"Special" in that it's two weeks after everyone else has talked about the Royal Australian Institute of Architects annual awards [see last year's coverage] The headlines are these:
- Queensland rules. And Brisbane specifically confirms its reputation as site of the most interesting urban developments in Australia right now. Victoria/Melbourne a close second.
- Brisbane's Donovan Hill architects, recipients of six gongs, owned this year's awards. The State Library of Queensland, developed with Peddle Thorp, seems spectacularly successful. I walked past a few months ago, and hope to visit properly at Christmas.
- Denton Corker Marshall's Civil Justice Centre in my old hometown of Manchester justly rewarded. It's been everywhere; I pointed at Stephen Bayley's review a while back.
- Southern Cross station in Melbourne, whose extraordinary satellite profile I mentioned here, winner of The RAIA Walter Burley Griffin Award for Urban Design.
- Equally ubiquitous has been the coverage of Paul Morgan Architects' wonderful Cape Schanck House. More on this later - but check the house's defining feature, a giant steel 'raindrop' full of water suspended from the ceiling of the main living space, providing cooling in summer and wrapped up in winter.
- From the judges: "The jury recognised a generational shift in the architecture profession and award entries, with the emergence of a new wave of architects primarily focused and concerned with how buildings (both public and private) best fit within our cities, and within the public realm, rather than as singular objects. The projects are marked by research and intelligence, and represent new building models."
- Apparently there's been talk of ditching the 'Sustainable Architecture' category, given that it should be - and tends to be - a theme running through all the categories. This writer agrees with that - as noted before, it's just "the right way to do things", and not a special category.
Full line-up here in a rather dry presentation by the RAIA, with commentary here. And of course the press here has been full of it, so you can pick up the Nov/Dec issue of Architecture Australia magazine for more.
Rather than reproduce any more of the numerous pictures seen elsewhere, I thought I'd draw your attention to two excellent radio programmes who covered the awards in detail. Talking about architecture on the radio can't be that easy - but ABC Radio National's 'By Design' and Triple R's 'The Architects' both do it extraordinarily well. 'By Design' covers a wider remit of design and architecture, and is generally an excellent, open-minded show (how many weekly design and architecture shows are there on public or commercial radio in the world? I know Tokyo's J-Wave does one; the BBC certainly doesn't have a specialist show, despite its panoply of networks. There's Smart City, and obviously there are the new entrants via podcasting, such as Dwell, Planetizen, Arup etc. Any others?)
But Melbourne's community radio station Triple R is home to the world's best architecture show run by architects - OK, perhaps the world's only architecture show run by architects - 'The Architects', presented by Simon Knott and Stuart Harrison with Rory Hyde. It's a cracking show, in which serious topics around architecture, urbanism and the built environment are discussed with wit, insight and passion. For a discipline that can readily disappear up its own fundament at a moment's notice, it's refreshing to hear architecture and urbanism presented in such smart and accessible fashion, without pulling punches or dumbing down. I simply cannot recommend highly enough.
Returning to the awards, last week's edition of 'The Architects' featured Paul Morgan as the studio guest, and embarked upon a freewheeling discussion of his Cape Schanck house, the influence of films on his architecture, and more besides.
Equally, 'By Design' covered the magnificent Queensland State Library by Donovan Hill and Paul Morgan's Cape Schank house in consecutive shows, getting a guided tour of both by the architects. It's fascinating to hear how radio conveys the sense of these buildings rather well; hearing the acoustics shift from outside the Cape Schanck house, with its backdrop of insects and birds amidst the trees, to inside where Paul Morgan taps the hollow-sounding 'steel raindrop' a couple of times; or in the Library, hearing Timothy Hill lead the presenter from the interior of the library to the very Queensland inside:outside space of the Indigenous Knowledge Centre. Radio conveys it all remarkably well. Good architects with good ideas help too.
So in the spirit of Juhani Pallasmaa, lets eschew the images for some aural evocations of these fine spaces.
ABC Radio National: By Design: Queensland State Library
ABC Radio National: By Design: Cape Schanck House
* The 'By Design' podcasts might disappear offline shortly, so get them while they're hot.