof valley, water service spine and roof catchment system, and separates the more closed service spaces on the south from the open served spaces on the north. A simple and compelling logic that feels as correct today as it did when first sketched. So many of the features that we now take for granted, as sustainable elements, found early expression and form in this structure.

But this house is not a machine. The “technical” features of the house have also enriched the narrative of this place. The clients measure the passing of the seasons by counting the number of tiles reached by the sun as the winter solstice approaches and the light penetrates deeper into the house. There is the “March Tile,” the “April Tile,” etc. The overall parti of two separated yet joined living spaces also reinforces the flow of time … independence of family activities during the day and the coming together of the family around the hearth in the evening.

Cairns Cruise Terminal by Arkhefield and Total Project Group Architects won the Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage

The refurbished cruise boat terminal in Cairns, which won The Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage, is an elegant timber shed, updated with steel and glass inserts, that is redolent with its history as a tropical gateway to the South Pacific. It would have been easy to substitute it with something as shiny as a cruise ship but it has withstood 100 years of storms and cyclones and it’s not easy to replace that kind of atmosphere.

The decision to restore Wharf Shed Number 3 to accommodate the growing number of cruise liners that visit Cairns was truly inspired. Not only does the restoration provide thousands of passengers with a unique, subtropical experience as they disembark, but it also breathes life into a largely forgotten part of the Cairns waterfront. The brief was to retain as much as possible of the existing fabric of the building in its raw state, while creating a contemporary and adaptable multi-use space that could function both as a customs checkpoint and as a major event venue.

With steel-framed glass windows inserted into its external skin, the timber frame of the shed was opened up to the outside. A polished concrete floor stretches throughout and adds a remarkable warmth and tactility to the entire space. The painstaking process undertaken to select the right mix of aggregate for this floor was worth every step. Brass year markers pinpoint both key historical and trivial points in Cairns’ development and discreet IT and power hubs enable the space to easily fulfil the many requirements of the customs team that needs to process visitors efficiently. Outside, a sculpture by Indigenous artist Thancoupie forms the centrepiece of a thoughtfully landscaped public realm which links the terminal to the centre of Cairns.

Ecosciences Precinct by Hassell won the Harry Seidler Award for Commercial Architecture

The commendable process of sharing facilities, infrastructure and knowledge is the driver behind the design of this new research engine. The Ecosciences Precinct physically brings together four state science agencies and six divisions of the CSIRO, which have all been operating in geographical isolation from each other.

The building concept is simple, powerful and extremely well executed. A central pedestrian “street” provides a common library, meeting rooms and plenty of opportunities for staff interaction, both social and business. This “street” connects and addresses three north-oriented office wings, which are all, in turn, engaged by three screened garden courtyards.

The building purposefully unites the complex, high-performance requirements of laboratory space with social, people-oriented environments filtered by a light garden ambience. From parti to detail, space planning to atmosphere, this is a carefully and sensitively conceived design. It assertively embraces the next generation of healthy, efficient and enjoyable office environments. The interconnection of the working components is expressed externally as truthful to purpose and highly sculpted. Facades are screened appropriately for respective orientations.

This project exudes a confident approach to workplace best practice and, therefore, respect for its inhabitants.

Myer Bourke Street Redevelopment by NH Architecture won the National Award for Commercial Architecture

The Myer renovations have introduced a golden glow to the retail heart of Melbourne’s CBD. A striking, multifaceted, gold metal built form announces an internal retail environment which is structured around an eight-storey crystalline cascading atrium. The fractured alignments of the surprising retail cavern enhance the pageantry of shopping and people watching, while giving maximum exposure to retail merchandise in a dazzling, almost hypnotic way. In counterpoint, the top floor beneath the atrium roof is somewhat calm – like a modern version of grandfather’s attic, full of treasure, albeit Apple technology. A diamond-shaped skylight directs natural light into the atrium to transform a usually internalized retail environment into airy spaces.

The Art Deco Bourke Street Mall facade has also been sensitively restored. Windows have been recommissioned to give life to the facade while allowing tempting glimpses of the retail activities within. The famous Mural Hall, which is adorned with major paintings by Napier Waller, has also been restored after years of neglect.

A benchmark in contemporary department store design, the Myer project provides optimism in a difficult retailing period.

AM60 by Donovan Hill won a National Commendation for Commercial Architecture

AM60, a commercial tower in the Brisbane CBD, provides a richer response to its context than its programmatic brief would suggest. The project is located in the Brisbane CBD, near several other buildings with similar scale and program. It is also located close to several smaller and older structures that serve to give continuity and character to this part of the city. The urban form of the project responds to these influences, while providing for the needs of its tenants with large floor plates, good solar access and a sustainable approach to the provision of commercial space.

