Urban design projects that connect cities to their “best assets” – their waterways – dominated the 2019 Australian Urban Design Awards in Melbourne on Wednesday evening.

The mixed-use Howard Smith Wharves precinct on the site of heritage-listed wharves in Brisbane by HSW Nominees, Urbis and Woods Bagot was one winner of prize for built projects on a city and regional scale.

The Maitland Levee and Riverlink Building by McGregor Coxall & Chrof that reconnected the city centre of Maitland to the Hunter River was the other winner of this built projects prize.

According to Malcolm Snow, the new jury chair and the chief executive officer of the City Renewal Authority in Canberra, both were very different projects but were rewarded for successfully linking the urban fabric with the water.

The heritage requirements of the Brisbane project posed a challenge but the designers came up with clever adaptive reuses for these existing structures, he said.

Another interesting reuse project won the built projects award at the local and neighbourhood level, the Flour Mill of Summer Hill in Sydney by Hassell.

Snow says as cities change and densify rapidly retention and reuse of heritage buildings is rare, but when done well these projects can successfully mesh the old with the new.

It’s also important for inner urban projects to be “really versatile” and cater to a range of uses, such as and the Ferrars Street Education & Community Precinct (Victoria) by Tract.

The precinct in Fishermans Bend includes Victoria’s first “vertical school” as well as an early learning centre, maternal and child health, multipurpose community rooms and indoor and outdoor multipurpose sports courts which are open to the community.

Giving prominence to public spaces remains essential in any good urban design project, but Snow also says there’s still room for improvement on human-centred design.

He says that environmental sustainability has “become mainstream now” but social sustainability hasn’t historically got enough attention.

People centred urban design is now on the rise.

“Good design is serving the community.”

Winner of the leadership, advocacy and research – city and regional scale was the Building Height Standards Review of the Hobart CBD by Leigh Woolley Architect + Urban Design Consultant.

The analysis uses modelling technology to map Hobart’s topography, built form, lot configuration, and views coming to and from the city centre. The research will inform planning regulations around height and setback to ensure the city’s relationship to its distinctive surrounding landforms is not lost.

“Many cities have lost that connection to the surrounding landscape in an unthinking way. Fortunately, Hobart has realised this before it’s too late.

Snow has been part of the jury for four years and this year was his first as jury chair.

He said entries have got “better and better” in this time.

“At a time when the ‘wicked problems’ confronting our urban environments and the communities they support are dramatically rising, this year’s award winners are proof-positive that Australia’s urban designers are equal to that challenge,” Snow said.

For more details and the full list of award winners visit urbandesignawards.com.au

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