A snaking ‘S’ shaped house on Sydney Harbour, a 25-year-old farmhouse that changed the future of residential design and a commercial building that challenges all the traditional ideas of what an office block should be and look like are among key winners in this year’s Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) 24th national awards.

Among this year’s highlights was a special 25 year award to Pritzker Prize winner Glenn Murcutt for a Kempsey farmhouse; commercial and multi-residential awards for Sydney’s Aurora Place designed by internationally renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano; a heritage prize for Old Government House, one of Australia’s most historically significant buildings; top interior architecture and urban design awards for leading-edge Melbourne projects and an award to a small South Australian school that sets new benchmarks in sustainable architecture.

Warren Kerr, RAIA national president, says it is not surprising that in this year, the Year of the Built Environment, the quality of architectural projects presented to the jury has set new standards, auguring well for the future of Australia’s built environment.

The RAIA Robin Boyd award for residential buildings – the top residential architecture housing award – went to Durbach Block Architects for the Spry House, a sinuous, curving ‘S’ shaped house in Sydney’s Point Piper. Four other homes also received national RAIA commendations for residential buildings.

For the first time, the national jury also awarded a special jury for multi-residential buildings to Aurora Place, Macquarie Apartments in Sydney by Renzo Piano building workshop in association with Lend Lease Design, Group GSA and HPA Architects. Jury chair and RAIA immediate past president David Parken says the special award reflects “the difficulties in judging single houses versus multi-storey apartment buildings, particularly in NSW, and the particularly strong field of entries this year.

“The jury agreed that the number and quality of residences up for awards this year confirm that Australian homeowners are now embracing and valuing good design,” says Parken. “The involvement of architects in multi-unit housing has also seen a real benefit in the improvement in the quality of the outcome.”

The jury presented the National 25 year award, given for the first time last year to the Sydney Opera House, to one of the country’s most important private homes, Glenn Murcutt’s Kempsey Farmhouse on the NSW north coast. The jury commented the home was “both seminal to the development of contemporary Australian housing” and a “watershed” in Murcutt’s career.

MGT Architects with Romaldo Giurgola received the prestigious Sir Zelman Cowan award for public buildings for St Patrick’s Church in Parramatta. Virtually destroyed by fire in 1996, the project involved the restoration of the old church and construction of a new cathedral and chapel, work the jury described as “masterfully handled in a restrained yet inventive way.”

Joint winners of the RAIA Lachlan Macquarie award for heritage were Old Government House in Sydney, with ongoing restoration work headed by five-time award winner Clive Lucas Stapleton & Partners and a 1950s building in Melbourne, the Beaurepaire Centre pool at the University of Melbourne, restored by Allom Lovell and Associates.

Apart from its special jury award, Sydney’s Aurora Place by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in association with Lend Lease and GSA also received the RAIA national award for commercial buildings. Parken says the building challenges the traditional planning proposition of an office tower sitting on a podium, instead featuring a small footprint at its base which increases and expands out as the building climbs.

Cassandra Complex received the RAIA national award for interior architecture for the skilful way in which it created a modern living/working space within a heritage warehouse, Chameleon in Melbourne. Two Victorian projects shared the RAIA Walter Burley Griffin award for Urban Design - Birrarung Marr by the City of Melbourne in association with Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Paul Thompson and Swaney Draper and the Shrine of Remembrance undercroft development by Ashton Raggett McDougall.

The RAIA national award for sustainable architecture went to Mawson Lakes School in Adelaide, designed by Russell & Yelland Architects in association with MGT Architects for the way in which it incorporates all aspects of sustainability in both its buildings and student curriculum.

The BlueScope Colorbond steel award was given to HMAS Harman - DNOC and Daryl Jackson and Alastair Swayn Architects for an 80 m long, windowless high security building that “could have been a monstrous imposition on the landscape” but which instead is “a cost-effective and elegant solution”.

Commendations also went to Dawson Brown Architecture for a house in Sydney’s Pittwater; O’Connor + Houle Architecture for a house in Melbourne’s Prahan; Robert Simeoni for a home on Phillip Island; Wood Marsh for a Kew house; Johnson Pilton Walker for AGNSW Asian galleries; Hassell & MGT Architects Canberra, architects in association, for the State Library of SA redevelopment; Maddison Architects for Transport in Federation Square and Harry Seidler & Associates for Cove Apartments. The BlueScope Colorbond steel commendation went to Dale Jones-Evans for the ‘Art Wall’, Darlinghurst, Sydney. - Dael Climo.

Source: Building Products News.