The world’s most impressive mixed-use development of 2015 is a medium-density residential infill development in Sydney’s inner west, according to the world’s largest architectural awards program.

Designed by SJB in collaboration with Billard Leece Partnership, with interiors by BKH and developed by Cornerstone property Group, Casba has won the World Architecture Festival (WAF) Award for Mixed Use Completed Buildings.

Australia’s HDR Rice Daubney was also a winner, taking out the Future Projects: Health category for the Al Maha Centre for Children and Young Adults, Doha, Qatar.

The World Architecture Festival (WAF) Awards judges praised the Casba designers’ successful blend of public realm with retail and residential purposes, celebrating the project as a leading example of how to balance urban renewal with respect to the changing demographics and population growth in Sydney.


Situated in Waterloo in what was once an area dominated by light industry, Casba references the warehouse typology of the precinct, according to Adam Haddow, director of SJB Architects Sydney and principle architect for the development.

“With Casba, we wanted to honour the established grain and texture of the Waterloo location but we had to balance heritage considerations of this former warehouse precinct with the growing expectations of inner city living environments,” Haddow said.

MR_A_4633_Casba_BB_04-2.jpgComprising 65 residential dwellings and 3,000 sqm of retail space, to achieve good urban renewal, Casba was conceived around three guiding elements: a communal, publically accessible courtyard, a pedestrian link throughout the site and active street edges.

“Context is always a key consideration in any development. As an infill project, we had to create a building that responds to the street and actively participates in the urban landscape. A key question for us in designing Casba was how, do we make sure the public domain isn’t just space left over between buildings?” Haddow said.

David Leece, director of BLP and co-designer with Haddow explained that the design approach was to start with the round-the-clock, publicly accessible, internal courtyard or cloister.

“We made the cloister the most important space of Casba. The cloister is what defines the way the site is arranged and gives the area its heart, its place of connection,” Leece said.

To inject character to the public realm of the development and also reference the heritage of the original warehouses, recycled bricks were used in the cloister and throughout. Residential buildings are made of brick and painted white, providing a quiet and restrained backdrop to the residential environment within.

“As our cities grow and the demand for housing options increases, it’s essential that developments not only contribute to the built environment, but also contribute to the society. We have an obligation to create places people want to not only sleep and relax, but also connect with their community. We hope we achieved this with Casba,” Leece said.

The awards categories are spread across two days due to the sheer size of the event. (see Day Two winners here).

Day One World Architecture Festival Awards category winners

Completed Buildings

The Interlace, a 'vertical village' in Singapore by OMA and Buro Ole Scheeren won the Housing category. Judges selected the project for its 'radical and alternative approach' to contemporary living in a tropical environment.

HOUSING-The-Interlace-by-OMA-Buro-Ole-Scheeren-Singapore.jpgThe Interlace by OMA: Buro Ole Scheeren, Singapore

Saigon House, by a21 studio was awarded the House category for its 'playful and communal' approach to living. Built using bricks, roof and floor tiles, doors and windows, and furniture found in local scrap markets, last year's World Building of the Year winner will return to defend their title thanks to this sustainable approach to construction. 

Another project which demonstrated a commitment to using locally sourced materials and resources, the Cam Thanh Community House won the Completed Building: Civic and Community prize for 'a beautifully simple building designed for the community, by the community'.

The Brazilian Expo Pavilion by Studio Arthur Casas and Marko Brajovic was crowned best Display project. The box-like temporary structure expresses the identity of Brazil in an unconventional way, drawing on the ideas of play and discovery. 

In the field of completed offices, Nakayama Architects' project HIGO were awarded top marks for a 'magical, habitable, almost invisible structure' that was deemed a spectacular feat, particularly as it is located in an earthquake zone.

In the Higher Education & Research category, Toho Gakuen School of Music, Japan, by Nikken Sekkei, was victorious. The building was designed so that each space ensures optimal acoustic performance for a particular instrument. 

The Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu in China by Oval Partnership was judged first class in the Shopping shortlist for its 'sympathetic urban plan in terms of scale, social integration and walkability'.

EAA Emre Arolat Architects was the big winner of WAF's first day, with two category wins and one highly commended project. The practice's visionary approach won plaudits from judges, winning the Future Projects: Culture category for its Museum of Painting and Sculpture and the Furture Projects: Infrastructure category for its Cukurova Airport, both located in the practice's native Turkey.

The best future Masterplan was Kaliningrad Development Concept in Russia by Studio 44 Architects. The project promises to be a human revival of a city brutalised by its history. Judges praised the strategy of using buried basements, the only surviving elements of the area's urban fabric, to make direct connections between the city's past and present.

The London Olympic Stadium Transformation by Populous was awarded Future Leisure-Led Development of 2015, with its multipurpose stadium which was 'sustainable, efficient and respectful of London's Olympic heritage', according to judges.

Topping the Future Projects Health category, the HDR Rice Daubney project Al Maha Centre for Children and Young Adults will provide a non-institutional and non-intimidating setting, which is intended to combine clinical excellence with a reassuring domestic ambience.

The Future Projects Office category was claimed by Reservoir by Sanjay Puri Architects, for a design which adopts the traditional Indian stepped well form to create a water collection pit come office amidst the desert land of Rajasthan.

Of the Future Projects House category, the ISSA Grotto/Hill House by PROARH was victorious. The minimalist, straw roof topped structure seamlessly integrates with the sloping Croatian landscape, with its existence only given away by the sight of a swimming pool which can be glimpsed from above.

Each of today's winning practices will go head to head with a second set of category winners, to be announced tomorrow, in the hope of achieving the accolade of World Building of the Year 2015. WAF 2015 takes place at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, until Friday 6 November.

The winners list

Completed Projects:

  • House: Saigon House, Hochiminh, Vietnam, by a21studio
  • Civic and community: Cam Thanh Community House, Vietnam, by 1+1>2 International Architects
  • Mixed use: Casba, Australia, by Billard Leece and SJB Architects
  • Higher education and research: Toho Gakuen School of Music, Tokyo, Japan, by Nikken Sekkei
  • Office: HIGO, Japan, by nA Nakayama Architects
  • Housing: The Interlace, Singapore, by OMA/Buro Ole Sheeren
  • Shopping: Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu, Chengdu, China, by The Oval Partnership
  • Display: Brazilian Expo Pavilion 2015, Milan, Italy, by Studio Arthur Casas and Atelier Marko Brajovics

Future Projects:

  • Infrastructure: Cukurova Regional Airport Complex, Adana, Turkey, by Emre Arolat Architects\
  • Masterplanning: Development Concept for the Historic Centre of Kalingrad, Russia, by Studio 44 Architects
  • House: Issa Grotto/Hill House, Vis, Croatia, by Proarh
  • Office: Reservoir, Rajasthan, India, by Sanjay Puri Architects
  • Health: Al Maha Centre for Children and Young Adults, Doha, Qatar, by HDR Rice Daubney
  • Leisure-led development: London Olympic Stadium Transformation, London, United Kingdom, by Populous
  • Culture: Museum of Painting and Sculpture, Istanbul, Turkey, by Emre Arolat Architects