AA Prize for Unbuilt Work

With entries down in eligible categories, no Prize is awarded this year–but honours are given to five schemes from Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney.

This is an article from the Architecture Australia archives and may use outdated formatting

Richard Black and Stephen Neille’s Yokohama Port Terminal.

Vivian Mitsogianni’s Wagga Wagga Civic Centre elevation.

Alas, no prize is announced in this fourth year of Architecture Australia’s annual competition to celebrate unbuilt designs. Instead, two jury mentions are given in the prize-eligible Building Design category and one winner and two jury mentions in the non-eligible Architectural Concepts category.

Although utterly different in scale and programme, these five proposals include some similar strands of theory which seem to support a synthesis between modernity’s cold rationality (in terms of structure) and a postmodern understanding of the emotional power of sensory experiences. Four propose fragmented forms; all five explore different ways to leave traces of the past, provoke the senses and generate unpredictable journeys through interiors.

Thirty four entries were assessed by Sydney architects Neil Durbach and Ken Maher, previous winners Alice Hampson of Brisbane and Michael Markham from Melbourne, and AA’s editor, Davina Jackson (Sydney). Like past juries, this panel was looking for more than the kind of excellence likely to earn a building an architecture award; it sought theoretically and aesthetically exceptional propositions, not necessarily resolved.

In this context, jurors were disappointed by what they considered to be a lower standard of innovation, imagination and intellectual complexity than was evident in previous prize-winning projects. Yet in past years, too, some jurors have complained of entries lacking the desired combination of conceptual depth and aesthetic sizzle.

Particularly disturbing this year was a sudden reduction of entries in the four prize-eligible categories—a surprising response because the 1995 competition offered, for the first time, a tangible prize of $1000. It appears that the competition is not generally attracting the bracket of architects whose names crop up regularly in the RAIA awards for built work. This raises two questions: First, are AA Prize jurors off-the-air in preferring daring ideas to resolved and pragmatic solutions (as inferred by The Australian’s Peter Ward in his critique of the 1993 Prize)? Alternatively, are enough Australian architects designing, for real clients and conditions, the kind of cutting edge architecture expected by sophisticated AA Prize judges?

Fortunately, there was encouraging activity in a new category—Architectural Concepts—which was open to students and offered exposure for concepts undiminished by reality checks. It now appears that this category has much potential to illuminate ebbs and flows on the edge of Australian architectural theory—so we are making it eligible for the 1996 prize.

Davina Jackson


Form and programme diagram.

Building Design

Jury Mention
Vivian Mitsogianni, Melbourne
Wagga Wagga Civic Centre

In response to the recent international competition to design a new $12 million civic centre for the NSW country city of Wagga Wagga, this (unsuccessful) entry proposed “a horizontal monument … a low, flat Opera House … a three-storey pancake”. The scheme incorporates new council offices and chambers, a regional art gallery, a library and additions to the existing civic theatre. It proposed to reshape the lakeside site as “an activities precinct” with “landscape strategies as a spotlight that defines the edges” and placing “the individual in the cracks, creases and edges of its workings”. A flared sightline, placed diagonally across the site, severs the building into two parts, separating the council and cultural functions. The two masses then are fragmented by further strategies of “striation, severance and relocation” to weave threads of landscape and architecture—including contrasts of light against solid—in a complex texture across the site.

Jury Comments “One-eyed vision, weak urbanism“—Neil Durbach. “Acknowledges the fragmental development of Australian towns and cities”–Alice Hampson. “Conceptually strong; less impressive as forms”—Davina Jackson. “Inclusive of the public place; uneven in resolution”—Ken Maher. “Flawed, but the year’s most honest effort; appropriately empty and stubborn”—Michael Markham.



Axonometric of components.

Building Design

Jury Mention
Richard Black and Stephen Neille, Perth Yokohama Port Terminal

Four components structure this (unsuccessful) competition proposal for a 23 billion yen ocean liner terminal at Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama Bay, Japan. The Plate is the basis of the scheme; a platform along the pier which connects arrivals and departures on several levels and has a sculpted surface to direct vehicles and pedestrians. The Sleeve is the principal enclosure, comprising an exterior skin of stone and a lining of orange glass. Sandwiched between these two surfaces are support facilities, while openings allow glimpses out to the sea and the city. The Cloud is a translucent, glazed, object containing gardens and a ‘Saloon of Civic Exchange’, both accessible to the public. The Oasis is an urban space poised between two framed views—one of the city, the other of the ocean—which serves as a setting for rituals of arrival, departure and remaining.

