A convention centre designed by Cox Architecture and CA Architects, and a high school multipurpose hall designed by TPG Architects took home top honours at the annual Far North Queensland Regional Architecture Awards announced last week.

While the Cairns Convention Centre received the Eddie Oribin Award for Building of the Year, the Cairns State High School Multipurpose Hall, Bou-wa won Project of the Year. Both projects also won regional commendations for their designs.

The two winning designs will contribute significantly to the local Cairns community – the expanded convention centre can now accommodate larger events and generate tourism opportunities for the region, while the new multipurpose hall at the school provides educators and students with additional spaces for learning, sports and performances.

The Cairns Convention Centre, which also received a regional commendation for Public Architecture, skilfully honours the surrounding landscape through materiality using sea-grass carpets, Cape York hardwoods, and botanical colour selections, with large windows allowing uninterrupted views of the nearby World Heritage tropical rainforests.

Awards jury co-chair, Sandy Cavill described the design as “… a clever response to the place and identity of tropical Far North Queensland”.

The jury commended the project for “… maximising the venue's performance and attractiveness as a Convention Centre”.

In addition to Project of the Year, the Cairns State High School Multipurpose Hall, Bou-wa also received a regional commendation in Educational Architecture.

The school’s principal Chris Zilm praised the design for improving functionality and providing educators with the flexibility to configure the space in a myriad of ways, allowing for several of the school’s programs to operate at the same time. Three new courts, a stage for a 70-piece orchestra and an assembly hall are now all part of the new hall.

Zilm described the outcome as “… a new aesthetic for State School buildings, sensitive to the story of the local people and environment”.

The jury applauded the architects’ mindful consideration of the summer heat and monsoonal rains of Cairns. Now with the additional indoor space, the school’s sports timetable can be extended.

TPG Architects worked closely with First Nations students, staff and community members.

“The name, Bou-wa and the custom graphic embedded on the perforated shade screen strengthens the connection with Country and contribution of the Yidindji Traditional Custodians,” the jury further noted.

The healthcare sector took centre-stage with the People’s Choice Award going to the Atherton Hospital Redevelopment designed by Peddle Thorp. The design was applauded for its ability to foster a sense of familiarity and belonging – in part, thanks to access to nature that creates immediate connections for staff and patients.

All commended projects have now been shortlisted for the Australian Institute of Architects’ Queensland Architecture Awards. The state awards will be judged and awarded in June 2024.