2017 National Architecture Awards: Public Architecture Award

Juanita Nielsen Community Centre by Neeson Murcutt Architects in association with City of Sydney Public Architecture: National Award Australian Institute of Architects

Jury citation

A major upgrade of this local community centre honours the memory of activist Juanita Nielsen, who lost her life while campaigning for urban conservation in the 1970s. A warmth and lightness of touch permeate the many strategies brought by the architects to the transformation of these interconnected warehouses. Blind arches in the party walls dividing the building into vertical tranches have been liberated to provide lateral connections. Hints from the original roof form and the pattern on Juanita Nielsen’s top in a well-known photograph have inspired a zigzag theme, playfully replicated in ceiling linings, window screens and designs on doors.

The beautiful upper-level community spaces are naturally lit, with each given a distinctive character – one with a striking artwork applied to a curtained wall and the other with elegant doors forming the south wall. The main entry and foyer are deliberately understated to ensure safe and welcoming access by all members of this diverse community. The material palette carefully reveals and respects the rawness of the original warehouse brick and timber with refined detailing. In this building the community can take pride in itself, both literally via a pleasing transparency and through representation of a versatile and delightful “upcycling” of a valued public asset.


Neeson Murcutt Architects
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Project Team
City of Sydney project team Paula Yu (project manager), Felicity Gartelmann, Matthew Gribben (design managers)
Project associate
City of Sydney
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Access and BCA BCA Logic
Acoustic consultant Arup
Art curtain Locust Jones
Builder Growthbuilt
Childcare consultant Childcare by Design
ESD consultant Arup
Fire and hydraulic consultant Arup
Heritage consultant John Oultram Heritage and Design
Landscape consultant Sue Barnsley Design
Lift consultant Floth
Mechanical and electrical consultant Floth
Signage consultant Urbanite
Structural and civil consultant SDA Structures
Town planner Mersonn Pty Ltd
Traffic consultant Traffix Design
Site details
Location Sydney,  NSW,  Australia
Site type Urban
Category Commercial / public buildings
Type Culture / arts, Refurbishment
Project Details
Status Built



Published online: 2 Nov 2017
Words: 2017 National Architecture Awards Jury
Images: Brett Boardman


Architecture Australia, November 2017

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