National Architecture Awards 2021: overview of the jury presidency

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Often cited as the most memorable duty for any national president is to chair the jury of the National Architecture Awards, Australia’s premier architecture awards program. It is an honor, a great privilege, a much greater responsibility and a wonderful opportunity to experience the most remarkable architecture of the year. These awards bear witness to the inventiveness, imagination, thoroughness and multiplicity of our profession. Spaces and places imbued with more beauty, pleasure and humanity insightfully improve our towns, villages and rural landscapes. The culmination of several award programs based on pre-WWII chapters, the Institute’s National Awards began in 1981; this year we are celebrating its 40th anniversary.

The peer review process is vital, setting benchmarks for the improvement of the profession, practice and architecture. Each year, a jury of five embarks on a road trip of unenviable intensity, covering vast distances and bounded by an exhausting schedule. It is a once in a lifetime experience of exquisitely powerful architectural speech. COVID stopped this methodology last year, but this year we seemed to have made a positive return to near normalcy.

The constitution of the jury is the first challenge, as it must cover a wide range of architectural horizons and comply with the requirements of the policy for a respected and awarded senior architect, a respected and distinguished senior architect, an emerging young architect and a commentator. architectural or academic. This year’s jury – Bob Nation, Angelo Candalepas, Ingrid Richards and Cameron Bruhn – encompassed a wide range of expertise, from government and architectural media to universities. Members have demonstrated different project practices and experiences while having the expertise and in-depth knowledge required to judge architecture. Between them, they have won numerous awards nationally and have been widely published internationally. Experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent, energetic and dedicated designers, these people ensured that the jury’s experience was stimulating, thoughtful, challenged, engaged, delicious and pure joy.

Our initial task was to select a shortlist from the 165 eligible projects that had advanced by chapter out of a total of 807 entries. We gathered in Brisbane for two days of judgment, feverishly debating merits and criteria through detailed analysis of images and text. In the end, we had narrowed the list down to 57 preselected entries nationally. This was to be the last time the jury could meet in person, as COVID cases increased and lockdowns ensued. Mai Huynh of the Institute team provided extraordinary assistance, formulating a completely modified timeline and judging format within days. His diligence in assisting the jury and participants throughout this extremely difficult period is testament to his dedication to our awards.

The virtual tours of projects were extremely difficult but rewarding. The jury both sensed and shared the frustration of architects trying to show us through their works done with limited internet connection and the small peripheral vision afforded by a device’s camera. But our conversations with these engaged, passionate and talented designers were most memorable. There were special moments when clients accompanied us throughout the projects, giving remarkable testimonies of the value of architecture adapted to their specifications and to the site. No matter how you visit, truly exceptional work resonates with force.

Despite the diversity of the jury, a singular shared joy and admiration was evident, with little debate needed to form a consensus for the finalization of the awards. After the tours and rounds of deliberation, we selected 30 projects to be recognized nationally: 11 nominated awards, 10 awards and 7 commendations, as well as the Enduring Award and the Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture.

The jury notes that high standing public architecture is increasingly rare and, as a profession, we must advocate it as the basis of the architectural approach. As an institute, we must uphold the standards and integrity of our national awards. Collectively, this year’s award-winning works exhibit the richness, intelligence, viscerality, complexity, individuality and pleasure of which Australian architecture is capable. On behalf of the jury, I would like to thank all the people who participated, and all the juries at regional and sectoral level, as well as the clients. The architects of the shortlisted and awarded projects are warmly congratulated; their work benefits the entire profession, conveying the value and merit of excellent design to the public. Personally, I would like to thank the members of the Institute for the honor of being entrusted with the 2021 National Awards program.


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