The Planning Institute of Australia conferred awards recently at its annual awards ceremony held at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. The PIA recognizes the importance of good urban design for the social, economic, and environmental development of urban places.

The Delivered Outcome – Small Scale award went to the Fremantle Esplanade Youth Plaza, done by Convic and the City of Fremantle in Western Australia. The $1.6 million project is a new, family-oriented plaza incorporating a variety of activity areas. At 2,500 square metres, the plaza holds a world-class skate park, Western Australia’s first outdoor parkour park, a family ping pong area, a stage area for youth music gigs and other events, a community bike workshop, and seating and audience viewing areas. A leafy promenade connects the railway pedestrian crossing with the adjacent car park. Still to come are a basketball quarter court and public barbecue area.

The judges selected the Youth Plaza project for its community appeal and use of the area’s history and culture, such as a nod to Fremantle’s maritime heritage with a marine buoy incorporated into the skate park’s bowl design.

“The design of the structures builds on Fremantle’s past and present themes of beach, brickworks, rail and maritime into forms, shapes, elements and materials and a diverse, engaging and aesthetically pleasing plaza space,” the judges wrote.

Judges also noted the project’s “central, accessible public open space that provides a range of active, passive and social pursuits for all ages which is adaptable over time to meet evolving healthy and safe activities for a diversity of users with differing interests and abilities.”

Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park and Pool took home honours for Delivered Outcome – Large scale, one of two awards given in the category. According to PIA president Dyan Currie, “…the Prince Alfred Park and Pool project in Sydney demonstrated the power of modernising an existing urban canvas without eliminating its historic roots.”

The $9 million reworking of the park updated the park’s amenities for modern urban life while remaining true to Sydney’s 19th century heritage. Landscape architecture firm Sue Barnsley Design and Neeson Murcutt Architects handled the most extensive transformation of the park in 50 years.

The judges noted the creative updating of the park by integrating the built forms with the landscape in the 7.5-hectare park. Maintaining a historical link, the judges noted, results in “a new spatial and ecological sensibility that is contemporary without erasing its Victorian roots.”

In addition to upgrading the historic pool, the redevelopment includes new play equipment and a one-kilometre exercise circuit, along with a wealth of modern ecological updates. New rainforest plants and succulents adorn the park, the pool complex now has a green roof of native grasses, and 95 per cent of the park’s water is reused storm water.

Prince Alfred Park and Pool

Prince Alfred Park and Pool

The NewActon Precinct in Canberra scored the other award for Delivered Outcome — Large scale. PIA judges called it “a precinct of surprise and delight that is a rich place of outstanding quality and design.”

The Molongo Group/Fender Katsalidis/Oculus developed and designed the mixed-use precinct, which received its first major award in 2008, and is now in its final stage of buildout. The precinct contains residential, retail, and commercial space, with art and landscaped gardens throughout.

“The twin ambitions of Canberra’s NewActon Precinct – to ‘not be ordinary’ and to create a new collection of mixed-use buildings within existing cultural and environmental context – were achieved with a surprising design and place-making solution that represents an exemplar for 21st century Canberra,” Currie said.

NewActon Precinct in Canberra

NewActon Precinct in Canberra