NT Winner, photo: Nicholas Goldhurst

16 June 2011 – A Darwin school’s new outdoor and indoor play and learning spaces have won four of seven awards at the Australian Institute of Architects’ Northern Territory architecture awards.

St Mary’s Catholic Primary School new hall and library and its Reggio Emelia early learning centre and courtyard designed by Darwin architects, Troppo Architects (NT) received: The Tracy Memorial Award, the most prestigious architecture prize in the NT; The Reverend John Flynn Award for public architecture; an architecture award for urban design and the Colorbond Award for steel architecture.

The jury said: “St Marys Catholic Primary School is part of a precinct, which includes St Mary’s Star of the Sea Cathedral, the Bishop’s House and the convent. The “E” Deck, a playful theatrical roof, provides shade and opportunity for imaginative play and teaching. Activities range from group readings, dance, fathers’ day breakfasts, and mass. Steps of the timber platform are both seats for passive rest, and edges for active play. This is a place where children observe and are observed. An existing building was converted into an early learning facility with design principles of an “architecture for the tropics” on a very tight budget.

Funds from the Build the Education Revolution program were used to build a new library and hall which were developed as one, separated by a breezeway space which provides the entry. “The hall was sited to provide community use opportunities as well as maintain a strong relationship with the cathedral. The library allows for the social play and reading of a primary school library as well as learning through electronic media,” the jury said.

Troppo Architecture also won the Burnett Award for best residential  architecture with Mortlock Lee House. The Girraween house near Darwin is located in a stringy bark scrubland block and is sited to take into consideration a large ironwood tree.

The Indigenous Community Architecture Award was presented to the Kiwirrkurra Arts Centre, conceived  by Tangentyere Design. The centre’s roof allows natural light into the two lofty internal studio spaces which are separated by a permeable wall with shelving, trough and storage, which follows the same diagonal geometry as the external fins emulating some of the simple graphic diagrams in early Papunya art.

Other winners

• Commendation for residential architecture (houses), Ludmilla Tropical House. Mode Design.

• Commendation for residential architecture (houses), Ambient Atelier. Ajar Architects.

Urban design

• Commendation for urban design, Casuarina Police Station. Mode Design

Small project architecture

• Ambient Atelier. Ajar Architects

• Emerging architect prize, Max Weston and student award, Kelly Agnew