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AIA Winners Come in all Shapes and Sizes


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Photo courtesy of Trevor Mein

The winners of this year’s Australian Institute of Architects’ National Architecture Awards demonstrate that projects in regional areas are as diverse as they are unique. From small-footprint projects and adaptive re-use or redevelopment projects, they all absolutely shine.

According to the Jury Chair and immediate past president of the Institute, Richard Kirk, the awards were also an opportunity to reflect on how Australia’s diverse landscapes, urban environments and economic conditions influence and inform our architecture, enriching our culture.

“Most impressive were projects that established new design benchmarks and whose influence can be of value to the broader community."

“Most impressive were projects that established new design benchmarks and whose influence can be of value to the broader community, leading to positive change in our built environment,” Kirk said. “For the jury, it was important that all the awarded projects implemented sustainability initiatives at a conceptual level, taking a holistic approach. It was impressive to see the growing sophistication and ingenuity in this domain.”

An outstanding example of this is the Monash Teaching and Learning Building designed by John Wardle Architects. The project won a National Award for Educational Architecture and a National Award for Interior Architecture.

The $220 million project was built by Multiplex. It comprises 30,000 sqm over four levels and targeted a 5 Star Green Star As-Built rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. It achieved the sustainability level by including extensive use of FSC-certified timber, a sculptural atrium for natural light, rooftop solar PV for renewable energy, and strategic solar shading to reduce thermal gain in summer.

One of the most striking elements is the brickwork in the form of curved brick veneer structures that house lecture theatres and other teaching spaces, which appear to float above ground floor lounge and retail spaces. The bricks used for the project were manufactured and supplied by Klynton Krause, a third-generation boutique brick maker at Krause Bricks in country Victoria.

The judges said the building’s design concept is of an interior landscape that recalls the places found in a city or neighbourhood. 

“The interior architecture uses light, views and materials and finishes usually associated with a building exterior, combining these with spaces and volumes that recall city structures (brick forms that enclose lecture theatres) or topography (staircase bleachers and platforms that tumble through circulation spaces),” the judges noted.

Another academic project that impressed the judges was RMIT New Academic Street. This major redevelopment and adaptive re-use of existing 1960s and 1970s brutalist buildings was part of a master-planned re-development of the Melbourne CBD campus. It aimed to improve the student experience while delivering a more sustainable campus.

The design by Lyons Architecture in association with NMBW Architecture Studio, Harrison and White, MvS Architects and Maddison Architects won the Daryl Jackson Award for Educational Architecture and a National Award for Urban Design.

The judges said the way the project has integrated the New Academic Street with the Melbourne CBD has “transformed the student experience and made the campus a dynamic urban destination.” 

“The collaboration of architects involved in the project has delivered real diversity and richness,” the judges said. “The project addresses student experience in the 21st century and asks how universities might cater to education’s new consumers, who study and socialise in the spaces in between home and the lecture theatre.”

The judges also noted that integration of technology has been a key component in the design. It has also been a driver in the detail planning and zoning of spaces to deliver a contemporary learning environment where students feel “plugged in.”

Lendlease was the lead contractor on the project, with structural, civil and façade engineering provided by Arup.

In its case study on the project, Arup noted that one of the major challenges of the engineering design for adapting the buildings was working from original, incomplete 1960s and 1970s drawings. Arup’s team used in-house software, General Structural Analysis, to gain a detailed understanding of the existing buildings and their performance under wind, earthquake and live loads.

They then developed 3D computer models of the existing structures to investigate the effect of modifying the existing structures. This enabled the architectural team to know which beams and columns could be removed to create new spaces.

RMIT has also used the NAS project as a significant learning resource—it produced a detailed series of videos about the stages of the project from design through to commissioning.

In-situ concrete construction displayed dramatic capabilities for bringing creative design to life at Punchbowl Mosque by Candalepas & Associates, with the project winning a National Award for Public Architecture.

The Mosque is built by Infinity Constructions with structural engineering by Wood + Grieve Engineers. It features a hoop-pine-lined dome constructed from concrete ring beams which flood the interior with sunlight, and 120 hollowed concrete spheres, muqarnas. These are cast in-situ, referencing the cultural history of Islam while acting to diffuse natural light.

“Punchbowl Mosque is a sublime essay in the potency of in-situ concrete,” the judges said.

“The mosque is singularly defined by its intimate but simultaneously dramatic prayer room with a floating array of corbelled bisected hemispherical domes.

