DEBATING THE AWARDS
Being on the jury for any award programme is an honour; being a juror for the RAIA National Architecture Awards is a particular privilege. Each year the national jurors return from the jury tour exhausted and excited – charged by the intensity of the experience. They have seen a fantastic array of work and conducted nonstop, vigorous debates about the merits of particular projects, the meaning of “Architecture” and how to assess it. No-one takes this task lightly – every jury has a strong sense of the enormous responsibility that goes with judging one’s peers at this level.
Once consensus is reached, sometimes with difficulty, the citations are vital for conveying the thinking behind the jury’s decisions. This is itself a difficult task – how to capture the complexity of the occasionally fraught decision-making process in a few hundred words? The awards are then presented, and documented in Architecture Australia along with the citations and a jury overview.
And debate begins again. Everyone has an opinion about the decisions made, and what the year’s crop means for architecture in Australia. Some speculate on the personalities involved, some bemoan projects omitted or simply wonder about what has been left out, others celebrate those works included. This ongoing discussion is vital to the development of architectural culture here, and plays a key role in determining how we think about architecture in this country, and which projects will eventually become part of the Australian architectural canon.
This year the architectural community will no doubt also discuss the revamped awards structure. What of the new categories (Multi-residential andSmall Project Architecture)? Should Sustainable Architecture continue as a separate category? Does the new three-tiered structure – named award, award and commendation – make a difference? And so on.
The new three-tiered structure means that coverage in Architecture Australia has also altered. Unfortunately, we are no longer able to present National Award winners on a double-page spread – these pages are now the province of Named Awards only. Nonetheless, we have made every effort to give a strong sense of winning projects by ensuring that they are published with drawings as well as photographs. We hope that this will continue to encourage readers to seek out further information, thereby enabling continuing informed discussion.
But the most significant change this year is the publication of critical reflections on the awards outcomes, written by Michael Keniger and Sandra Kaji-O’Grady. The ongoing debate now begins in the pages of Architecture Australia.
These pieces were commissioned in response to input from Carey Lyon, jury chair. Carey argued that in addition to celebrating the awards outcomes, the Architecture Australia awards issue should start the process of critical reflection about what it all means. We are delighted that the RAIA has initiated this critique and thank Michael and Sandra for being the first to put themselves on the line by agreeing to take on this difficult task. These pieces will give a further focus for broader communal discussion about architecture here and readers are very welcome to contribute to this discussion via our letters page.
Justine Clark, editor Architecture Australia.