The Westmead Hospital Redevelopment, Batemans Bay Waterfront Masterplan and The Phoenix Gallery were some of the winning projects at the 2021 NSW Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture (AILA) Awards announced at a special live streamed event hosted by design enthusiast Tim Ross.

Innovative, flexible design and record entries defined the latest edition of the landscape awards program, with the 2021 event also firmly bringing the spotlight on green outdoor space in the pandemic year. The winners’ list revealed some of the most outstanding projects in NSW across 16 categories including Urban Design, Infrastructure, Play Spaces, Health and Education Landscape and Community Contribution.

Jury chair Joshua French said last year’s pandemic and the resulting neighbourhood lockdowns focused unprecedented attention on the need for exemplary outdoor spaces.

“Everyone started going to their local park or walking track and those places became really important to people,” French said. “We felt more connected to those spaces like never before.”

Among the winners were Tract Consultants for the Westmead Hospital Redevelopment in the Health and Education Landscape category and Arcadia Landscape Architecture who took out the Play Spaces category for the Sales Ring Playground.

Describing the Westmead Hospital Redevelopment as ‘a place for people’, the jury commented: “(This is) an exemplar project that has been thoughtfully conceived and integrated with the architecture and urban fabric to present an inspiring and immersive health precinct landscape setting.”

AILA NSW Award of Excellence for Infrastructure went to ASPECT Studios with Grimshaw and the City of Sydney for the NSW CBD and South East Light Rail project.

The jury said: “The landscape architecture is both seen and unseen through the ingenious integration of services, track and safety requirements. These are carefully designed people-focused public spaces, planned for and designed with holistic thinking that broke down silos across the project teams to successfully stitch together the work of multiple disciplines.”

According to French, public spaces require a broader response to cater to all ages, levels of ability and even mental wellness. Winners demonstrated the need for meaningful community consultation during a time of high engagement.

“The industry rose to the challenge exceptionally well in terms of being agile and innovative and really moving with what the community was after,” French said.

Observing that the 2021 awards advanced the conversation on the critical role of public spaces in meeting economic, social and health outcomes, he added, “The consideration of green space needs to be up there on the same level as hospitals, roads and public transport in terms of what we expect it to deliver for our communities.”

Catch up with the winners at 2021 AILA NSW Awards