“The dome array, which was also created in one pour, culminates in a floating central oculus of radial and stepped concrete, then timber, that hovers on its own glow of light. As in most spiritual spaces, the gaze is continually drawn to the heavens above.

“The use of hemisphere domes as a motif or texture also references the architectural history of the dome as a structural technology.”

The Frederick Romberg Award for Residential Architecture—Multiple Housing was awarded to 35 Spring Street by Bates Smart, a 44-storey luxury apartment tower on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD.

Multiplex constructed the $350 million project for CBUS Property. It comprises 241 apartments in one, two and three-bedroom, plus half-floor configurations; two levels of plant room; and a six-level basement car park.

“The tower’s facade reflects a layering of fabric inspired by Flinders Lane’s establishment of the fashion industry in the 1880s and patterning found in the historic masonry walls of significant political buildings that characterise Spring Street,” the judges said. “Providing apartments with defined windows and creating protected terraces and balconies, this weave or pattern enhances the character of individual residences within a tall building.”

The Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture was awarded to Silver Thomas Hanley with Bates Smart for Bendigo Hospital.

Lendlease led the construction effort as part of the Exemplar Health Consortium, delivering the $630 million hospital—Victoria’s largest regional hospital development—under a PPP partnership arrangement.

“Hospitals are generally a problematic type—they are large and functionally complex, have tended to be designed from the inside out and often fail to acknowledge the urban setting or a broader set of ideas about health and the role of the environment in our wellbeing,” the judges said.

“Bendigo Hospital departs from this convention to bring about an environment that prioritises health as a holistic process of recovery and rejuvenation."

“Bendigo Hospital departs from this convention to bring about an environment that prioritises health as a holistic process of recovery and rejuvenation."

“Projects of this calibre only come about through insightful client leadership, quality project governance and responsive architecture.”

The Harry Seidler Award for Commercial Architecture went to Barwon Water by GHDWoodhead. The project also won a National Award for Sustainable Design.

The $32 million project, built by Monaco Hickey, was a redevelopment of two adjacent 1970s commercial buildings. The original buildings were gutted and re-designed to become a building with extremely high sustainability benchmarks, along with providing contemporary flexible open-plan office floorplates. It achieved a 5 Star Green Star rating.

The building features a glass wall infill, innovative sun-shading façade, a rain garden, a rooftop terrace and a community café. The refurbishment will nearly halve Barwon Water’s maintenance, operational and energy costs.

“The overhaul of the headquarters for Barwon Water in the Victorian city of Geelong is a clever adaptive re-use of the agency’s 1977 building in which the majority of the original concrete and steel structure was retained, resulting in an estimated saving of one million kilograms of CO2 compared to using new materials,” the judges said.

“The building is wrapped in a high-performance skin comprised of a double-glazed, thermally isolated curtain wall system shielded by customised sunshading—designed to respond to angles of sunlight and passively insulate the building’s internal environment from external climatic conditions.”

Big ideas can be built in small, low impact packages, as the winner of the Glenn Murcutt Award for Small project Architecture, krakani lumi, showed.

Designed by Taylor and Hinds Architects with the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, the standing camp is located in a sensitive bushland area. Along with being recognised at the AIA Awards, the project has won numerous other accolades, including the People’s Choice Award at the 2018 Timber Design Awards.

Photo courtesy of Jordan Davis

Timber is the dominant material used by principal builder Adam Ritson, including charred blackbutt exteriors and richly coloured timber interiors for the dome-shaped sleeping and gathering spaces.

Due to the sensitivity of the location, various modules that comprise the project were built off-site and lowered into position by helicopter.

“A respectful collaboration between the palawa Aboriginal custodians and the architects has infused the project with cultural relevance and a technical precision emanating from the locale,” the judges said.

“The pragmatic structural system delivers a series of carefully sited orthogonal forms, which in the main building house a lounging and speaking space set correctly beside the firepit and in the smaller sleeping pavilions provide a series of nooks for resting and dreaming.

“The jury was convinced by the genuine partnership between custodians and architects, which resulted in a project that successfully synthesised cultural and technical requirements. The krakani lumi standing camp is a compelling example of excellence in architecture and respect.”

See the full list of AIA National Awards winners here


Punchbowl Mosque Photo Courtesy of Brett Boardman 

New Academic Street Photo Courtesy of Peter Bennet

Helicopter Photo Courtesy of Jordan Davis

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