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Australian firms and projects feature big in this year’s American Architecture Prize

October 9, 2017

The Barangaroo Reserve won the Landscape Design of the Year in the awards. Photo: American Architecture Prize

When you’ve entered one of the big international architecture competitions and your phone pings at 3am – or 3.07 West Australian time to be precise – it’s probably worth getting up and checking the message.

You probably won’t get back to sleep after reading the good news text.

This happened last Saturday morning to the principal architects of Perth’s Iredale Pedersen Hook and to several other Australian firms who found out that they’d won awards in the second year’s competition of the already hot and heady American Architecture Prize.

The principals of the California-based US landscape firm PWP, which was responsible for designing and planting the 9/11 remembrance pools and gardens at the World Trade Centre site New York, got their notification of having won one of the three highest awards across the prize’s 41 categories at a much more civilised hour, that being US east coast time.

PWP won the Large Scale Landscape Architecture award and the even bigger Landscape Design of the Year citation for their inspired rebuilding of the once blasted shore front of Barangaroo into a popular public reserve made of recycled wharf demolition material and some 10,000 sandstone blocks quarried directly from the land.

Their Barangaroo Reserve project which provides multiple facilities including an underground exhibition space and a through route that is part of the 14-kilometre walking/cycling path from Woolloomooloo to Anzac Bridge, took inspiration from colonial images of the waterfront. The first phase of the reserve was opened in 2015.

The EY Tower won in the Commercial Architecture category. Photo: American Architecture Prize The EY Tower won in the Commercial Architecture category. Photo: American Architecture Prize

PWP’s win, incidentally, doubles up the Sydney listings in the category as the previous year’s Landscape Architecture of the Year award went to the 44-hectare landscape and wetland renewal of the Sydney Water Park.

Another winning Sydney project that is also fantastically site responsive is the EY Centre on George Street, which lifts its soaring woody bulk well above street level on twisted, tree-suggesting pylons.

FJMT which won the Commercial Architecture award for what they say is one of Australia’s greenest buildings, featured wood, sandstone and a clever system of triple-facade glazing that is so interactive for climate control that the architects also define it as “kinetic architecture”.

Iredale Pedersen and Hook Architects, who work right across Western Australia, tripled their winnings in the American Architecture Prize this year with an exceptionally diverse group of projects. Three 3am pings!

The Wulumba Elders Centre, by Perth firm Iredale Pedersen Hook. Photo: American Architecture Prize The Wulumba Elders Centre, by Perth firm Iredale Pedersen Hook. Photo: American Architecture Prize

The most novel, for which they won the Landscape Architecture, Installation and Structures award, was their species-specific work on Perth Zoo’s Orang-utan Exhibit that created stylised trees that sway in the wind to provide nesting platforms and stimulating aerial play spaces for the endangered Sumatran primates. Perth Zoo runs one of the world’s most successful captive breeding programs.

IPH also took home the award for Architectural Design in the Heathcare category for their culturally sensitive set up of the Walumba Elders Centre in the Kimberley, an aged care facility for indigenous people that has infrastructure in place to host smoking ceremonies and sorry business.

On a more conventional level, IPH and Caroline Di Costa Architects won the Houses Interior Award for CASA31_4 Room House, a house that held onto its sense of memory and features an ingeniously modified Coolgardie safe mechanism for cooling purposes.

Woods Bagot's Beijing project the Xiangjang FFG Marketing DisplayCentre. Photo: American Architecture Prize Woods Bagot’s Beijing project the Xiangjang FFG Marketing Display Centre. Photo: American Architecture Prize

Another Australian residence, this one the Planchonella House by the Far North Queensland’s Jesse Bennett Studio that had previously won the Australia’s National AIA New House award, was named winner in the AAP Interior Design Residential category for its “Lo-Fi” and highly interactive presence in the rainforest near Cairns.

By opening of business on Monday, Bennett’s website had the win on its own tally of award listings, which demonstrates why so many Australian firms go to all the time and expense of entering international competitions. A world-rated win casts a long and dazzling afterglow on a local career.

Another Australian firm that got the winner’s ping early on Saturday morning was Woods Bagot for their lyrical Beijing project the Xiangjang FFG Marketing Display Centre, a 2000-square-metre exhibition facility that is part of a much larger project and that will remain in situ to become a cultural building.

The display centre won the Architectural Design Small Architecture award.

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