These textures and colours shouldn’t work so well together, but somehow it all looks right. The floor goes from dusky pink carpet to brickwork to tiles. There are red brick walls, wood panelling, plaster and glass. Designed in 1963, this mid-century family home in Frankston went almost unchanged for 50 years. MRTN Architects was brought in to repair and refurbish the property while maintaining its original personality – and the end result has landed it on the 2020 Victorian Architecture Awards shortlist.
“What’s really lovely to see about projects like that is the light hand that’s given to [them]” says Amy Muir, Victorian chapter president of the Australian Institute of Architects. “There’s a huge amount of respect for what they were and are.”
The awards aren’t limited to restorations. Divided into 14 separate categories, including commercial, residential, educational and heritage, the awards are a celebration of architecture in all its forms, and its ability to respectfully combine community, history and innovation.
The 76 individual projects on the shortlist vary hugely in size, scope and renown.
There’s The Ian Potter Southbank Centre, home to the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. On the outside there are a series of large, irregular rectangles which look at the same time like folded paper and piano keys. The eye-catching building was designed by John Wardle Architects, which also worked on Melbourne School of Design and 271 Spring Street.
Muir points to the way the building filled a gap in the arts precinct, and how design reflects function throughout. Inside and out, the building is a striking amalgam of harsh angles, balanced by the occasional gentle curve. The acoustics have been calibrated so that if you’re standing on the ground floor, you can hear a band playing at the very top, the music echoing down through the building’s central void. From the street, a six-metre-wide circular window gives passers-by a glimpse into the conservatorium.
There are private residences such as the light-filled Garden House, a converted Edwardian cottage by BKK Architects. Cliff House by Auhaus Architecture shows what can be done with a blank slate – making the most of its proximity to the ocean, with a swirling white staircase as centrepiece. The State Library Victoria Redevelopment, a collaboration between Australia’s Architectus and by Scandinavian firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen (which has worked on libraries across the world) is listed in four categories.
Also on the shortlist is Philip Island’s Penguin Parade Visitor Centre. Architect Terroir – which also worked on the visitor centre for another beloved Melbourne tourist attraction, Puffing Billy – explains on its website that the building “sits at the nexus between three landscapes: dunes, headland and wetland.” The design reflects this – both in its earthy colouring, and in the dramatic dips and angles of the ceiling. It’s the outside, brought in.
It’s hard to nail down exactly what makes a building a success, but Muir points to the importance of collaboration. “The only way really good outcomes are delivered is by client, architect, consultants and contractor all working really well together. That working relationship throughout, from beginning to end of the project, is fundamental. And I would say the architecture awards really highlight that.”
Winners will be announced at a digital awards ceremony on July 10, 2020.