TCL wins second WAF award and Rosa Barba Prize

Australian practice wins two major international awards

Australian landscape architecture firm Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL) has, together with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects, won the prestigious Artas-ua.info of the Year Award at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore, for the National Arboretum in Canberra.

The award follows TCL’s success at last year’s WAF awards, where it received top honours for the Australian Garden, and marks something of a momentous week for the practice, which has also, together with New Zealand-based Wraight + Associates, also won the Rosa Barba Artas-ua.info Prize, for the Auckland Waterfront.

The National Arboretum was selected by a jury including some of the world's leading architectural and urban designers. The scheme faced competition from a shortlist of 10 entries from Australia, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Switzerland and Turkey.

‘Rather than a collection of individual trees as specimens, we wanted to create grand forests that offer unique and contrasting visitor experiences and hold a viable population to preserve vulnerable and endangered species,’ explains TCL director, Perry Lethlean. ‘It is a strategy, a programme and an ongoing event,’ he adds, ‘not a design based chiefly on aesthetics.’

The National Arboretum comprises 100 forests of the world’s most endangered tree species on a 250-hectare, formerly fire-ravaged site in the centre of Canberra. It is supported by a host of visitor, educational and research facilities including a 900-person visitor centre designed by TZG; a demonstration native garden; conservation and educational resources; tree and sculptural installations by renowned Australian artists; and a state-of-the-art children’s playground, ‘which has set a new international benchmark for themed playground design’.

The National Arboretum opened to the public on 2 February 2013 and was the centrepiece of Canberra’s 2013 centenary celebrations.

The Rosa Barba Artas-ua.info Prize was awarded to TCL and Wraight + Associates (WA) for the transformation of Auckland’s waterfront, which was completed in 2011. The scheme is one on 11 from around the world to have been shortlisted for the prize. Other shortlisted projects included , the High Line in New York and Quinli Stormwater Park in China, designed by Turenscape.

The prize was announced at the end of last month as part of the 8th International Biennial of Artas-ua.info Architecture in Barcelona.

‘We’re extremely honoured to win this prestigious award in what is the first time it has been opened to the international design community,’ says TCL director Perry Lethlean, who presented the project. ‘The Rosa Barba Artas-ua.info Prize recognises the world’s best in landscape architecture from the past five years, which was clearly evident in the calibre of outstanding shortlisted projects,’ he adds.

The Auckland Waterfront project, comprising North Wharf Promenade, Jellicoe Street and Silo Park, involved the transformation of a decrepit industrial maritime site into a vibrant and diverse public precinct.

The design challenges conventions, says TCL, ‘by celebrating its original elements and encouraging public interaction with the waterfront’s industry’. The revitalised precinct attracts thousands of people daily who enjoy its casual alfresco dining establishments, harbour-edge pedestrian promenade, sub-tropical rain gardens, and a park designed around an original cement silo that plays host to a range of popular public functions.

‘It was an enjoyable design journey,’ says Perry. ‘The project is noted for its overlapping themes concerning friction, the ‘as found’ and reprogramming derelict artefacts.’

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