ARM Architecture has won the Australian Institute of Architects’ top accolade for Public Architecture for the second year in a row.

The firm’s success at the National Architecture Awards in 2015 was matched in 2016, this time it was the widely publicised Geelong Library & Heritage Centre project that received the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture from the Institute.

The Geelong Library beat six projects picked by the Institute from the State Chapter Awards, four of which received Awards or a Commendation at the National Architecture Awards, held on 3 November in Sydney. 

View the full list of winning projects from the 2016 National Architecture Awards here.

Read the full jury citation for Geelong Library & Heritage Centre (VIC) by ARM Architecture and see the other awarded projects in the Public Architecture category below:

The Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture - Geelong Library & Heritage Centre (VIC) by ARM Architecture

Geelong-Library-Heritage-Centre-VIC-by-ARM-Architecture-Photo-John-Gollings.jpgPhotography by John Gollings 

Jury citation: The Geelong Library and Heritage Centre is a significant new landmark for Geelong. The building’s distinctive spherical form belongs to the historical lineage of library domes, such as the grand reading room of the State Library of Victoria, although its more immediate reference is Johnstone Park and the cluster of adjoining heritage buildings including the Geelong Peace Memorial, Geelong Gallery and the nineteenth-century Geelong Town Hall. Extending ARM’s portfolio of challenging propositions, this iconic building has become a catalyst for the rejuvenation of the cultural precinct, much to the benefit of a city that has been faced with challenging economic times. 

Perhaps the idea of the dome was conceived as a carefully curated story that helped to convince a committee that something new might reference old but in reality the building contemplates a far more complex relationship with the surrounding context. Specifically the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre appears to confront the possibility that the neighbouring heritage buildings may have chosen to celebrate symmetrical civic stances to their street frontages in favour of engagement with the neighbouring park. ARM’s solution very successfully facilitates a new and important arrival axis to the cultural precinct through Johnstone Park from nearby Geelong Railway Station and from this axis visitors are welcomed by a stage of fascination and intrigue, a stark contrast to the rigidity of the more immediate neighbours, which offer very little activation at this important public interface. 

In recent decades libraries have emerged as critical public spaces in successful cities around the world. This extraordinary project demonstrates the capacity of libraries to provide important places of exchange, not just of knowledge and information, but also of public social life, cultural values and shared experience. ARM Architecture has designed a vibrant and energised vertical village where the community can meet, collaborate, engage, learn and celebrate and an indication of the success of the new library is readily apparent in its exceedingly high level of patronage.


  • Award for Public Architecture - St Andrews House (NSW) by Candalepas Associates 
    St-Andrews-House-NSW-by-Candalepas-Associates-Photo-Brett-Boardman.jpgPhotography by Brett Boardman
  • Award for Public Architecture - The Condensery - Somerset Regional Art Gallery (QLD) by PHAB Architects
    The-Condensery-Somerset-Regional-Art-Gallery-QLD-by-PHAB-Architects-Photo-Manson-Images.jpgImage: Manson Images
  • Commendation for Public Architecture - City of Perth Library and Public Plaza (WA) by Kerry Hill Architects National Commendation
    City-of-Perth-Library-and-Public-Plaza-WA-by-Kerry-Hill-Architects-National-Commendation-Photo-Angus-Martin.jpgPhotography by Angus Martin
  • Commendation for Public Architecture -  Kempsey Crescent Head Surf Life Saving Club (NSW) by Neeson Murcutt Architects
    Kempsey-Crescent-Head-Surf-Life-Saving-Club-NSW-by-Neeson-Murcutt-Architects-Photo-Brett-Boardman.jpgPhotography by Brett Boardman