2012 Australian Institute of Architects – Premier’s Prize

Giidany Miirlarl Education Space, Coffs Harbour

Fisher Design + Architecture in association with Mackenzie Pronk Architects

The Premier’s Prize recognises an architect or a project that has contributed to the advancement of architecture in our State. While in the past it has been left to the personal discretion of the Premier, this year I opened up the decision to the people of NSW. And I have always been very confident that the people of NSW invariably ‘get it right’. Through an online poll, the readers of the Sydney Morning Herald voted on the three shortlisted projects nominated by the Government Architect, Peter Poulet. Although all three projects were worthy and embodied a strong social commitment, there can only be one winner. I am very pleased to award the 2012 NSW Premier’s Prize, confirmed by an overwhelming number of citizens, to the Giidany Miirlarl Education Space in Coffs Harbour. Giidany Miirlarl celebrates local Aboriginal culture and history and represents a healing of the scars from when Muttonbird Island was joined to the mainland in 1924. Importantly, the awarding of this project demonstrates our support for all regional communities and in particular Aboriginal communities across NSW. Fisher Design and Architecture in association with Mackenzie Pronk Architects were commissioned by Arts Mid North Coast, National Parks and Wildlife, and Coffs Harbour City Council to build a robust and elegant structure that provides public space, as well as an opportunity to learn about the cultural and environmental history of the site. Giidany Miirlarl successfully achieves this. Local Aboriginal stories about the island will be told in the amphitheatre and the history of the place has been inscribed for all to see on panels which spiral up the rising ramp enveloping the meeting place. Local artists Shane Phillips and Janelle Marshall have creatively interpreted traditional stories of the island and added to a place for social interaction, storytelling, learning and rest. This modestly scaled building project has made a significant social contribution and has been a truly collaborative effort bringing the community together to tell the story of the island. I commend it as a worthy recipient of the 2012 Premier’s Prize – as selected by the people of New South Wales.

Jury Citation