Jury Comments “Accomplished scheme from a complex brief”–Alice Hampson. “Cool-headed bravura by astute adventurers”—Davina Jackson. “Internationally informed; incisive and appropriate”—Ken Maher. “A last programmatic flower of functionalism profiling naval super-structure?”— Michael Markham. “Beautifully drawn and spatially coherent“ —Neil Durbach.


Sectional diagram of Richard Black’s pied-a-terre.

Architectural Concepts

Winner Richard Black, Perth
Kookynie Pied-A-Terre

Translated from French, ‘pied-a-terre’ literally means ‘foot on the ground’, but in English, the term describes a small residence used for short periods of time. This proposal for a pied-a-terre is the third of a series of speculative projects which propose architectural interventions on the sites of abandoned settlements. The intention is to “forge an architecture of memory, light and surface”. The concept is defined as a wall and four corridors: the wall installed with amenities such as water, food, storage and electricity; the corridors generating different relationships between the structure and its natural environment. Theoretically, corridor 1 represents a sense of being “against the earth, darkness”; corridor 2 represents entry, corridor 3 is about “emptiness, an interior awaiting habitation, walls to manipulate light” and corridor 4 is the result of “splitting a glass wall, open to the sky, yellow glass, light, the passage of the day recorded on the glazed surface”.

Jury Comments “A romantic notion, ruthlessly abstracted”—Davina Jackson. “Brilliant evocation of space and landscape”—Ken Maher. “Romantic as Pittwater sundecks but in the opposite way; turned in, paranoid”—Michael Markham. “Holds a light to the possible architecture of transient towns“—Neil Durbach. “Gradually reveals the desert by manipulation of section”–Alice Hampson.


Model of Ben Hewett’s Sydney Harbour Centre.

Architectural Concepts

Jury Mention
Ben Hewett, Sydney
Sydney Harbour Interpretative Centre

This scheme, from a University of New South Wales studio taught by Peter Oppenheim and Paul-Alan Johnson, is for a visitor centre offering exhibitions, lectures and information about Sydney Harbour. Many visitors would pass through the structure on their way to a boat tour, others might arrive after hours for lectures or browsing outdoor information boards; so all or parts of the building would need to be lockable at different times. The site is Little Manly Point near North Head, a park with strong axial views down the harbour. This proposal sets up the interior to create a “non-linear” passage of experiences designed to amplify sensations; beginning with a dark tunnel, including a rusting hulk, introducing visitors to a precarious sense of being on the edge and allowing wind, sea spray and the smell of salt water to permeate the interior.

Jury Comments “Architecture of sensation; a heightening of site and circumstance”—Ken Maher. “I didn’t understand this”— Michael Markham. “No comment“—Neil Durbach. “Richly engages with the site, inviting subtle discovery by the occupants”–Alice Hampson. “Offers real connections with the subject being celebrated; more than a display”—Davina Jackson.


Andrew Hagemann’s suburban houses.

Architectural Concepts

Jury Mention
Andrew Hagemann, Perth
Three Suburban Houses

This project by a Curtain University graduate focuses on “the importance of the graphic discourse” to test ideas—and proposes— via Ashton Raggatt McDougall-inspired photocopier manipulations—a new kind of visual approach to communicate architectural proposals. It is suggested that “to communicate clearly the implications of a design … one would have to transform the medium through which architecture is represented in a desire to appeal to the popular culture. … It is possible to converse between the two idioms.“ The scheme itself is for three modest ‘railway carriage’ houses (each 105 sq metres) on a suburban site in Marangaroo, north of Perth; a setting suggesting a simple, tough response in scale and envelope. The forms of these houses combines photocopier ‘stretches’ of a photograph of Howard Raggatt’s Alphington house with the notion of a wrapped structure with roof and walls seamlessly constructed of one material.

Jury Comments “Has the grain of row houses but half aren’t there, yielding post-war gardens”— Michael Markham. “No comment“—Neil Durbach. “One wonders the effect of such developments repeated within suburbia”–Alice Hampson. “Uncertain exploration of worthwhile themes”—Davina Jackson. “Ignores important aspects of housing but a challenge to the suburbs”—Ken Maher.



Published online: 1 Mar 1996


Architecture Australia, March 1996

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