The City of Sydney’s Prince Alfred Pool and Park Upgrade, designed by Neeson Murcutt Architects in association with City of Sydney, received two of the most prestigious awards at this year’s Australian Institute of Architects’ NSW Architecture Awards. The Sulman Medal for Public Architecture and the Lloyd Rees Award for Urban Design.

“It’s a project that’s doing more with a lot less through design,” says Tony Caro, overall jury chair, about the transformation. “It’s not excessive. It uses simple, sustainable materials. It’s done with an intelligence and without any waste. Out of that kind of attitude and rigour, there’s beauty that emerges from having that view of the world.”

The $20.5 million upgrade was also the joint recipient of the Lord Mayor’s prize for design excellence alongside the Wayside Chapel, designed by Environa Studio, which also took out the Milo Dunphy Award for Sustainable Architecture.

“Rigour and delight, I think, are two things for me that stood out – the combination of the two,” says Peter McGregor, chair of the public architecture and urban design jury, about this year’s finalists. “A public building is about making public places. The buildings that we choose, to greater or lesser degrees, make places as well.”

Rachel Neeson, director of Neeson Murcutt Architects commented that ''we're pleased to receive an award that recognises such a significant civic investment by the City of Sydney. It is also a fitting tribute to the memory of Nick," in reference to her late husband, Nick Murcutt, who unfortunately passed away before the project's completion.

McGregor explains the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, designed by Durbach Block Jaggers in association with Peter Colquhoun, exemplifies a building of its place. The building was one of the recipients (though not the sole winner) of the Public Architecture Award.

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“The use of tiles really plays with light,” says McGregor, noting that a big driver for the industry is place making. “It’s not just about the building. It’s about what the building does. The Bondi building is like a sculpture in the round ... It’s got to work as a sculpture because it’s seen in all its facets when you walk around it.”

Caro explains that greater consideration is given to sustainability, too. “The whole idea, as a concept, is becoming imbued in all aspects of design and practice. It’s not really just about materials or concepts. It’s an attitude that’s becoming pervasive. It’s kind of becoming the new language of architecture, in a way.”