With support by Urban Design Forum, the Australian Award for Urban Design Excellence is hosted by the Planning Institute of Australia, partnered with the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. Originating from Paul Keating’s Prime Minister’s Task Force on Urban Design in 1996, the award spotlights best practice in urban design, and promote good urban design as an everyday element of Australian communities.
Over the past decade Australia has seen the emergence of an extraordinary wealth of urban innovation: the fundamental features of acceptable planning, development and design have developed their own life. Policies are developing in line with practice at all levels of government, and partnerships and are being forged between architects, planners, landscape architects and developers.
Good Urban Design – more than block-edge buildings
The jury was composed of the recent national presidents of the RAIA and AILA, Graham Jahn and Noel Corkery, with civic-minded design writer Dr Elizabeth Farrelly, Australia Financial Review editor Tina Perinotto and Urban Design Forum representative Bruce Echberg. Peter Droege, PIA Urban Design Chapter convenor and co-author of the original terms of reference for the award program in 1995, chaired the proceedings.
Peter commented: “More than simply creating block-edge buildings or higher density subdivisions, urban design is the art of city building with a sense of aspiration and purpose. A wide range of nominations were submitted, including projects and policies. Four distinctly civic spaces in four states and territories were recognised this year.”
The Australia Award was presented to Tract Consultants, with Cox Raynor of Brisbane, for the City of Cairns new Esplanade redevelopment. It intelligently demonstrates how foreshore redevelopment can serve many purposes successfully – the city’s grid logic is completed and connected to the foreshore, Cairns’ relation to the waterfront is being reinterpreted, and open space available to the local community and visitors is expanded in efficient yet exciting ways. All this serves, in a surprisingly simple, uncomplicated way, to unearth and celebrate the link to the ancient, natural foreshore setting, while erasing the infamous ‘dead corner’ of Cairns’ foreshore, a badly flushed, degraded stretch between the Esplanade and Pier Marketplace.
The Commendation Prize was awarded to City of Melbourne’s City Projects, Arts and Culture Division, with Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Swaney Draper for the exceptional new park, Birrarung Marr. The park succeeds in crafting a refreshingly abstract, beautifully detailed and yet highly usable setting in the eastern extension of the Federation Square precinct. It serves to further link the CBD to the river, while braving the difficulties of powerful urban infrastructures: highway and rail. The long lines of the technical public works were successfully used to create the logic of this new park, billed as the ‘first park to be created near the CBD in a century’.
Two other nominations were Mentioned with Honour: Commonwealth Place, the elegant civic underline between the Parliament. The winners of the competition, Durbach Block Architects in association with Sue Barnsley Design – Landscape Architects, excelled in at once innovating local form, and creating a thoughtful and balanced, almost deferential addition to the Canberra Plan. Kogarah’s Town Centre by Kogarah Council, and Allan Jack and Cottier Architects, is an ‘early pioneer’ in integrating water-sensitive urban design principles and renewable energy generation installation, with a uniquely dynamic commitment by local government and its key staff – the champions of the project.
This year the celebrations culminated with a function, sponsored by ING Real Estate Development in Sydney. Keynote speaker was The Hon Craig Knowles, NSW Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Resources. DEM Design provided significant in-kind support.