Function trumps form at the 2021 National Architecture AwardsA parabolic sculpture within an industrial shell Smart Design Studio created winning interiors too. Photo: Romello Periera

Function trumps form at the 2021 National Architecture Awards

At the virtually announced 2021 National Architecture Awards last night, two big-name architecture firms each took out two major commercial titles in different categories for projects that reveal a tilt towards pragmatic buildings that prioritise optimal functioning over fashion-driven form.

Hooray to that, because Smart Design Studios’ new Sydney practice digs, and Monash University’s new engineering and information technology hub genuinely are buildings made to work for their occupants and the environment.

In announcing the Australian Institute of Architects’ 40th annual peer-reviewed national awards, the jury highlighted how this year’s 30 winners – winnowed from the 87 sent to the shortlist via the state-based award system – throw a spotlight on “increasingly rare” examples of public architecture of great standing.

On a campus that, despite almost two years of student absences, continues to evolve a large-scale portfolio of inspired educational architecture, Monash University’s Woodside Building for Technology and Design now stands as the largest Passivhaus buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.

The largest Passive House project south of the equator is at Monash University.
The largest Passive House project south of the equator is at Monash University.

For the way it generates its own power, is thermally tight for both heat and cold, was structured to maximise interior spaciousness while minimising material wastage and embodies the very learnings students are seeking, the jury gave Grimshaw, in collaboration with Monash, the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture and the David Oppenheim Award for Sustainable Architecture.

The jurors said the Woodside building demonstrated “international leadership in learning environments and sustainability” and, despite an ostensible austerity, saw it as “a handsome and exemplary building”.

In the fast-changing Sydney suburb of Alexandria, Smart Design’s new office similarly leans toward the industrial. It was made to fit into an existing warehouse and an industrial streetscape, and also to be a rather beautiful galvanised sculpture.

McBride Charles Ryan gave Penleigh Grammar a cloudfront effect.
McBride Charles Ryan gave Penleigh Grammar a cloudfront effect.

For what is also a comfortable, bright and open office that Smart Design says is “purpose-built for who we are and how we work”, the studio similarly scored two of the major awards: the Harry Seidler Award for Commercial Architecture and The Emil Sodersten Award for Interior Architecture.

The jury announced that “as a commercial offering, and a contributing element to this burgeoning cultural community, this studio truly establishes an architectural legacy”. Smart Design has a habit of creating legacy projects.

The Heritage awards applaud the sensitive adaption of historic buildings. Cox Architecture with Neeson Murcutt + Neille won two different awards and nationwide publicity for the clear-cut revival of a monumental Sydney sandstone institution, the Australian Museum’s Project Discover.

A heritage award winner is the former Bendigo Mining Exchange.
A heritage award winner is the former Bendigo Mining Exchange.

In the heritage-heavy environs of Victoria’s gold-rush city of Bendigo, the 1871 Former Mining Exchange was, and has once again become, an important element.

For uncovering its antique glory and the deco style of the connected 1927 shopping arcade, which is part of the Beehive building, Williams Boag Architects’ long restoration won the important Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage.

Not the main name-award winner in the Educational Architecture category but without doubt stunningly original, McBride Charles Ryan’s new music annexe for Penleigh Essendon Grammar in suburban Melbourne won fans among the jury. They described its patterned, undulating and oscillating coloured-brick facade as “a frozen soundwave” and overall dubbed it “a project of sheer joy”.

Among the awards, one that is often overlooked is the International Award that considers projects built offshore.

This year the late Kerry Hill, who died in 2018, was recognised with the Jorn Utzon Award for International Architecture for his Malaysia-sited One & Only Desaru Coast resort.

International award winner is the Malaysian resort from the esteemed practise of the late Kerry Hill.
International award winner is the Malaysian resort from the esteemed practise of the late Kerry Hill.

In a long career Hill produced numerous beautiful buildings across Asia, and this 46-suite development that contemporises the pavilion form and references traditional materials – including the ubiquitous wooden tropical shutter – imparts, according to the jury, “a modest and elegant form that merges with the surrounding landscape”.

Hill had the knack of achieving such a “genius loci” quality in almost all of the projects he undertook.

NATIONAL ARCHITECTURE AWARDS 2021 COMMERCIAL WINNERS

COLORBOND® Award for Steel Architecture

BVN

Land 121 Facilities project, Lavarack Barracks

Commercial Architecture

The Harry Seidler Award for
Commercial Architecture

Smart Design Studio

Smart Design’s practice offices

National Award for
Commercial Architecture

BVN

Land 121 Facilities project, Lavarack Barracks

National Award for
Commercial Architecture

MAAArchitects

Wangaratta Street

Educational Architecture

The Daryl Jackson Award for
Educational Architecture

Neeson Murcutt + Neille

Barker College Rosewood Centre

National Award for Educational
Architecture

McBride Charles Ryan

Penleigh Essendon Grammar
School Music House

National Award for Educational
Architecture

John Wardle Architects

Geelong College Junior School

Enduring Architecture

The National Award for Enduring Architecture

Kevin Borland, John and
Phyllis Murphy and Peter
McIntyre, with engineer Bill
Irwin

Olympic Swimming Pool

Heritage

The Lachlan Macquarie Award
for Heritage

Williams Boag Architects

Bendigo Former Mining
Exchange

National Award for Heritage

Cox Architecture with
Neeson Murcutt + Neille

Australian Museum Project
Discover

Interior Architecture

The Emil Sodersten Award for
Interior Architecture

Smart Design Studio

Smart Design’s practice offices

National Commendation for
Interior Architecture

Jackson Clements Burrows

Divided House

International Architecture

The Jorn Utzon Award for
International Architecture

Kerry Hill Architects

One & Only Desaru Coast,
Malaysia

Public Architecture

The Sir Zelman Cowen Award for
Public Architecture

Grimshaw in collaboration
with Monash University

Monash Woodside Building for
Technology and Design

National Award for Public
Architecture

Cox Architecture with
Neeson Murcutt + Neille

Australian Museum Project
Discover

National Award for Public
Architecture

Andrew Burges Architects
and Grimshaw with TCL in
collaboration with the City
of Sydney

Gunyama Park Aquatic and
Recreation Centre

Small Project Architecture

National Commendation for Small
Project Architecture

Licht Architecture

Floating Sauna Derby

National Commendation for Small
Project Architecture

March Studio

Jackalope Pavilion

National Commendation for Small
Project Architecture

Raffaello Rosselli Architects

Plastic Palace

Sustainable Architecture

The David Oppenheim Award for
Sustainable Architecture

Grimshaw in collaboration
with Monash University

Monash Woodside Building for
Technology and Design

National Award for Sustainable
Architecture

Smart Design Studio

Smart Design’s practice offices

Urban Design

The Walter Burley Griffin Award
for Urban Design

lahznimmo architects and
Aspect Studios

Sub Base Platypus

National Commendation for Urban
Design

BVN

QUT Campus to Country

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