Perhaps one of the most striking features of the project is the use of scaling devices on the different facades. Concrete framing devices anchored to floor slabs beyond the glass enclosure of the building provide a visual richness to the facade, along with visual differentiation from the interior looking outward, something that is usually lacking in commercial space.

As the tower reaches the ground, further articulation at the corner in the form of an upper-level garden suggests the potential for activation. One can imagine retail and restaurants colonizing this corner over time and enhancing the current ground-level cafe area. Another response to context is found in the “brick conference tower,” which provides a transition piece to the adjacent building and older buildings across the street.

AM60 is an addition to the Brisbane CBD that will grow richer with time and use

State Theatre Centre of Western Australia by Kerry Hill Architects won the Emil Sodersten Award for Interior Architecture

Positioning one theatre directly above its counterpart saves valuable space, thus affording more generous permeability throughout the site, the added bonus of an open-air courtyard theatre in the round and a street presence that seems more human than monumental in scale, for a theatre complex of state significance.

The circulation spaces are richly appointed, with gold coloured screens and “stalactites” over the grand stair to heighten a theatrical experience of arrival and mingling. All is on show to passers-by through a transparent facade, which itself is screened by a rhythm of black metal elements. By day the building conveys modesty and restfulness, contained by site geometry to a beautifully proportioned and composed rectilinear form. By night, the buzz of human activity in rehearsal spaces and golden foyers transforms its character to one of joyful exuberance.

A restrained materials palette of timber, concrete, dark brick and glass has been masterfully employed to delineate spaces of seductive atmosphere, from the darker, “below street” spaces serving Studio Underground – the robust, industrial-like and flexible performance space – to the skylight-illuminated plywood drum of the Heath Ledger Theatre as it peels away from the concrete wall.

The design alignment of interiors with the building architecture, its urban contribution and the experience of theatregoers are integral to the success and popularity of the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia.

Nudgee College Tierney Auditorium by m3architecture won the National Award for Interior Architecture

Emerging from a strong strategy of repair and refurbishment (as opposed to demolition and rebuild), this project attempts to reinvent the ordinary and jaded institutional buildings of the school’s campus.

The dramatic interior spaces are a transformation of the exam hall and basketball court of the school through an imaginative and amusing reconsideration of its basic architectural qualities. Rethought as a version of Mesoamerican and Art Deco, the triangular motif of the original buttress walls has been radically transformed into a decorative geometric language. The theatrical sensibility moves from the external entry spaces and foyer to find its apotheosis in a rich and mysterious interior auditorium. Walls are covered in a shallow wall tectonic of mirror, colour and fibre optics to create a lush and dark space.

The surprise of such exoticism in the midst of a boys’ school provides the opportunity for expanded uses and new imaginings.

One40william by Hassell won the Walter Burley Griffin Award for Urban Design

The great challenge of one40william is its site, or rather that its site is a city block, over an underground station and adjacent to a railway precinct at one edge of Perth’s CBD. The project essentially transformed this city block into a city fabric.

This new fabric works on several scales and levels. At the scale of the city, the massing of the building provides a rich addition to the built form of Perth as it responds to the variety of built form around it. It provides a sensitive response to the GPO, the Commonwealth Bank and the restored heritage structures along Wellington Street. At the scale of the building, the floor plates take the form of a series of parallel slabs, allowing light and air to permeate the workspaces within. At the scale of the pedestrian, the project provides a dense network of laneways and public places such as Globe Lane, Railway Square, Railway Lane and Postal Place, which tie the project to its surroundings and link William Street to Wellington Street and the Murray Street mall.

Within the project itself the configuration of the commercial space responds to the imperatives of commercial flexibility while providing for a high quality work environment. A significant aspect of the floor plate configuration is the potential for tenants to identify with their particular wing of the building, or internal address points along informal cross spines and common atria, and therefore take the idea of the fine-grained public domain into the vertical dimension. The treatment of setback levels as planted gardens, some with accessible spaces, further reinforces the urban liveability of the project. This aspect of the project also recognizes the legitimate need of occupants to see something worth looking at.

The 5 Star Green Star Office project also makes one more significant urban contribution that transforms this part of Perth: it fully engages with the Perth Underground Railway Station. The project enhances connectivity with the surrounding city by providing the railway station with appropriate entrance spaces that are highly visible and fully integrated into the placemaking of the building itself.

