Perth Concert Hall by Howlett and Bailey Architects
Enduring Architecture: National Award
Australian Institute of Architects
The jury wants to first acknowledge the incredibly high standard of entries in this category. The Good Shepherd Chapel, Heide II and Rivendell – The Virr House are all testimony to the flourishing architectural landscape of the sixties and seventies around Australia and have left lasting impressions on all jury members. The remaining few buildings of this era remind us of a young nation coming to grips with globalism and local identity. While it wasn’t possible to give all entries a national award, the discussions of the jury eventually focused on the question of what it takes for architecture to be awarded for endurance. Which building has lasted the test of time and/or still functions as it was originally conceived without being compromised along the way?
Overlooking the Swan River, Perth Concert Hall by Howlett and Bailey Architects was designed in a brutalist style. The placement of the building, on top of a majestic brick plinth with stairs spanning its total width, celebrates the act of gathering. What appears to be quite a simple, white, off-form concrete, post-and-beam construction is, upon closer inspection, understood as being completely innovative for 1973. The building is actually hung from itself, creating enormous free spans and all from one beautifully poured material. Acoustically, the main auditorium hall is considered one of the best in Australia.
Brutalist buildings like the Perth Concert Hall, if situated in lucrative residential locations and subject to government short‑sightedness, can be easy targets for demolition. With recent government-owned buildings such as the Sirius apartment complex in Sydney and even heritage-listed buildings such as the Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne now earmarked for demolition, it is imperative that buildings of this nature are accepted by the general population as being key to our nation’s architectural story.