Popular choice – 2012 NSW Architecture Awards Premier Prize

For the first time the vote for the Premier’s Award was in the hands of the public via an online poll, writes KILMENY ADIE.

The state government’s most senior architect says letting the public choose the Premier’s Award has proven a success and that he’d welcome 
a repeat of the system next year.

NSW government architect Peter Poulet had to narrow down
74 candidates for the coveted design award to the three finalists from which the public would choose.

This was the first year the public was able to vote, via an online poll, for their favourite architect-designed building, which turned out to be the Giidany Miirlarl Education Space, performance area at Mutton Bird Island, Coffs Harbour, designed by Fisher Design + Architecture and Mackenzie Pronk Architects.

Poulet says he consulted his heart as well as his head and looked beyond pure aesthetics when choosing the final three for the Premier’s Award category in the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2012 NSW Architecture Awards.

‘‘Good design is not just about how things look, it’s how they work and contribute to people’s wellbeing. It can facilitate community interaction, wellbeing and health, resulting in more resilient, sustainable and liveable places,’’ Poulet says.

‘‘[The finalists] were chosen easily because they displayed a broad understanding of the contribution that design and innovative thinking makes to our social cohesion and our physical environment.’’

Poulet’s other two shortlisted projects were Ropes Crossing Community Centre, in western Sydney, and Common Ground, a 104-unit permanent housing residence targeted at reducing homelessness at Camperdown.

‘‘All three entrants exhibited exceptional design thinking and I was thrilled that a project that celebrates Aboriginal culture and history in a regional setting was awarded,’’ Poulet says. ‘‘It’s pleasing to see young emerging architects producing thoughtful and creative work.

‘‘The public liked that the project brought together Aboriginal and European histories and stories in a spirit of reconciliation.’’

Poulet says opening up the award to the public vote was ‘‘an opportunity for architects to engage with the general public in an immediate and direct way’’.

Sydney Morning Herald, June 30 2012