When smoke billowed from Carlton’s iconic La Mama Theatre in 2018, it felt like Melbourne stood still for a minute, grappling with the monumental cultural loss. The building was all but destroyed by fire. But four years and one pandemic later, La Mama has risen from the ashes. The former print works has been reimagined by Meg White and Cottee Parker Architects, taking on a new but familiar form. And its impressive rebuild has been shortlisted in this year’s Victorian Architecture Awards (in two categories: public architecture and for the prestigious Melbourne Prize).

Divided into 14 categories, the awards celebrate architecture in its many forms – from commercial and heritage to residential and interior. And the 2022 shortlist is the longest ever, spanning restaurants, galleries, community centres and homes.

Yakimono, which has been enthusiastically welcomed to Melbourne’s dining rotation, has been shortlisted in the interior architecture category. Chris Lucas’s kaleidoscopic, futuristic, neon-lit restaurant playfully references the rain-drenched streets of Tokyo (and Blade Runner 2049). It’s joint-shortlisted alongside Lucas’s other recent opening Society, which, along with Yakimono, is located in the 80 Collins precinct. With colossal crystal chandeliers, seductive velvet banquettes and a strikingly angular marble bar, Society is all about big-city sophistication. (Both were designed by Melbourne-based architects Russell & George.)

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A stunning art deco entrance and towering red-brick facade marks the spot for arts precinct and community hub Collingwood Yards, which is shortlisted in three categories: heritage, urban design and public architecture. More than half a decade in the making, local architect Fieldwork restored the 6500-square-metre former school, which stretches across three buildings. The vision was to create an affordable, permanent space for artists and organisations; it’s now home to more than 50.

The Victorian Pride Centre in St Kilda – Australia’s first purpose-built LGBTIQ+ community hub – also makes the shortlist in the public architecture category. It’s a feat of modern design, and there’s a deeper meaning to its “exposed” interior and egg-like atrium, as well as the circular nature of much of the structure. Designed by Brearley Architects & Urbanists (BAU) in partnership with Grant Amon Architects, “The building challenges the norms of architectural hierarchy, order and rationale,” says James Brearley, director of BAU. “It engages notions of the unfinished, the in-between, emergence and co-existence.”

Meanwhile, this year’s residential shortlist celebrates sharp attention to detail. The 110-square-metre Canning Street house by Foomann Architects is small but mighty; the tidy, relaxing and light-filled family space has a dramatic curved ceiling. The Stable and Cart House by Clare Cousins Architects is a beautifully renovated 1920s-built brick warehouse in North Melbourne; despite well-worn industrial bones, there’s a delicate, day-spa-like serenity. Elsewhere, with earthy tones and timber panelling everywhere, Multiplicity’s Music Box house is shortlisted in the residential new build category. And the Always house in Flinders (interior architecture category), by Kennedy Nolan, is spectacular – with tranquil ocean views, a commanding stone-walled entrance, and a roof garden.

If La Mama’s triumphant re-emergence is anything to go by, Melbourne is well and truly back in motion. And after the better part of two years spent at home, this year’s Victorian Architecture Awards shortlist is a symbol of the city’s reintroduction to – and enthusiasm for – public space.

Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on Friday June 17.