Clean-lined, refreshing and lacking unnecessary grandiosity, winners of June’s Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) New South Wales Architecture Awards have left me with a memory of stone, timber, material texture, natural light, vegetation, pools, flashes of colour and well-placed artwork. Not a bad mix to see you through the normal rush and tumble of daily life.

I live in Sydney and did not attend any of the other states’ ceremonies, but looking at the publicity material, there appears to be a similar trend  which will all culminate at the national awards in (inspired choice) Darwin in November.

Garangula Gallery by Fender Katsalidis Mirams Architects. Image: John Gollings

If architecture is also about opening people’s minds, the Garangula Gallery in Harden, a place in the south-west of NSW I had never even heard of before, has, MOMA-style, made me want to visit for the gallery alone. Fender Katsalidis Mirams Architects calming design is deferential to art, architecture and landscape.

The Prince Alfred Pool + Park Upgrade by Neeson Murcutt Architects in association with City of Sydney won both the Sulman Medal for Public Architecture and the Lloyd Rees Award for Urban Design, also being praised the its “synthesis of art and landscape, urban design and architecture”.  

Image:Brett Boardman

The pool was also the joint winner of the City of Sydney Lord Mayor’s Prize along with Environa Studio’s sustainable architecture winner, The Wayside Chapel, with its ‘less mainstream aspects of sustainability” such as “a green roof to grow fruit and vegetable crops for the onsite café and the use of colours and materials to influence occupant mood and wellbeing – all based on solid research”.

Shaun Carter of Carterwilliamson Architects was Emerging Architect Prize-winner for his “advancement of the architectural profession within the public arena” and Steve Kennedy of Kennedy Associates Architects received the NSW President’s Prize for his ‘sustained contribution to the betterment of the profession in NSW’. “We should be masters in everything we do,” he said.

The Wayside Chapel by Environa Studio. Image: Owen Zh

Design Director for the City of Sydney, Bridget Smyth, received the Marion Mahony Griffin Prize – and again those words “transformation” and “sustainable future” cropped up. And showing versatility of project, BVN Donovan Hill won public, sustainable and interior awards variously for the research-based PlantBank and the law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills.

Stand-outs in other state include Tasmania’s UTAS Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies by John Wardle Architects + Terroir; Victoria’s Dallas Brooks Community Primary School by McBride Charles Ryan, “thoughtful architecture (succeeding) in a context of social and economic disadvantage, cultural and ethnic diversity”; Queensland’s UQ Advanced Engineering Building by Richard Kirk Architect and HASSELL; Western Australia’s Toyota Head Office by Roxby Architects, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Fiona Stanley Hospital and Fremantle’s kitchen and bakery, Bread in Common.

South Australia’s main awards also latched on to hard-to-resist education, public space and urban regeneration, with SAMRI, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, winning commercial, interior, public, sustainable and COLOROND awards, and Troppo Architects, whose Strohmayr House won the top Northern Territory award, also showed with the City of Adelaide Prize for Café Troppo, that they can bring “vitality and humanity … (to) shared public spaces” and that this, in the current architecture climate, is valued..