Sydney’s One Central Park has been pipped at the line at the 2015 London Design Museum Design of the Year awards, beaten by a project from Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena for the program’s Architecture category prize.

The UC Innovation Centre by Aravena’s firm ELEMENTAL was awarded the prize ahead of a strong field of nominees which included the likes of Jean Nouvel (with Australia’s PTW architects), Frank Gehry, Baorzzi Veiga, MVRDV and Herzog & de Meuron.

Located in Aravena’s home country of Chile, the UC Centre is a 14-storey building characterised by monolithic volumes of stacked concrete block-work, punctured by deeply recessed three-storey-high windows.

The building is an overt rejection of the glass façade office building, which the architects see as having extremely poor environmental performance, and a reversal of the typical office diagram, characterised by an opaque core with transparent curtain glass walls.

Contrary to most office buildings, the mass of the UC Centre is placed on the perimeter, providing high thermal performance and a visually unique design, while the deeply recessed windows prevent sun radiation and allow for cross ventilation into the building’s central atrium space. 

In awarding the The UC Innovation Centre, the jury commented that the project is an excellent example of how the design of an office building can engage with its context on a variety of measures.

“Its large openings carved away from its facades not only act as air corridors, light channels and pockets of collective spaces, but they also provide a different perception of such a building in the city: one that is permeable, visually, socially and climatically with its environment,” explains the jury.

Photography by Nico Saieh