Gongs for Aussie architects
Three out of eight top international RIBA awards went to Australian buildings, Guy Allenby reports
Dis an achievement made more remarkable when you consider you are competing against all the buildings in Asia, in the Americas and in all the European Union’’, says Michael Cortese, director of Sydneybased Bligh Voller Nield, another of the Aussie firms acknowledged in the awards.
BVN received a RIBA International Award for the L5 Building at the University of NSW.
Designed by Cortese and his co- director in the firm, Lawrence Nield, L5 was developed by the university to accommodate two separate companies and has been built on a
difficult’’ block outside the main campus and nestled between residential buildings, semi- industrial buildings and a main road.
It is a sharply contemporary building and it wears its not inconsiderable architectural innovation with discretion.
This main ‘‘ point of innovation’’, explains Cortese, is the building’s single- skin facade. With walls facing east and west, the traditional way to construct a building with such an aspect is with a double skin.
What we were able to come up with is a system of a single- skin, ventilated cavity facade,’’ he says.
Or, in other words, L5 has been built using one layer of glass with an aluminium woven fabric as a blind on the inside’’ and a ventilated cavity between.
On hot afternoons with direct sun on the western face of the building, heat is then extracted from the perimeter rather than cooling it on the inside’’, Cortese says.
This approach takes fewer building materials and is cheaper to build. The building is still airconditioned, however, but because less heat finds its way between the glass and the blind — and to the inside on summer afternoons — the airconditioning load is lessened.
In the winter, spring, autumn and summer mornings, meanwhile, the building’s occupants have the benefit of being able to see through clear glass.
The alternative would have been shutters or very dark glass, all of which were unacceptable to us’’.
The building is right up there in innovation and in relation to other buildings in the world,’’ says Cortese, adding that reaching and setting international benchmarks in ESPITE the fact that the cream of Australian architecture has been long recognised as the equal of anywhere in the world, a little official recognition from your international peers never hurts — particularly when it comes from the august and dizzying heights of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
In fact, given that three of the eight international awards dished out late last month at RIBA’s National and International Awards dinner in London were to Australian buildings, you’d have to think that antipodean architecture is being served — and swallowed — hot right now.
Taking the top award, the Lubetkin Prize, was Melbourne’s new Southern Cross Station by Grimshaw Architects ( working within the Grimshaw Jackson Joint Venture).
The striking, wavy- roofed Southern Cross Station is the renamed Spencer Street Station and $ 700 million has been spent on its redevelopment.
In awarding the prize the judges said: ‘‘ The station is simply a big roof over a complex piece of transport infrastructure, but really its vocation is as a civic structure.
‘‘ It is a point of entry to the city and, critically, it makes a space connecting the new and the old parts of the town.’’
The Lubetkin Prize is one of the single most prestigious prizes in international architecture and is awarded for the most outstanding building outside Britain and the European Union. That an Australian building has won it architectural design ambition of the firm.
‘‘ For us this award is a validation of our ambition to achieve that standard of work,’’ he says.
Sharing a table at the RIBA awards with BVN — and similarly chuffed with its international pat on the back — were representatives of Perth- based JCY Architects & Urban Planners.
JCY also took out an International Award for a university building — this one the library at Perth’s Edith Cowan University. It’s a very light sort of building and it’s changed the vibe of the whole university,’’ says Elisabetta Guj, a director at JCY and the project director for the library together with fellow JCY director Paul Jones.
The building is finished in a series of horizontal and vertical louvres and there is a
real sense that the building’s alive’’, says Guj, and it changes colour’’.
There’s always been a library there but originally it had no one in it,’’ she adds.
People were choosing to be at home or find other places to study.’’
JCY’s design for the library includes a cafe, bookshops, areas where students can do focused work and where they can sit in groups. It’s become the real hub of the whole university. ‘‘ Any time you go there the place is absolutely humming people,’’ says Guj.
It has been an unmitigated success and RIBA clearly agrees.
‘‘ They talked about it being an exemplar of a new generation of libraries,’’ she says, adding what a thrill it is ‘‘ to be recognised in a field of such amazing buildings and architects from around the world’’.
And the other winners are an imposing list indeed.
Others given International Awards on the night included the Hearst Tower in New York by leading British firm Foster & Partners and Des Moines Public Library by David Chipperfield Architects. Steven Holl Architects had two buildings on the list: New Residence at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, and the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa. And Design Engine Architects was represented for the British Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.
All of the eight International Award winners, including Australia’s trio, were originally in contention for the Lubetkin Prize, but by the night of the dinner it had been narrowed down to a shortlist of three: Des Moines Public Library, Hearst Tower and Southern Cross Station.
Accordingly there was still ‘‘ a reasonable amount of tension’’ felt by the Australian contingent before the winner was announced at the climax of the evening, says Cortese.
And then Southern Cross Station got the big gong.
It was a fantastic night’’.
Awards: Southern Cross Station, top, the library at Perth’s Edith Cowan University, left, and the University of NSW’s L5 building, above