A 110 meter long functional farm and residency in Victoria, a submerged library enabling open green space in Sydney’s city centre and the transformation of the Victorian Parliament’s officers are amongst Australia’s best architecture projects of 2019.

In a gala ceremony in Brisbane, 35 projects across fourteen categories received awards from the Australian Institute of Architects as projects which deliver high-quality design and significant public benefit.

A further twelve projects received commendations.

Taking out the Sir Zelman Cowen Award was the Green Square Library and Plaza project by Studio Hollenstein in conjunction with Stewart Architecture.

Set at the heart Sydney’s rapidly densifying Green Square (pictured above) – one of Australia’s largest urban renewal precincts – the design of this projects preserved around 8,000 square meters of open urban space as a ‘living heart’ by submerging a 3,000 sqm library and placing the library mostly underground.

This arrangement fuses the interior space of the library together with the exterior space of the plaza.

Despite being underground, the library is full of light courtesy of 42 large skylights which deliver light to the space below.  

In residential, Partners Hill took out the Robyn Boyd Award for its Longhouse project in the Victorian Central Highlands town of Daylesford.

Featured on Grand Designs Australia Series 7, this consolidated various agricultural and hospitality activities of the building’s owners into a 110 meter long mannered shed.

These activities included a boutique farm, a cooking school, a reception venue and a home.

In Melbourne, Meanwhile, Peter Elliott Architecture & Urban Design took out won the David Oppenheim Award for Sustainable Architecture and National Award for Urban Design.

This provided much needed office accommodation for 102 members of Parliament and their support staff and has been constructed as a separate free standing building within the eastern gardens of the Parliamentary precinct but is linked back to Parliament House via a bridge, tunnel and laneway connections.

Completed in 2018, the new annexe has been conceived as a companion building set in a garden where one hundred percent of the footprint has been replaced with landscape on the roof and within a large central courtyard and was planned as a perimeter courtyard scheme of four unequal wings that have been partly sunken into the ground to protect views and integrate it topographically within the eastern garden.

The project utilised a geothermal energy exchange and natural light to create an enduring sustainable facility.

It replaced a century and a half of makeshift and inadequate members’ offices along with numerous failed schemes to extend Parliament House and to adequately accommodate the administrative needs of members and their staff.

Previously, these needs had not been met in an adequate way as the 160 year-old Parliament building had never actually been completed.

Longhouse project, Daylesford, Victoria. Image source: The Advocate – Hepburn

All up, 78 of 185 eligible projects were shortlisted.

Clare Cousins, chair of the jury and Immediate Past President of the AIA, said the award-winning projects highlighted the creativity, integrity and accomplishments of Australian architects, both emerging and established.

“A number of themes emerged across all categories this year: projects that delivered worthy outcomes with little means; projects that demonstrated the value of architecture through public benefit; and projects with clear commitments to social and environmental sustainability,” she said.

‘All these qualities make significant contributions to our cities and regional centres.”

Cousins said the awards represents important recognition for the work of Australian architects.

‘These awards not only highlight the quality in our profession, they demonstrate publicly the achievements in design, innovation and sustainability that are possible when clients and architects are enabled to aim for excellence,” Cousins says.

“Where possible, I urge people to visit these outstanding places to experience the positive impact of superior design. This is where architecture shines, in its ability to make the world a better place for people.”