Architect collaborations, a gallery and performance space, and a swish new library were among the big winners of the 2020 NSW Architecture Awards, which were presented by the NSW chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects last night. It was the first time the presentation has been open to the public, with a livestream providing a snapshot of what was formerly a members-only event.

The awards are held annually and encompass a wide range of projects, from residential and commercial architecture, to public, educational, cultural and sustainable projects. This year, a total of 41 awards and 32 commendations were given, across 13 categories.

The big winner was Phoenix Central Park, which took home the NSW Architecture Medallion (the night’s most prestigious award) for its celebration of the union between architecture and artistic practice. The Chippendale gallery and performance space – established by arts philanthropist Judith Nielson, who also owns nearby White Rabbit – was a collaboration between Durbach Block Jaggers and John Wardle Architects. It was also awarded the Sir Arthur G Stephenson Award for Commercial Architecture and the John Verge Award for Interior Architecture.

The project highlights the success of a collaborative approach. “Having been given an open invitation to design something exceptional, the architects have joined forces to seamlessly intersect design with the visual and performing arts,” said Peter Poulet, chair of juries for this year’s NSW Architecture Awards, in a statement. “The single yet multifaceted and dynamic project creates an immersive experience for those inside while being a striking architectural marker on the outside.”

The building is located on the site of a warehouse that had been damaged by fire. Naming the building after the legendary bird that rises from its own ashes references the rebirth of Chippendale from a semi-industrial, inner-city suburb to a thriving cultural precinct.

Marrickville Library, by architectural firm BVN, also received multiple awards, including the prestigious NSW Premier’s Prize, the Milo Dunphy Award for Sustainable Architecture, and an award for public architecture. The striking library, which opened late last year on the heritage-listed site of the former Marrickville Hospital, celebrates the historical and cultural context of its location and remaining structures. It also features gardens, exhibition spaces, an 85,000-volume book collection and a cafe by Double Roasters.

Jonathan Richards of Sydney’s Richards Stanisich won one of three awards for interior architecture, for his refurbishment of slick eastern suburbs watering hole, Hotel Rose Bay. The 90-year-old pub’s elegant interior features terrazzo tiling, spotted-gum timber, rose-gold finishes and emerald granite countertops.

The Lloyd Rees Award for Urban Design went to another collaboration, this time between Hassell with Turpin Crawford Studio and McGregor Westlake Architecture, who worked together on stations for the Metro North West line.

This year also marks the first time that voting was opened to the public. The NSW People’s Choice Awards for Life in 2020 was introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic and gave the public a chance to vote across three categories: your dream quarantine digs, your preferred essential workplace, and your favourite post-lockdown celebration venue. The winners were:

Isolation Oasis (your dream quarantine digs): Arkadia, Alexandria by DKO Architecture
We Are in This Together (your preferred essential workplace) – Marrickville Library by BVN
Post-iso Party (your favourite post-lockdown celebration venue) – Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta by Populous.

The awards ceremony was live-streamed last night on the Australian Institute of Architects Youtube channel.