Australian Institute of Architects Awards Ceremony

(7.30pm, Thursday 27 June 2013, Jones Bay Wharf)

Thank you. Good evening everyone.

We established the City of Sydney Lord Mayor's Prize to award a project that raises the quality of our public spaces. The inaugural winner - Darling Quarter by Francis Jones Morehen Thorp - most certainly does that.

Designed with flair and credibility, it integrates commercial offices and open space at a human scale. With retail, cafes and restaurants, licensed and unlicensed seating areas, a promenade, public art, parkland and the most wonderful children's play area, it makes a wonderful contribution to our city.

The 4,000 square metre play area and youth theatre incorporates active play, mental play and water play, and is a wonderful meeting place for carers, parents and grandparents.

The roof profile and surrounding building scale of six stories allows winter sunshine into the landscaped areas and public spaces, and it is fundamental to the success of the whole project.

All this is underpinned by a new activity-based campus for the Commonwealth Bank which has seen the benefits of relocating in Central Sydney.

The project foresees the social and urban design implications of the trend towards activity-based work, where no employee has a desk of their own. Workers are more mobile, more likely to leave the building for lunch, to conduct a job interview or hold a team meeting.

This means that beautifully designed open space, both green and hard, is increasingly critical for every worker accommodated. There needs to be a place for them outside the building to meet, work, eat and walk, out of the wind and in the winter sunshine.

At night, fixed and interactive lighting combines public art with the capacity for extended opening hours.

It all unites to form a most inviting space.

I'd also like to mention others on our short-list of outstanding contributions to the creation of a finer public realm in Sydney.

Victoria Square's VSQ2 by Tony Caro in Zetland was one of them.

Through the City's own design excellence processes, the City's planning team led by Graham Jahn, the design skills of Tony Caro and his team, and the commitment of the developer, Meriton is now achieving urban design outcomes that it may not have thought itself capable of just a few years ago. And I was very pleased to recently open, together with Harry Triguboff, Nick Turner's VSQ North, also in Zetland.

At the Wayside Chapel, Environa Studio has made one of Sydney's long-standing social services a more approachable and accessible place, while fitting it sensitively into the Potts Point streetscape. I was really moved to see a person living with a mental illness watering the rooftop vegetable garden. While the growing number of young parents in Kings Cross take their toddlers there every Monday morning for a junior jivers session.

At the Art Gallery of NSW, Johnson Pilton Walker turned the accessibility requirements at the front entry into a lovely piece of sculpture, transforming the mundane with simplicity, clarity and quality materials.

On another scale altogether, Newton Rail Exchange by Caldis Cook with the NSW Government Architect has transformed King Street, with a spirit rarely seen in contemporary infrastructure for public transport.

It has made a welcoming space that gives a real sense of arrival and rebrands public transport at the same time.

So you can see that picking a winner was a hard call. And you know it's a very tricky business for an elected representative to have to choose winners. After judging my first Surry Hills Festival dog show, I kept running into people who would introduce me to their dog who didn't win a prize. Thereafter, I only agreed to judge the dog show if every dog got a prize! However, we don't have prizes for all tonight!

And despite its already generous swag of awards, Darling Quarter is our winner. It shows how Sydney can achieve greater-density development not by sacrificing public space, but by shaping and creating outstanding spaces to share.

I'm sure that Darling Quarter will find its place in the international urban design text books.

It delivers what our City controls, policies and advocacy all aim for.

Since it's on Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority land, I congratulate SHFA for its role in delivering this terrific outcome.

And of course…

I warmly congratulate FJMT and Aspect Studios, and their client, Lend Lease.

AIA LORD MAYOR'S PRIZE CITATION:

I am delighted to award the inaugural City of Sydney Lord Mayor's Prize to Darling Quarter by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt), with Aspect Studios and Lend Lease.

The prize has been established to recognise a project that improves the quality of our public domain through architectural or urban design excellence, and it may be for, or include public art.

The inaugural winner amply fulfils our criteria.

It revives the quarter with urbanity, flair and credibility, and provides an exemplary integration of work place and recreation space, hard surfaces and green space, active and passive uses.

Underpinned by a new activity-based campus for the Commonwealth Bank, Darling Quarter is a model of sustainability, with tri-generation, black water treatment and energy saving systems.

Its achievements in sustainability are matched by its urban design achievements and its contribution to urban vitality.

It integrates commercial offices and open space at a very human scale, with its six-storey height and roof profile allowing winter sunshine into the public spaces, making them a welcome gathering place year-round.

At night, fixed and interactive lighting combines public art with extended operating hours for the retail, cafes and restaurants.

The development provides licensed and unlicensed seating as well as a promenade, public seating areas, parkland and the most wonderful children's play area.

This generous 4,000 sq m play area and youth theatre provides for active play, mental play and water play, and is a meeting place for carers, parents and grandparents.

It is a most welcome addition to our City.