Koning Eizenberg Architecture's Pico Branch Library. Image: Eric Staudenmaier

Greenery, prefabricated elements, zero-energy design and repurposing of underutilised space are the key sustainability themes to have come out of the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2015 International Architecture Awards.

The jury, chaired by Grant Marani of Robert AM Stern Architects, chose five winners from 26 entries across four categories that encapsulated the great work of Australian architects abroad.

The award for public architecture went to Pico Branch Library in Santa Monica, US by Koning Eizenberg Architecture for a project that offered “a paradigm shift to community collaboration and education”.

“A design process that encouraged public participation through a series of workshops, and a thoughtful preservation of existing green space and repurposing of underutilised areas, has succeeded in reinvigorating the park, fostering a reconnection with institutional resources and overall community empowerment,” the jury citation said.

“External expression incorporates a subtle material palette, accentuated by variations in material tactility and bright colours. A playful and distinctive roof profile with unreserved overhangs hovers amongst existing greenery, delicately forging the library’s architectural identity.

“Internally, spaces offer an environment that inspires learning, contemplation and creativity. Beautifully folding ceiling planes, carved to reveal sunlight through a succession of skylights, underpin the spatial experience. Expanses of glazing evoke a pavilion-like openness to interior spaces, with careful control of natural light ensuring glare and heat gain are avoided.”

The award for residential architecture was shared between Vulkanen:Aarhus Student Housing by Terroir and CUBO Arkitekter, and Seven Palms Sentosa Cove by Kerry Hill Architects.

The Vulkanen Student Housing in Aarhus, Denmark has been called “unashamedly lean”. The jury citation said the architects had created “an architectural assemblage exploring prefabricated elements, rapid construction and a collaborative process in a consortium led by the contractor”.

Terroir’s Vulkanen Aarhus Student Housing. Image: Martin Schubert

“’Lean’ means a pared down planning that forces a precise stacked together, nonetheless resolved collection of student living quarters. An atrium as the core of the building defines the circulation, both a reflection of the local climate and referencing a typical Nordic vernacular.”

The brief required the design to achieve the Danish Low Energy Class 2015 standard, however the design team elected to work towards the LEK 2020, achieving a near zero energy standard as defined by the EU.

Kerry Hill Architects’ luxury Seven Palms Sentosa Cove for the tropical Singapore climate was the other winner, a project where the luxury was expressed through “the spatial and environmental qualities of the living spaces” rather than gold taps and marble.

Kerry Hill Architects’ Seven Palms Sentosa Cove. Image: Albert Lim

“The façades are designed as a variable composition of panelled sliding perforated screens, layered with operable aluminium aerofoil louvres facing the primary views towards the ocean,” the jury citation said.

“This tempers the tropical heat gain and shields apartments during the driving monsoon seasons. Timber pivoting fins are used at the rear of apartments allowing residents to control their environment and manage their privacy. Cross ventilation is planned in all apartments, reducing the need for airconditioning.”

robert grace architecture’s Gloucestershire Garden Room. Image: Jesper Ray

The award for small project architecture went to robert grace architecture for its Gloucestershire Garden Room, a room at Woodchester House, a UK Georgian Mansion built in 1746.

“Glass is employed in dramatic and challenging ways with glazing over 5.5 metres tall along with a glass gallery roof supported on glass beams. In some places the pavilion dissolves into the landscape; in others the off form concrete columns and cantilevered concrete ceiling hover in space,” the jury citation said.

“While the huge glass panels seem to defy enclosure, they do not do so at the expense of sustainability. Triple glazing along with solar panels and heating upgrades have managed to almost halve the energy consumption for the whole house.”

The interior architecture award went to Aman, Tokyo – another win for Kerry Hill Architects – which referenced “the strong design culture of Japan”.

“This restrained design sensibility is evident from the lantern lobby (reminiscent of the wonderful lobby in Hotel Okura) and the surrounding public spaces and pool, to the residential simplicity and calm of the hotel rooms themselves,” the jury citation said.

Kerry Hill Architects’ Aman Tokyo.

“The Jury was in immediate agreement that the design holds true to their goal of interpreting Japanese architectural traditions of making space, materials and details in a way that seemed fresh, clear and uncompromised in this beautiful interior.”

The hotel was “by far the most sophisticated submission for this category”.

Winners will be in the running for the 2015 Jørn Utzon Award for International Architecture to be announced at the National Architecture Awards in November.

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