National Centre of Indigenous Excellence by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer won a National Commendation for Urban Design

The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) provides a place for building bridges and confidence while demonstrating a connection to the past and a direction for the future. The adaptive reuse of the heritage-listed Redfern Public School buildings was a catalyst for the reinvention of this large site in Redfern as a new public place.

At the centre of this transformation is an open space on the former school playground that has been developed as a multi-level public forum, alternating hardscape and softscape elements as it negotiates the level changes of the site. The complex needs of providing for secure and open areas are skillfully woven into the design of the public domain so that all spaces contribute to the overall success of place making here.

The largest intervention on the site is the Eora Sports, Arts and Recreation Centre, a large volume that needed to be carefully modulated to sit comfortably adjacent to the smaller scale of the nearby terrace houses and more finely scaled details of the heritage school structures. The addition of smaller scaled colouring elements to the facade of this facility serves as a counterpoint to the size and scale of the facility itself.

The schools themselves have been reconfigured to provide for a much more complex program than originally envisioned. They now provide for study space, living space, dining space and community spaces, which ultimately tell the story of new life that the NCIE represents.

This project also received the Lloyd Rees Award for Urban Design at the 2011 NSW Architecture Awards.

School of the Arts, Singapore, by WOHA won the Jørn Utzon Award for International Architecture

The establishment of a specialist high school for the visual and performing arts, in the civic heart of Singapore and at the gateway to the arts and entertainment district, has given WOHA the chance to juggle many disparate uses and demands. The site is not large but the building would need to be; the climate is hot, humid and almost breezeless; the brief calls for public spaces, thoroughfares and performance theatres, yet also for secure, flexible teaching spaces.

The resulting building is massive and at first hard to read, a monumentally scaled base with three finger-like blocks on top and bridges at the highest of roof levels. Its podium, referred to as the “backdrop,” is a shaded, cool, naturally ventilated public thoroughfare. A short cut between streets, it houses the performing arts theatres and even retail.

Designed as a “machine for wind,” the podium channels and intensifies light breezes to make comfortable the gathering spaces where the public and students interact. Visible from this level is the “blank canvas,” the three secure, flexible teaching blocks in which students’ creativity can be fostered within minimal constraints.

WOHA has adeptly fulfilled a complex brief, initiated green measures, brought light into a deep plan, created neutral territories in which to demystify the arts and achieved an architectural expression that connects its podium to the historic scale of its surrounds and offers an alternative to the tower atop a podium via its three striated forms.

Materials are robust and energetically detailed, resulting in an architecture that is both welcoming and of civic value

Amankora by Kerry Hill Architects won the International Architecture Award

The architect’s respectful fifteen-year association with Bhutan’s natural environment and its indigenous buildings is evident in the careful and varied site selection for the five lodges and the architectural expression of each.

Buildings are Bhutanese in form and general materiality. However, they have been configured variously as a series of rooms (from eight to twenty-four) to create lodges. One is discovered through a forest walk, another in an orange orchard beside a restored farmhouse, another as a “village” and another as a series of random rubble buildings, drawing on traditional valley institutional and domestic building. The resulting architecture is noteworthy for its elegance of plan and the quality of external spaces for journey or contemplation.

Designed as plywood boxes within the building shells, the interiors are enriched by custom-designed furnishings, fabrics and lighting, which contrast the rustic with the crafted.

However, it may be that the legacy of this remarkable project is the transfer of Western Australia’s stabilized earth technology to Bhutanese contractors. The traditional mud building technique, susceptible to earthquake and rain, now has a substitute in stabilized earth, which could prolong the traditional form of building expression.

Suzhou Industrial Park Logistics Centre by Johnson Pilton Walker won an International Architecture Commendation

Known for the almost overnight changes to its industrial and development landscapes, China offers a challenge to architects to design buildings and places that will have enduring meaning, even if later surrounded by towers of indifferent disposition.

The Logistics Centre addresses an uncertain urban future by being two things at once. It is a tower proportioned as a series of sixteen “boxes,” purposefully scaled to relate to the (currently) low-height buildings and shipping containers. There is even one red tower “container” loosely stacked to acknowledge its ground-hugging cousins. At the same time it is a tower of elegant composition, projecting confidently a refined architecture that will ensure longevity of its landmark status at the entrance to the Suzhou Industrial Park.

Attention to passive environmental initiatives throughout the podium and tower has delivered the highest possible sustainability rating in China (equivalent to Australia’s six stars), an achievement that is all the more impressive given the industrial setting.

The project demonstrates a meticulous resolution of form, structure and detailing, which collectively enhance the amenity and experience for all building users.

