The recent State Chapter awards in the Australian Institute of Architects National Awards program show an interesting trend compared to prior years.

Instead of a slew of massive commercial projects, retail meccas and mega-stadiums scooping the pool, winners in the Victorian, South Australian, Queensland, ACT, Northern Territory and Western Australia Awards were often smaller public and institutional buildings, medium-density residential projects and adaptive reuse and redevelopment exemplars.

In Victoria, the big winner was the Parliament of Victoria Members’ Annexe, by Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design, which took home five awards including the Melbourne Prize and Victorian Architecture Medal; three named awards across Urban Design, Public Architecture, Sustainable Architecture; and a commendation for Heritage.

Located on one of the most challenging sites in the city in terms of both physical and heritage constraints, the annexe provides permanent space for 102 members of parliament and their support staff who have been making do with temporary digs for around 150 years.

It is a free-standing building with the eastern gardens of the parliamentary precinct, and is overtly green in both design and operation, with 100 per cent of the building footprint covered by rooftop landscaping and the office spaces fronting a central, greened courtyard.

“The project has been thoughtfully conceived from all design aspects – including urban design, heritage, sustainability, interiors and landscape,” Rosemary Burne, jury chair for Public Architecture and the Chair of Juries for the Victorian state awards, said.

“A confident contribution to public architecture, the Parliament of Victoria Members’ Annexe has been executed with long-term decision making at the forefront. This is a legacy project that will serve many generations of Victorians to come.”

The jury noted that sustainable design principles are “integrated throughout by longer term thinking.”

“Materials and systems were carefully researched to minimise environmental impact and carry meaning, often being selected from Victorian sources.”

Another sustainability gem in the Victorian Awards winners was Scarborough and Welkin by Justin Mallia Architecture which won an Award for Sustainable Architecture and the Best Overend Award for Residential Architecture.

The project converted a detached bungalow home in inner Melbourne into an adaptable multi-residential address. The new building elements are interwoven with garden and courtyard spaces that have been configured to compliment passive solar design approaches within both the existing and new living areas.

Operable wall panels, multiple entrances and the ability to reconfigure interiors to upsize or downsize individual dwelling areas have delivered two adaptable homes capable of multiple occupancy.

The project also integrated solar panels, battery storage, heat pump hot water, filtered rainwater reuse and a multi-purpose space with electric vehicle charging facilities.

A residential project was also the star of the ACT Chapter Awards, with Austin Maynard Architects’ Empire House awarded the top prize, the Canberra Medallion. It also took home the Gene Willsford Award for Residential Architecture – Houses [Alterations and Additions].

Australian Institute of Architects ACT jury chair, Sarah Truscott, said Empire was a refreshing experiment in quality over quantity where the owners and architects have worked together to retain the heritage of the existing home, with an over-riding emphasis on craftsmanship and detailing to create compact, contemporary additions.

 “Empire is located on a road that forms a key part of Burley Griffin’s masterplan,” she said.

“The architects have shown respect for Canberra’s built heritage by preserving the best of this home and creating smart additional living spaces inside and out for all seasons.”

Another small project that garnered multiple awards was the Canberra Girls Grammar School Early Learning Centre (CGGS ELC), an extension to an existing facility at Canberra Grammar Girls School in Deakin. It won awards in both the Sustainable Architecture and Educational Buildings categories.

 The most distinctive feature of the project noted by the judges was the use of cross-laminated timber manufactured in Wodonga. This enabled the structure to be built to lock-up stage in just five days and resolved a programming challenge whereby the existing facility had to remain open during school terms.

The judges also said the project “symbolises a growing need for the building industry to pursue lower embodied energy fabrication techniques.”

“The CGGS ELC provides a healthy learning environment for both staff and students with a high level of acoustic separation due to the timber panels and a low level of VOC compounds in material and finish selections,” the Jury said.

Adelaide Botanic High School

In South Australia, educational projects dominated the winners’ circle. The big winner was Adelaide’s first purpose-built vertical high school, the STEM-centric Adelaide Botanic High School by Cox Architecture and DesignInc.

The project won the Dr John Mayfield Award for Educational Architecture, the Robert Dickson Award for Interior Architecture and the Derrick Kendrick Award for Sustainable Architecture. 

