Graeme Gunn

24 March 2011 – Melbourne based architect Graeme Gunn who has been credited with changing the landscape of suburban housing in Australia, reinvigorating architectural university studies in Victoria, and mentoring decades of leading architects, has won the nation’s top annual architecture award – the 2011 Gold Medal for Architecture.

Awarding the honour at the second Australian Achievement in Architecture Awards ceremony in Perth on 24 March Australian Institute of Architects national president, Karl Fender said the gold medal jury firmly believed:

“At a time when we face enormous challenges around the built environment, Graeme Gunn provides an inspirational example of the engaged architect. He has steadfastly pursued his ambition to demonstrate innovative architecture, while at the same time devoting himself to improving the quality of how we live as well as projecting architecture to a broader group of people than would normally afford it.”

Other prizewinners were:

  • Janet Holmes a Court, the Institute’s President’s Prize
  • Paul Pholeros, of Sydney-based Healthabitat, Leadership in Sustainability.
  • Sam Bresnehan, of the University of Tasmania, the BlueScope Steel Glenn Murcutt Student Prize;
  • Associate Professor Anna Rubbo, of the University of Sydney, the Neville Quarry Architectural Education Prize;
  • Daniel Brookes, of the University of Adelaide, winner of the Student Prize for the Advancement of Architecture; and
  • Carly Barrett, Christina Cho, Yuri Dillon, Jefa Greenaway, and Brendan Murray, winners of the Dulux Study Tour prize.

Winter Park cluster housing in Doncaster East in Melbourne by Graeme Gunn

A media statement from the AIA said:
“Graeme Gunn has made an outstanding contribution to architecture in a career spanning more than five decades, one distinguished by three distinct forms of engagement. In each of these he has had a transformative impact.
Beginning with his early work in housing, particularly for Merchant Builders (in Melbourne), continuing as an innovative educator heading the department and subsequently as foundation dean of the faculty of architecture and building at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and in his present role as principal architect for VicUrban, Graeme Gunn is an enduring and inspirational advocate for architecture’s contributory role in improving our housing and urban environments”.
He is best known for his work in Melbourne, but has established a body of work across rural and regional Victorian, the south coast of NSW, Sydney, and Dilli in East Timor.

Cluster housing projects
His most recognisable projects are the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union Building in Victoria Street, Melbourne and the Melbourne City Baths. His project housing with Merchant Builders and the Bower House; urban design projects including Melbourne’s Prahran Market; cluster housing projects Winter Park in Melbourne’s Doncaster and VicUrban at Heathmont. Well known single residences include the Shoebridge House in Doncaster East, the Yencken House in Tathra, NSW and the Scroggie/Claire House in South Yarra.

Mr Gunn’s work at Winter Park with developers David Yencken and John Ridge was an outstanding example of careful design extended into a consideration of the importance of landscape and open space and, ultimately, the presence and feel of a place, the jury said.
Born in 1933 in Hamilton in rural Victoria, Mr Gunn established his own practice in 1962, developing a range of innovative residential designs, including the medal-winning Richardson House in Essendon in 1963.

This award sparked an invitation from the Merchant Builders to design a founding range of project houses. With Ellis Stone’s bush landscaping, Mr Gunn’s brick seconds, stained timbers, and open plans revolutionised the Melbourne speculative house market and enriched the residential language of the time.

He designed a range of cluster housing developments with the group with all projects renowned for being both sustainable and integrated into the Australian landscape. His non-residential projects were equally significant, with the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union Building receiving the Victorian architecture awards 25 year award for enduring architecture in 2007. He went on to win a further 14 major architecture awards during his career.

From 1972-1982, Graeme changed the course of architecture at RMIT, setting the foundation for the university’s now internationally recognised architectural school. In his role as Dean, transforming the school’s technically based environment to a wider and more socially oriented school.

The school became the faculty of architecture and building with a new breed of design teachers brought into the architectural education system. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of architecture in 1996, and continues as an adjunct professor.

In 2000 Mr Gunn was appointed principal design advisor with the Docklands Authority, which then evolved into his current position as principal architect and design advisor to VicUrban. In this capacity, he continues to demonstrate his ongoing commitment to the implementation of the highest standards of urban design. He is also director of Gunn Dyring Architects, specialising in high quality residential design.