Philip Thalis has been awarded the Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal for 2024, recognised for his distinguished service as an architect.

Awarded with the honour last Friday, Thalis was regarded by the Jury as “using architectural knowledge as an instrument of change and a force for good in our cities and suburbs”. He was described as a “role model for the architect as a public intellectual”.

The Founding Principal of Hill Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects, Thalis has overseen the design and delivery of hundreds of critically acclaimed architectural, urban, public space and heritage adaptation projects, including the Sydney Olympic Village and East Darling Harbour (now Barangaroo).

Thalis was an outspoken critic of the state government’s decision to abandon his public park at Barangaroo, which would’ve run the full length of the precinct’s waterfront. He has also worked with groups to save the Walsh Bay and Woolloomooloo wharves, the sale of public housing in Millers Point, and is clear in his views around Sydney’s development-led approach.

In an interview with Architecture & Design in 2019, Thalis outlines his philosophy on sustainability, and discusses the knock-down, rebuild culture of Sydney.

“Having buildings that are disposable is the least sustainable thing you can do. You need to make buildings that will last for at least 50 if not 100 years. Many buildings last way longer than that. Even the humble terrace house – many of those are now 150 years old,” he says.

“You need to build for the long term. What’s particularly concerning with the examples that I cited: the demolition of Darling Harbour, the SFS, Parramatta Stadium, the Powerhouse Museum, Sirius – major pieces of construction that lasted only 30 years. What it also shows is a government – and these are all government projects – seemingly hell-bent on shiny new things, rather than saying that Sydney needs to be a city that matures over time, that we build with a sense of permanence, that we build for the public good.

Thalis is a Professor of Practice in Architecture at UNSW and lectures across Australia. He has co-authored a book, Public Sydney; Drawing the City, and formerly served as a Councillor of the City of Sydney from 2016-21, advocating for public transport, cycleways and pedestrian amenity, as well as public and affordable housing within the LGA.

The Gold Medal is not the first accolade Thalis has received from his peers at the Institute. He was a co-recipient of the AIA President’s award in 2009, and was elevated to a Life Fellow of the Institute in 2019.