Small House by Domenic Alvaro won the National Award for Small Project Architecture

The Small House in Surry Hills provides a maximum experience out of a minimum site. A simple construction technique, that of large precast concrete panels stacked on a floor-by-floor basis, has been employed to create a flowing series of spaces, which seem to spiral upward to more and more open living activities, finally culminating in a delightful and unexpected rooftop garden.

One could not have expected this result from seeing the site prior to construction, when it could just fit two cars squeezed in from a laneway. Robust materiality and scale have successfully transformed this site into a spacious living environment. A building with such small floor plates could also be expected to have small rooms, but this project creates a sense of expansive space through the use of large plate glass windows and by effectively floating storage and kitchen elements within the larger floor plan.

The successful execution of a project such as this requires close collaboration between builder and designer to ensure that a spatial experience can essentially be made out of the construction techniques used. Large-scale precast concrete panels set both the architectural quality of the finished rooms and their spatial limits. The introduction of other materials is limited, thus keeping a sense of robust scale rare in such a small structure.

The project offers potential as a new paradigm for the tight infill spaces that can be found throughout the inner ring of Australian cities and its impact will be felt far beyond the tight confines of its Surry Hills site.

Law Street House by Muir Mendes won a National Commendation for Small Project Architecture

A crafted jewel of ingenuity and thoughtfulness, this small house occupies the previous site of a typical worker’s cottage and manipulates its modest site dimensions to maximum effect. Its elevation is rendered simply and provocatively in robust steel plate, yet the effect is less one of fortification than of a sense of revealed mystery, like Pandora’s Box. The magic of this materiality reveals the minimal volumes of the original typology versus the maximum spatial excitement that can be squeezed out.

From the front entrance, the spatial sequence opens up dramatically into a top-glazed, double-height corridor, shot with light, connected to views of an existing palm tree in the courtyard garden. Sculptural and spatial games are played out in crisp white plaster and dark felted walls, which mark the section line of the original house like a memento mori. This house is a deceptively simple ensemble, which actually demonstrates the dedication of handcrafted details and junctions

Little Big House by Room11 won a National Commendation for Small Project Architecture

Small houses hold a fascination for architects when designing for someone else or for a make-believe market. Here, on the slopes of Tasmania’s Mount Wellington, young architects are also “walking the walk.”

The house, described as “just a box,” is thoughtfully sited on the corner of a steep slope, away from neighbours, their view corridor and an important birch tree. It is positioned for maximum sideways views and to allow for possible future expansion.

The visual distraction of intermittent road traffic and powerlines is screened out by a double skin of translucent polycarbonate sheeting, which then envelops the main floor of the box, creating a light-diffused but private family realm.

The pattern of movement throughout the small (eighty-square-metre) plan is deftly choreographed and aligned with skylighting and viewing windows, with the magnificent view to the east held off until the mezzanine level.

The University of Adelaide Innova21 by DesignInc won the National Award for Sustainable Architecture

This Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences, whose mission is to benefit the Australian community by providing excellent research facilities, leads, as it should, by powerful example.

The commitment of this building to excellence in sustainability is demonstrated in every aspect of its robust design, which achieves a 6 Star Green Star Education (V1) rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. The building combines and balances sophisticated mechanical systems and technologies with a basic principles approach incorporating orientation, natural airflow and appropriate material selections.

A gas-powered trigeneration plant located on the roof provides for the building’s needs in electricity, heating and cooling. It produces 17 percent less emissions than the alternative brown coal generation. The load on this plant is lessened significantly by externally expressed thermal chimneys that induce natural, healthy airflow through the entire building at appropriate times.

The internal environment is further enhanced by active slab technology incorporating embedded hydronic cooling loops, heat rejection to computer server rooms via geothermal loops, a low-E double-glazed cladding system, sensored lighting and a building management system. In addition, rainwater is harvested and stored to provide toilet flushing and irrigation, and materials throughout were selected for their eco-preferred content.

The sustainability-driven systems that were incorporated have certainly informed the robust external expression of this building, which sits proudly within the solid masonry context of the university campus. It is a showcase of the University of Adelaide’s commitment to ecologically responsible design for the future.

Hill Plains House by Wolveridge Architects won a National Commendation for Sustainable Architecture

If sustainable architecture could be packaged neatly, it would look like Hill Plains House. A long drive from Melbourne on a wet winter’s day was rewarded by a simply delightful timber cottage that has benefited from the architect’s commitment to every aspect of sustainable design. Careful site orientation, recycled materials including plywood walls made from Pilkington packaging crates, a wood-fired boiler providing heat and hot water supply, internal louvres to provide cross-flow ventilation between rooms, off-grid power supply, and the planting of seven hundred trees to regenerate the natural wood supply were just a few of the careful interventions that impressed the judges.

