Australia’s best landscape design projects for 2021 have been unveiled.

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) has announced the winning projects across seventeen categories for its National Landscape Architecture Awards in 2021.

All up, 47 projects were recognised across the seventeen categories.

Taking out the award in the Parks and Open Space category was the Riverside Green project by Hassell.

Forming the ‘green heart’ of the South Bank Parklands in Brisbane, the project aims to support the city’s leisure and recreation needs at a time when inner city population growth is putting pressure on existing parks and public spaces.

Features include:

  • A new river lawn with views of the river and parklands.
  • A new rainforest deck and pavilion which aims to provide a sheltered and welcoming place designed for Brisbane’s climate in which the community can enjoy the river view while nestled in a shaded rainforest setting.
  • Extension of the existing parkland rainforest by 650sqm, including 50 new trees for the urban canopy.
  • ‘The grotto – a sunken retreat which is immersed in nature and features vine covered pergola which shades the space with 80 hanging plants that change with the seasons and showcase Brisbane’s endemic species.
  • A new public artwork and water feature which recalls the site’s history.

Riverside Green project by Hassell (images: supplied by AILA)


Another interesting project which took out the award for the Play spaces category was the Deep Creek Eco Play space by Play by Place Pty Ltd with Agency of Sculpture.

Located in the outer south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Pakenham, this project aims to encourage meaningful play and creative stimulation through design.

Fully enclosed and fenced, features of the playground include:

  • A giant dragonfly which is beautifully crafted and enables children to run up and down ramps, hide within the eyes and play underneath.
  • A water play area under the shelter.
  • A wheelchair shalom which can double as a bike track.
  • A large birds’ nest swing.
  • Noisy equipment and musical equipment.
  • Climbing frames and sensory gardens.

The space is part of the broader Deep Creek Reserve, which also features a multi-purpose function centre, an indigenous plant nursery, a demonstration wetland, demonstration and sensory gardens, environmental education sessions for schools and walking paths.

Deep Creek Eco Play space (images supplied)

In other notable awards:

  • The Pheonix Gallery designed by 360 Degrees Landscape Architects in the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale took out the Gardens award for a garden which used succulents and cacti to capture the client’s visions of ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ in the gardens of Sydney’s Phoenix Gallery. Gesamtkunstwerk roughly translates as a “total work of art” and describes an artwork, design or creative process where different art forms are combined to create a single cohesive whole.
  • The Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS) and Public Realm project at Herston Quarter in Brisbane took out the Health and Education Landscape award for a precinct which combines healthcare, education, housing, retail, recreation and community spaces into a single, multi-connected place which promotes daily interaction and innovation.
  • The Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre in Tasmania took out the Tourism Landscape Architecture Award for providing a fantastic visitor experience to one of Tasmania’s most valued natural wilderness destinations.


Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS) and Public Realm project at Herston Quarter in Brisbane (image: supplied)


In their report, the jury noted several trends among awarded projects.

First, there was a purposeful effort to facilitate environmental stewardship and to embed green infrastructure whilst also delivering exemplar design outcomes.

This, the jury said, was inspirating at a time of increasing urbanisation and climate variation.

Many such projects are demonstrating sensitive, considered and ambitious responses to repairing and improving natural systems unique to Australian landscapes, it added.

Second, there is a sense of ongoing journey with traditional owners and an emphasis on indigenous led design approaches.

Many projects, the jury noted, represent a living history and look into the future whilst respectfully acknowledging the past.

Finally, the jury noted a shift in the definition of a garden as a result of which a number of projects which were not traditionally associated with this category were considered for awards.

This saw elements of gardens being applied in novel ways in recognition of the wellbeing which green infrastructure delivers.

One example was the Coogee Garden project in Western Australia by Seedesign Studio, which delivered a productive food garden for the new bar and restaurant at the historic Coogee hotel.


Phoenix Galley, Chippendale, Sydney, (image supplied)


AILA President Claire Martin said the past 18 months had highlighted the strengths and vulnerabilities of our cities and had highlighted the need for our public spaces to deliver fundamental social, environmental, and economic change.

“This year’s diverse award entrants demonstrate the leading role that landscape architects play in delivering innovative responses to complex issues and making positive contributions to our regions and cities,” Martin said.

“Despite all the challenges the pandemic delivered, it presents a great opportunity for the industry to re-evaluate how we use these spaces.

“The variety of submissions illustrates the passion and drive of our AILA members to influence the way we work, live and play. “These projects set new benchmarks as we continue to build knowledge as a profession.”


Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, Tasmania (image: supplied)

AILA National Jury Char, Peta-Maree Ashford said the Awards Jury applauded this year’s winners for focusing on community involvement and the growing use of localised public and private spaces.

“COVID, for the first time to such an extent, has encouraged communities to make the most of their own backyard, whether that be their physical home, local park or community garden,” Ashford said.

“Growing use of these spaces means there is undoubtably a need for thoughtfully landscaped, high-quality spaces that locals are genuinely excited to use.

“Green spaces add this irrefutable value in strengthening community connectedness and maintaining mental and physical wellbeing.”