The winner of the best construction project in the Australian Capital Territory for the past year has been unveiled.

In a ceremony held at the National Convention Centre Canberra last Friday, Canberra-based Manteena Construction won the Project of the Year award at the Master Builders ACT Cbus Excellence in Building Awards for 2014.

Manteena was recognised for its work in delivering the Garangula Gallery project in outback New South Wales, about 100 kilometres north-west of the nation’s capital.

Designed by Sydney-based architects Fender Katsalidis Mirams, the project houses a private collection of indigenous art and caters for large functions.

A key feature revolves around a towering rammed earth wall which, according to a review on the State of Green news web site, seemingly slices through the side of the structure and extends into the interior, creating an organic backdrop to the displayed work.

Project of the Year

In announcing their decision, the judges noted the diligent and thoughtful prototyping which took place to ensure homogenous finishes for the substantial stone walls and earth rammed walls along with the meticulous fabrication of architectural metalwork in external screens.

Sustainability and harmony with the local environment were key features. Stones and earth used for the walls were excavated on site whilst substantial quantities of recycled timber were used from the old Hornibrook Bridge in Queensland.

Moreover, the judges commended the quality of workmanship, which involved the use of specialist tradespeople to ensure the rammed earth walls presented a homogenous façade free of ‘layering’  (something on which the architect insisted), conscientious planning with regard to extensive use of Corten steel on the external elevations to produce a consistent patina, patience and careful work to achieve the reworking of second hand timbers and careful management to deliver construction in an isolated and weather beaten location.

“The result is a gallery which is most striking when first viewed against its natural landscape and continues to impress, even after detailed study,” the judges commented. “It is a credit to all involved, the owner who was able to visualise his dream, the architect who was able to capture the dream on paper and also the builder who was able to successfully transfer that dream to reality.”

In other awards, a team involving Papas Property Group, Architectus Ring & Associates and Archertect Interiors won the House of the Year award, while RAM Construction took home the Affordable Housing award and Brad Monkhouse, Ben Dunlop and Elyse Frances were recognised as the Apprentice of the Year, Cadet of the Year and University of Canberra Student of the Year respectively.