The introduction of a gurgling five-week-old baby, a gambolling toddler with an architecturally nuanced vocabulary and the smell and taste of fresh baked goods were also impressive; however, the judges viewed this level of domestic harmony to be unsustainable.

Tarremah Hall by Morrison & Breytenbach Architects won a National Commendation for Sustainable Architecture

Consisting of a large hall, a music room and covered connecting spaces, this complex represents a future physical link, of appropriate status and scale, between the junior and middle schools and the proposed adjacent high school. It will then also fulfil a social role. Meanwhile, such a role is being forged with the broader community as it becomes a place of public interaction for fairs, performances, festivals and gatherings.

In addition to addressing social sustainability, Tarremah Hall demonstrates a skilful integration of quantitatively based energy decisions with the choice of structural systems, materials selection, services and heating, cooling and acoustic detailing. The result is a complex of great economy and minimal ongoing expenses.

The attention to detail within a limited palette of materials has achieved a subtle richness which elevates the end result to a building that is neither overwrought with earnest signals of sustainability nor lacking the vitality of a considered piece of architecture.

The Hangar by Peter Stutchbury Architecture won the Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture

Located in a field on the edge of a country airstrip, the Hangar provides a robust first image when seen on arrival from the air. The strong, unusual shed form then transforms on closer approach into a confident, highly articulated sculptural presence which somehow references the hand-built planes of old. Hangar, museum, gallery, entertainment and a beautiful collection of vintage aircraft combine to form a memorable aeronautical experience.

This large-span country shed is ingeniously structured to create an industrial wing-like aesthetic, totally at home in its rural airport landscape. With fifteen-metre spans of self-supporting Aramax steel sheeting over four primary trusses, the self-braced building easily shapes to its curvaceous profile, with a net steel tonnage reduction of 30 percent over standard hangar construction.

Two-storey administration and entertainment pods, located internally at each end of the hangar, are connected by a light steel bridge suspended within the cylindrical section of the hangar to cleverly provide an elevated viewing platform along the length of the building.

The Hangar celebrates a passion for flying and aircraft with a design that fuses steel, structure and innovative design to enrich the cultural life of an otherwise potentially unremarkable regional airport experience.

Caritas College Junior School External Covered Area by Tridente Architects won a National Commendation for Steel Architecture

Harsh exposure to sunshine (and sometimes wet weather) across Australia has meant that covered activity areas proliferate in schools nationwide.What makes this project remarkable is that it has seized, unlike most other school facilities, the opportunity to be an elegant, diversely useful and inspirational attribute for the school and its broader community.

The Caritas College Junior School benefited first by having the foresight to commission a masterplan (again, something that too few schools invest in) and then by developing an underused area in constructing a covered space using funds from the federal government’s BER program.

The funding value was maximized through the imaginative use of steel profile Aramax 800A100 roofing to span large distances without secondary support, which allowed for a taller, more prominent structure suitable for competition-level sports, community events and school assemblies.

Attention to the lighting configuration and the accent yellow components against the black-and-white steel screen (alluding to the music theme in adjacent buildings) attest to an architectural confidence and playfulness eminently suitable for a durable yet elegant building, which has deservedly won the hearts of the Port Augusta community.

A unique, beautifully produced, full-colour catalogue that celebrates the best of contemporary Australian architecture will be launched early next month to coincide with the 2011 National Architecture Awards.

INSPIRE includes more than 240 pages of exciting, innovative architectural projects by leading Australian designers who have been honoured through the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2011 National Architecture Awards.

940+ architectural projects / from 8 Australian states and territories / across 12 award categories / 149 state and territory award winners and 35 national award winners.

Launching the book, Institute CEO David Parken said: “The superior visual treatment, innovative graphic design and high production quality of the INSPIRE series reflect the standard of excellence we’ve come to expect from Australian architecture. In particular, INSPIRE will capture the forward thinking approach that characterises our local industry; especially in the fields of sustainability, urban design, heritage architecture and international architectural.”

Featuring superb colour images of each project by the nation’s top architectural photographers, personal anecdotes from architects and building sketches this is the second in a series of 10 annual, limited edition books to be published from 2010 to 2020.

A limited print run of 3,000 books will be published for the 2011 edition.

Each edition will be individually numbered, with visual quirks linking all 10 together.

When lined up, an overall graphic theme will be revealed on the books’ spines.


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