News Day

Council House wins WA’s only national architecture award


Council House which in 1990 dodged a date with the wrecking ball is the only Western Australian building to receive a national architecture award for 2015.

At the awards, held in Brisbane earlier tonight, original architects Jeffrey Howlett and Donald Bailey were lauded for designing the landmark building.

Richard OffenOfficially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1963, the 11-storey building on St Georges Terrace is now on the state heritage list.

Executive Director of Heritage Perth, a group that raises awareness of historic buildings, Richard Offen, said that in 1960 Perth City Council launched a national architecture competition for the opportunity to design a new council HQ.

“It reflected the need for high rise office buildings to accommodate everybody,” Mr Offen said.

Howlett and Bailey’s design won the competition.

“The ground floor is completely glass from St Georges Terrace,” Mr Offen said.

“It was intended to make the building look as though it was floating on the Swan River.”Untitled-4

The irony behind tonight’s national award is that in 1990 the then State Labor Government recommended that Council House be demolished.

“The building, coming from the ’60s, was full of asbestos and they were just beginning to realise what a dangerous material that was,” Mr Offen said.

Mr Offen said the decision to demolish Council House was overturned in 1995 after a public outcry, and the building was refurbished and is still going strong.

“Quite simply, it was a ground-breaking design, both in its architecture with these T-sunshades on the outside but also in the use of structural concrete,” he said.

Curtin University Senior Lecturer of Architecture Khoa Do said there was great value in award winning architecture.

“Great architecture is when anyone can look at it and know it’s a great building,” Mr Do said.

Untitled-5He said it was an achievement that three WA buildings were nominated for tonight’s national awards.

WA projects that did not win an award but received commendation were Fiona Stanley Hospital in the Public Architecture category, and for the Lovestory Shop in Mosman Park in the Small Projects category.

“Perth is growing up and being very brave,” Mr Do said.

“We are a focused city that is attracting attention.”

President of the WA Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects Philip Griffiths said Perth was becoming a leader in architecture and no longer looked to the eastern states for direction.

“Traditionally Western Australia lagged behind other states in design, but with the increased use of digital communication, the lag has gone and we are in step with our eastern state counterparts,” Mr Griffiths said.

This year the awards attracted 861 entries across 14 categories.

Photographs by Tabitha Wong and Isabella Di Toro

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