Two recent student competitions-one sponsored by the Concrete Masonry Association and another by the University of NSW's SOLARCH division-have focused on the design of sustainable buildings

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The Concrete Masonry Association of Australia’s 13th annual design competition for architecture students sought innovative and practical concepts for a sustainable office building constructed with concrete masonry products.

Students were asked to design the new international headquarters for Egg Music (one of the world’s top five recording companies) to house music studios, offices, a café and function areas. With a sloping site in a city-fringe business park, the company wanted a building planned along energy-saving and loose fit principles, to make it cheaper to run, more adaptable to future ecological and technological requirements and conducive to long life. The two-stage competition was judged by Richard Johnson, Richard Francis-Jones, John Webb and Lucy Denham.

The winner was Stephen Cameron of the Queensland University of Technology, who earned a round-the-world air ticket and $1500 for a scheme comprising a masonry dish-a truncated egg form-partly buried in the hillside, with glazing opening up to the northern sun and distant lake views. Although this concept risked being dismissed as a one-liner, the judges felt it was handled with rigour and control; achieving a poetic quality with an innovative and site-specific approach to energy conservation. The heavy masonry shell is an effective thermal insulator; a double-layered translucent tensile membrane roof allows diffused light to fill the interior; perimeter glazing with adjustable louvres can bounce sunlight back into the building or, when lowered, block low-angle sun; and water and wind devices were included.

A Commendation was given to Glenn Vivian Scott of the University of NSW.

-From a report by Lucy Denham, architectural consultant for the Cement & Concrete Association of Australia.



The University of NSW’s National Solar Architecture Research Unit (SOLARCH) last year conducted a national student competition (sponsored by James Hardie) for projects displaying a high degree of investigation into the principles of sustainability and energy conservation.

The winner was Helen Stronach of the University of Newcastle, who submitted a design for a residential secondary high school on the remote coral atoll of Kiribati- employing locally sourced and renewable materials, low-impact supply and waste systems, appropriate design for thermal comfort, and with a generally low dependence on recurring energy use. As well as being a rigorously detailed solution for sustainability, her design transcended any simple, emblematic approach. There was a powerful theoretical agenda: incorporating the core mythic beliefs of the people for whom she was designing and subtly translating them into organising principles for a community of buildings.

The depth and breadth of Stronach’s winning scheme is a demonstration of the best potential of the problem-based learning regime at Newcastle. No other submitted project displayed the same seamless integration of attention to sustainability, or a broader agenda in architecture.

For notable, yet narrower, achievements, three Commendations were awarded: to Christian Grennan of UNSW, Noni Ruker of UTS and Milos Obradovic of UNSW.

Overall, the promoters were pleased with the standard of entries, although there were fewer than expected. Only a minority of proposals displayed the sort of naive diagrammatic approach to ‘green’ architecture which is regrettably too common in the profession itself.

-From a report by Steve King UNSW’s SOLARCH facility.



Published online: 1 May 1998


Architecture Australia, May 1998

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