The architects’ architect awarded top national architectural prize

In fitting recognition of more than three decades of exemplary architectural practice, the Australian Institute of Architects is this year awarding its most prestigious honour, the Gold Medal, to the man known as the ‘architect’s architect’, Mr John Wardle.

The Jury described John as a most worthy candidate for this highest accolade, the man who, ‘across the nation he has restored faith in what architects do best – the design of buildings that function well and please hand and eye.’

John’s ‘iterative design process’ has been called out for particular note by the Jury describing it as ‘an exemplar for students of architecture.’ The Jury applauded John’s ‘collaborations with artists and craftspeople’ for being ‘a practice of mutual enrichment not only for the built environment but also for each contributing discipline.’ 

Having worked both nationally and internationally, including on the 16th International Biennale Architettura in Venice, John’s craft is recognisable right around the country on projects of varying scale, from single family homes such as the Kitamura house in Kew (1995) to large-scale institutional and commercial buildings such as the Queensland Brain Institute (2004-2007) in Brisbane, or the Jane Foss Russell Building in Sydney (2009). The Jury notes that these and John’s other projects ‘exemplify the national impact of Wardle’s personal project of raising the public status of architectural design.’

From his Melbourne-based studio founded in 1986, the Jury described John as having created a practice ‘of national stature and international repute; a practice where design excellence takes the prime position in every single project and at every scale.’ His practice has won numerous state Institute awards for architectural excellence in Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland as well as at the national and international level. This peer recognition ‘reinforces the view of John Wardle as an architect whose contribution to the development of Australian architecture has been distinguished and substantial.’ 

Jury Chair and Australian Institute of Architects National President Professor Helen Lochhead congratulated John on receiving this highest of honours.

‘As a Gold Medal recipient John has been recognised as one of the leading architects in our national architectural story,’ Professor Lochhead said.

‘His outstanding contribution to architecture is wide-ranging and enduring, with his work having a lasting influence in shaping our profession.

‘I offer our warmest congratulations on this richly deserved recognition. As the Jury has noted, John is a designer of consummate skill, whose works, from the smallest intricate piece of joinery to complex high-rise buildings receive detailed attention and conscientious formal experiment. 

‘John’s works celebrate both individual craft and the broader production processes of making a building, making him the consummate architects’ architect.’

John completed a Master of Architecture at RMIT University in 2001, and he is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Art, Architecture and Design, University of South Australia. 

Awarded annually since 1960, previous Gold Medal winners include some of Australia’s most recognisable architectural names including Robin Boyd, Jørn Utzon, Harry Seidler, Romaldo Giurgola and Glenn Murcutt.

The 2020 Jury comprised:

  • Professor Helen Lochhead LFRAIA (Chair)– National President, Australian Institute of Architects | Dean, UNSW Built Environment
  • Clare Cousins FRAIA – Immediate Past President, Australian Institute of Architects | Director, Clare Cousins Architects
  • Geoffrey London LFRAIA – Professor of Architecture, University of Western Australia
  • Peter Elliott AM LFRAIA – 2017 Gold Medallist | Principal, Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design
  • Wendy Lewin FRAIA – Principal, Wendy Lewin Architect.

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