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2018 National Architecture Awards: The Harry Seidler Award for Commercial Architecture

Barwon Water by GHDWoodhead Commercial Architecture: The Harry Seidler Award Australian Institute of Architects

Jury citation

Barwon Water has occupied this central site in Geelong for over eighty years and the two existing buildings, which are now joined, for over forty years. In deciding to remain on the site and to adaptively re-use these buildings, the organization has made a positive contribution to the consolidation of the Geelong city centre.

The re-use of the buildings resulted in very low embodied energy compared to building anew but also yielded a far more intimate floor plate than the supersized workplace floor plates that are now the norm. The transformed workplace feels vibrant and domestic in scale and is well suited to creating compact workplace “neighbourhoods.”

A high-performance shading facade was developed, which also tempers the scale of the building, both externally and from within. The effectiveness of the facade treatment gives the building an overall sense of purpose – one that aligns with the qualities of a public authority dedicated to providing one of the most fundamental services.

The investment in sophisticated, state-of-the-art mechanical ventilation systems has provided the building owner with substantial savings. With a 100 percent fresh air supply, this is also a much healthier building that should encourage all public agencies to invest in assets over the long term and to use the best technologies available.

The jury found the project to be well balanced and felt that the architects took a considered approach to creating a contemporary, well-scaled workplace for the City of Geelong. It sets an excellent precedent for re-using the aged, underperforming building stock located in regional centres throughout Australia.

For more coverage, read the project review by Jennifer Calzini.


Project Team
Martin Palmer, Joel Lee (design architects), Cameron Ross (project architect), Michelle Phillips (designer), Will Delaney (interior design), Caroline Marten, Cathy Ismail (documentation), Simon Scillio (detailer)
Acoustic and materials engineer GHDWoodhead
Builder Monaco Hickey
Building surveyor Floreancig Smith Building Surveyors
Civic and environmental engineer GHDWoodhead
Facade engineer Inhabit
Fire engineer Arup
Geotechnical engineer GHDWoodhead
Landscape consultant GHDWoodhead
Structural and service engineer GHDWoodhead
Site details
Site type Urban
Category Commercial / public buildings
Type Commercial
Project Details
Status Built
Completion date 2018
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