A prestigious international award for architecture will often impress colleagues, competitors and clients but the honours heaped upon one Sydney building are likely to leave a more lasting impression.

The polished elliptical tower of 1 Bligh Street is the first in Australia to receive the influential International High Rise Award. It was selected from a ‘Who’s Who’ list of global entrants competing for the title of ‘the world’s most innovative high rise building’ in 2012.

The owners and designers of 1 Bligh have now donated the 50,000 euro prize money to the creation of a student prize at the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment that recognises sustainable high-rise architecture design excellence.

“We had to do something with the money and we couldn’t keep it,” jokes UNSW alumnus, teacher and Managing Director of Architectus, Ray Brown. “We wanted to use the prize to promote a deeper understanding of high rise buildings. We wanted to help discover the solutions that ensure better design of tall buildings in the Australian context and we thought it would be nice to have the building name go with an annual prize at UNSW.”

The annual $4,000 prize will be awarded to a final year Master of Architecture student who produces the best building scheme to demonstrate excellence in high-rise design (with an emphasis on sustainability).

Students only need look to 1 Bligh Street for inspiration. The collaborative architectural team of Sydney-based Architectus and Dusseldorf-based ingenhoven Architects have designed a building to fit snugly in a dense urban grid where three city streets collide.

1 Bligh is an engineering marvel. A host of environmentally sustainable initiatives were embodied in the building to achieve its coveted 6 Star Green Star Rating. The outside of the double-skin glass façade was constructed first, then the inner skin of the window wall, with the naturally ventilated void between the two holding 1700 computer controlled blinds for solar glare control. A naturally ventilated atrium rises to the full height of the building; on-site daily sewage treatment reuses 100,000 litres of wastewater from within the building and from the city sewage pipes while gas and solar energy are generated for cooling, heating and electricity.

A jury member of The International High Rise Award - announced every two years in the city of Frankfurt in Germany - described this beautifully resolved building as “generous at the ground level, elegant on the skyline, sophisticated in technology and [giving] end users an exemplary working environment”. So exemplary, apparently, that the Australian Prime Minister and the federal Leader of the Opposition will move in as tenants when working in Sydney.

“We believe passionately in integrated architecture where everything has a function and works together in a coherent way,’ explains Brown. “Our clients (co-owners DEXUS Property Group, DEXUS Wholesale Property Fund and Cbus Property) had the view that ‘if we don’t do something that is world’s best practice today it’s going to be obsolete by the time it reaches the end of the first lease cycle in 15 years time’. It’s a way of future proofing the building.”

The owners share the hope that recipients of the ‘1 Bligh Street Master of Architecture Final Year Prize’ will contribute to this conversation about world’s best practices in sustainability. The challenge for many young architect students will be the discovery of ‘how these buildings can be done better’ in the high-density cities of the future.

For more information contact:

Catherine Brown
Development Manager
Built Environment
+61 2 9385 6380

Source and image credit: UNSW IMPACT Newsletter (article by Anabel Dean).