Australian practices have come out on top at the 2013 World Architecture Festival, with FJMT + Archimedia, Cox Rayner Architects and Taylor Cullity Lethlean + Paul Thompson taking home three of the highest awards.

Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp in association with Archimedia won the World Building of the Year Award for the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in New Zealand.

The art gallery is an extensive public project that includes the restoration and adaptation of heritage buildings, a new building extension, and the creation of new basement storage and support areas.

Speaking directly after the announcement, Richard Francis-Jones, design director of FJMT, admitted that “it has not sunk in yet”.

“Our inspiration was the beautiful natural landscape. We saw the building as embedded in place,” explains Francis-Jones, who is also a judge for this year’s BPN Sustainability Awards.

“We wanted to use natural local materials, especially the beautiful kauri trees. But because these are protected, we could only use fallen trees or recycled wood.”

Image: John Gollings

The building, reflecting the culture of New Zealand and containing the work of many great Maori artists, was deemed by the judges to have transcended various category types.

“It is a civic and community building, it is a display building, it engages with the differences between man-made and natural, it deals with art and science, and it is certainly about culture,” says Paul Finch, director of the WAF.

Cox Rayner Architects also secured one of the highest awards, the Future Project of the Year award, with National Maritime Museum of China.

The project, which has already won the cultural project and competition awards, was praised for demonstrating a strong conceptual clarity, and evoking a strong sense of the maritime experience.

Image: Michael Rayner

“It brings together vast collections of elements of China’s rich maritime history and offers the visitor references to global maritime cultures. [We] look forward to a realisation that maintains the integrity of the original idea,” said the jury.

The design comprises five hall structures radiating out to the port harbour and converging in a central ‘Preface Hall’. Functionally, the idea is to bring all visitors up a rampart to an elevated level, and access from there either of two split levels which occupy each hall.

The museum is fronted by a maritime plaza, where maritime re-enactments and other open air events are intended to actively engage the museum with the city.

Finally, Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Paul Thompson have won the Landscape Project of the Year for The Australian Garden, Cranbourne.

Formerly a sand quarry, the new botanic garden allows visitors to follow a metaphorical journey of water through the Australian landscape, from the desert to the coastal fringe.

Image: John Gollings

“This garden brilliantly summarises the great variety of Australian flora as well as the large part of the country which is arid desert,” noted the judges.

“[It] stood out with its originality and strong evocation of Australian identity, without having to use any signs or words – just the beautiful flora of Australia’s countryside.”

Under this category, the judges also highly commended the upgrade of Prince Alfred Park+Pool in Australia by City of Sydney c/o Neeson Murcutt Architects, saying that it is a “clever reinvention of a 19th century park which faces a myriad of urban uses”.

Full list of Australian category wins and high commendations at 2013 WAF

World Building of the Year
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (NZ) – fjmt (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp) in association with Archimedia

Future Project of the Year
National Maritime Museum of China – Cox Rayner Architects

Landscape Project of the Year
The Australian Garden, Cranbourne – Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Paul Thompson

Categories: Completed Projects

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (NZ) – fjmt (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp) in association with Archimedia

Health High Commendation
Kinghorn Cancer Centre Sydney – BVN Donovan Hill

The Left-Over-Space House – Cox Rayner Architects, Casey and Rebekah Vallance
House High Commendation
HOUSE House – Andrew Maynard Architects

28th Street Apartments – Koning Eizenberg Architects

Higher Eduction High Commendation
Swanston Academic Building, RMIT University – Lyons

Religion High Commendation
St Barnabas Anglican Church – fjmt (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp)

Sport High Commendation
Wanangkura Stadium – ARM Architects

Sydney Cruise Terminal – Johnson Pilton Walker Architects

Future Projects

Competition Entries
National Maritime Museum of China – Cox Rayner Architects

National Maritime Museum of China – Cox Rayner Architects

Brisbane Ferry Terminals Post-Flood Recovery – Cox Rayner Architects