Jurors were particularly impressed with the school’s superb composition and integration within the Parklands setting as well as the seamless incorporation of the former Reid Building’s structure.

One of the jury comments noted it determined “a new benchmark for adaptive reuse in South Australia”.

SA Chapter president Tony Giannone said the high school “exemplifies the high-quality outcome that can be achieved when all parties invest in the process.

“This project is a community asset of lasting value – not just because of its sustainability credentials but also because it provides an example of how this state can provide state-of-the-art educational facilities with outstanding flexibility and adaptability.”

In the Western Australia Awards, Perth Children’s Hospital received the top accolade, the George Temple Poole Award as well as the Jeffrey Howlett Award for Public Architecture, The Wallace Greenham Award for Sustainable Architecture as well as The Julius Elischer Award for Interior Architecture.

The hospital was designed by a joint venture comprising JCY Architects and Urban Designers, Cox Architecture and Billard Leece Partnership with HKS.

“From children and parents, through to specialist consultants and medical staff, the design team have created a high quality, people-first environment that changes our perception of what a hospital can be,” the jury said.

“The atrium design in itself is a work of art, a spectacular space using sculptural forms to delight all those who enter and enabling visual connections across floors, providing a constant but dynamic point of reference.”

25 King

 In the Queensland Awards, top honours went to 25 King by Bates Smart, which won the Harry Marks Award for Sustainable Architecture and the Beatrice Hutton Award for Commercial Architecture.

The judges noted that across all the entrants, a highlight was the “exceptional quality of sustainable design principles deployed across the various projects, demonstrating a strong commitment to human-centred design that is responsive to the unique and varied climates that exist across Queensland.”

The building 25 King, believed to be the tallest commercial timber building in Australia if not the world, exemplifies the sustainable approach.

The jury said it is “a potential catalyst for positive change within the Queensland building design discourse.”

“This building illustrates the potential for more sustainable alternative structural systems to sit confidently within the urban context, catalysing conversations about how and with what we build,” the jury said.

25 King

Engineering and ESD consultant for the project, Aurecon, found itself in the spotlight also, with the fitout designed by Woods Bagot for its new Queensland HQ within 25 King winning an Interior Design Award. Among the many sustainability and wellbeing features of the workplace is staff access to a herb garden with a native beehive.

In the Northern Territory Awards, an industrial project by Susan Dugdale and Associates was the stand-out winner. MPH HQ, A revisioning of the outer suburban industrial worksite and office as a thing of beauty, won the top award, the Tracy Memorial Award, and also the Peter Dermoudy Award for Commercial Architecture and the Colourbond Steel Architecture Award.

Located in an industrial area of Alice Springs, the jury commended it for its creativity.

“MPH HQ is a remarkable project which extracts poetry from the prosaic.

“Such a commission; essentially a workshed and office for a construction company located in an industrial estate; would ordinarily result in an ‘ordinary’ solution.

“We’ve all seen the big shed, front office typology that proliferates at the verges of our cities. Rather than ordinary, though, MPH HQ is extraordinary.”

Braitling Primary School

Another project by the practice, the Braitling Primary School (Stage 2), demonstrated the benefits of design for improving classroom outcomes. The project won the NT Chapter Award for Educational Architecture and The Thorny Devil (Moloch Horridus) Award for Sustainable Architecture.

“This exemplary project achieves important educational and social impact and is a testament that good design here has made a difference,” the jury said.

They said the design has resulted in a 67 per cent reduction in behaviour referrals, a reduction in issues within classrooms due to the outdoor relief space and seen attendance increase from 76 per cent to 85.9 per cent.

There are two more State Architecture Awards ceremonies yet to come – New South Wales and Tasmania – before all the individual state winners proceed to the National Architecture Awards, due to be announced on 7 November 2019.

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  1. Terrific!
    Please can we have more examples of homes with a high level of Sustainability, and please more pics of these houses, with design and construction details. Our Sustainable Northern Beaches Advocacy Group is working with our Council to try to develop(early stages) a desire in the community to build/renovate with Sustainability as a key focus. A big challenge up here!
    It would be great if the owners of these outstanding homes were willing to have them included in magazines such as Sanctuary (the Renew organisation)
    PS I love your ‘Fifth State’ digital magazine