‘Shorts and t-shirt’ Rockhampton gallery scores top architecture award

The new Rockhampton Museum of Art is a welcoming building, Queensland-style.

Nov 01, 2023, updated Nov 01, 2023
The Rockhampton Museum of Art is among the winners at the 2023 National Architecture Awards. (AAP Image/Supplied by National Architecture Awards)

The Rockhampton Museum of Art is among the winners at the 2023 National Architecture Awards. (AAP Image/Supplied by National Architecture Awards)

“You feel like you can wander in there in your shorts and t-shirt,” said architect Lindsay Clare, who designed the building with wife and fellow architect Kerry Clare.

The waterfront museum, which opened in 2022, has won a major prize at the 2023 National Architecture Awards, the Sir Zelman Cowen Award.

The building was not only designed to be welcoming, it also had to link the city with the river, host local shows and international exhibitions, and keep the city’s art collection safe from heat and humidity.

It was no small task, but the three-year project, which cost about $34 million, has so far exceeded expectations for increased visitor numbers.

The Rockhampton Museum of Art was a special project, said Kerry and Lindsay Clare, who also designed Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art.

Its sandstone elements were dug from the same quarry as the nearby historic Customs House – in fact, the builders used scraps from the first dig more than a century ago.

And the gallery can be closed off so people can use three storeys of the building for events, making it a multi-purpose destination.

Unlike designing private houses, public architecture could be experienced by many people, and benefit the whole community, said Kerry Clare.

“A public building is there hopefully for at least 50 years, so we find it quite gratifying to be involved in those sorts of projects,” she said.

The National Award for Public Architecture went to the Art Gallery of NSW’s Sydney Modern building designed by Japanese firm SANAA, and the yet-to-be opened Melbourne Holocaust Museum from Kerstin Thompson Architects.

The judges travelled to every state and territory to visit 68 building projects over two weeks and decide on the winners.

“Australia is in the depths of a once-in-a-generation housing crisis, and a climate crisis,” said jury chair Shannon Battisson.

“We are in dire need of new approaches to our built environment.”

Battisson hopes the awards will provide inspiration for more buildings that engage with the climate, sustainability and culture.

Almost a third of the winning projects in 2023 are in regional Australia.

Merricks Farmhouse on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, designed by Michael Lumby with Nielsen Jenkins, won the National Award for Residential Architecture, alongside another Victorian project, spring creek road farm house by architects brew koch.

Melbourne’s Nightingale Village apartment development in Brunswick won the multiple housing residential category, while other public works were also recognised, with the overhaul of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall winning a heritage award and another for interior architecture.


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