• 2011 New Zealand Architecture Awards

    16 August 2011

    The Asia Pacific is home to many of the world’s natural wonders, but arguably the most beautiful country in the region is New Zealand; far-flung, pristine and boasting continental sized geographic diversity, all in a small nation similar in size to California. Home to regular seismic activity, active volcanoes, deep fjords, glaciers, temperate forests and rolling hills, the land so admired for its natural beauty creates many challenges for the country’s architectural community.

    So too does its cosmopolitan population who may be far away from most of the world’s old and developed urban centres but who nonetheless expect their cities to be populated by buildings of world-class standard, as well as demonstrating true “Kiwi ingenuity”.

    The New Zealand Architecture Awards celebrate the best work by New Zealand’s architects. At a lavish ceremony held at the Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland on 20 May, 2011, The New Zealand Architecture Awards jury, comprising Hugh Tennent, Auckland architects Marshall Cook and Daniel Marshall and international juror, Sydney architect Camilla Block, made awards in 10 categories. Two projects received two awards each – 21 Queen Street (Commercial Architecture and Sustainable Architecture) and the Supreme Court of New Zealand (Heritage and Interior Architecture). 

    The New Zealand Architecture Awards indicate the breadth of work undertaken by the country’s architects and offer a snapshot of the state of the country’s architecture, says Awards jury convenor, Wellington architect Hugh Tennent.

    “The Awards are evidence that New Zealand architecture is in a healthy and vibrant state, despite current economic and financial difficulties,” said Tennent. “We were particularly impressed with some brilliant public and commercial buildings. The Birkenhead Library and Community Centre is a wonderful community asset, St Kentigern School Jubilee Sports Centre is very cleverly sited, and the high-rise at 21 Queen Street shows that sustainability and commerce can be reconciled.”

    Tennent added that another strong category in Awards was for residential architecture. “Highly accomplished houses are being designed by New Zealand architects, often in beautiful settings. New Zealanders traditionally have prized landscapes over buildings, but architecture and the environment shouldn’t be at odds. Houses like those designed by Mitchell and Stout, Patterson Associates and Fearon Hay on Waiheke Island, and by Stevens Lawson at Te Mata and Wanaka, and the Dunedin eco-sanctuary designed by Architectural Ecology, prove architecture can be appreciated in the landscape in its own right.”     

    One message the Awards send, Tennent says, is that architectural quality is not dependent on building scale. Several Awards were given in the small project category. Appropriately enough, one went to an Auckland building commissioned by Plunket, the organisation that cares for our smallest citizens. 

    As well as recognising new work, the jury gave Awards to older buildings of enduring worth. “The Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington is nearly 30 years old and the Freyberg Pool was built in the 1960s, but they still feel modern and they’re still enjoyed by the community. They’re integral to the Wellington cityscape.”

    The jury also acknowledged two buildings of even earlier vintage, the original Supreme Court in Wellington and the Oamaru Opera House. “The Supreme Court is a very well done restoration job, while the Oamaru Opera House is an excellent example of clear, unfussy adaptive re-use. The town should be very proud of what it and its architects have achieved,” Tennent added.

    24 projects were recognised in the New Zealand Architecture Awards this year. PRC is honoured to present a selection of these projects on the following pages. 

    Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre wins New Zealand architecture’s biggest prize

    A graceful and innovative new building at one of New Zealand’s iconic tourist sites has been awarded the 2011 New Zealand Architecture Medal, the country’s premier architecture award. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre was acknowledged as the year’s best building with the  jury describing the southern Waikato building, designed by Wellington firm Architecture Workshop for site operator Tourism Holdings Ltd, as “imaginatively conceived and masterfully executed”.

    Serving as a gateway to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which have been a tourist attraction for 120 years, the Visitor Centre comprises tourist gathering areas, a 250-seat dining area, retail, seminar and exhibition spaces and a café and theatre. 

    “The Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre confidently demonstrates that, in New Zealand a building in a landscape can be an attraction in its own right. An inspired design has been translated into an inspirational building. In this adventurous project, the vision of the clients has been matched by the daring of the architect and the engineer, and the effort put into researching the design has been equalled by the care taken in realising the building,” the jury said.

    Architecture Workshop director Chris Kelly says he designed the building’s vaulting, lightweight canopy to express his concept of “a simple lightweight sky shell to counterpoint the subterranean cave space”. The “sky shell” spans the pathways to the Glowworm Caves and, Kelly says, maintains a strong connection to the established kahikatea bush. The canopy consists of a membrane of “inflated pillows” tethered like a fly sheet over a geometrically complex timber grid developed by Kelly and Wellington engineer Alistair Cattanach and peer reviewed by British firm Happold Structural Engineers.

    For more information log on to www.nzia.co.nz  or contact John Walsh at [email protected]


    Natural and Organic: Red Dunes Playtopia Video credit: CHENIN Studio

    World Architecture Festival 2022 took place in Lisbon, the 2023 edition will hold from 29 Nov - 1 Dec at Singapore.


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