House envy ensues as Nelson Marlborough Architecture Awards winners are announced

Buildings with a social purpose and a dose of serious house envy seemed to be the flavour of choice at last night’s Nelson Marlborough Architecture Awards, the first in a series of awards across the country that form part of the NZIA’s New Zealand Architecture Awards series. 

Among this year’s winners were the Picton Emergency Operations Centre, designed by Matz Architects, and Nelson’s venerable Theatre Royal, which has been restored by Palmer and Palmer Architects.        

“It’s great to see architects doing excellent work where it can be seen, used and appreciated by the general public,” said awards jury convenor, architect Virginia Fay. 

On the residential side of things, two Nelson area projects, one by Redbox Architects and Irving Smith Jack, took home accolades, as did a West Coast bach designed by C Nott Architects.

The bach also nabbed an award for sustainable architecture, together with the Trafalgar Park Stage 1 Upgrade and the NMIT Arts and Media Building.

“On these three projects the architects had carefully considered the environmental impact and performance of their designs,” said Fay. “It was obvious that careful consideration had been to the future life of these buildings, and to ensuring they would be adaptable to future needs.”       

Here’s the complete list of projects, together with judges citations. 

Architecture – Houses

Bisley House Alterations, Nelson – Redbox Architects Ltd

The Architect has carried out very skilful alterations and additions to a modest mid-twentieth century house. The resulting thoughtfully planned spaces  provide an excellent setting for the owners’ lifestyle and for their artworks. Views over the site to the bay are subtly captured, and enhanced through careful consideration of the proportions of windows and spaces. Everywhere there is evidence of thoughtful architectural detailing. 

Mountain Range House, Waimea – Irving Smith Jack Architects Ltd

Exuberant yet carefully developed, this ‘enclosed verandah’ satisfies the clients’ brief for a space capable of accommodating large numbers while retaining the intimacy and comfort required for everyday living. Together, the material selection, simple plan layout and furnishings produce a memorable space. A strong feature is the undulating timber clad ceiling which floats above the interior. While detailing and form are less convincing on the exterior, the roof structure has created a poetic spatial play internally, helping to define areas of the large open plan space. 

West Coast Bach – C Nott Architects Ltd

The building settles perfectly on its site, providing breathtaking views of the bush and sea. Dynamic in its form and response to the site and wider setting, the bach is purposely understated in materials, and simply constructed with no affectation or stylistic pretensions. It is clear that the Architect has found harmony with the clients and their interests. The essence of ‘retreat’, this is a bach to relax into and feel at one with, all the while protected against the rugged West Coast environment.

Interior Architecture

Nelson City Council Customer Services Centre – Jerram Tocker Barron Architects Ltd 

The Architect has achieved an inspired transformation of what were awkward and dark public spaces. The curved concrete structure of the existing building has been exposed and used to inform the interior, continuing the circular geometry throughout the design as a playful motif. A combination of natural and artificial light creates a bright and open public space that is a pleasure to move through. The architectural detailing, choice of materials and colours are carefully considered. Externally, there is a relatively seamless transition between the existing building and the alterations.

Public Architecture

Picton Emergency Operations Centre – Matz Architects

This complex housing the Picton and Marlborough Sounds command centre for both the Coast Guard and the St John Ambulance Service comprises two buildings sited in parallel and joined by a central connection. Externally, the complex looks crisp and the functional areas within are clearly apparent, and the architectural development of the buildings is straightforward and direct. The Architect has met all the requirements of the two parties elegantly and efficiently, and the original clarity of the concept design is evident in the building’s realisation.

NMIT Arts and Media Building – Irving Smith Jack Architects Ltd

The building is groundbreaking in terms of its timber technology. The innovative timber structure is clearly visible in the building, as are all of the associated structural elements. The building has a clear plan and cross section and the Architect has pursued a rigorous coding of design elements which helps the user to understand the layout as well as the building structure. Natural light is beautifully handled in the project, and the teaching spaces are delightful yet practical and hard-wearing, with views and connections to the city and neighbourhood. The building is highly compatible with its context.

Planning and Urban Design

Trafalgar Park Stage 1 Upgrade – Irving Smith Jack Architects Ltd

Working to a tight budget, the Architect has produced a significant and highly functional new boundary ‘zone’ for Trafalgar Park. The simple palette of low-maintenance materials includes naturally weathering timber, natural concrete and galvanised steel. The overall design and each of the key elements are robust and carefully detailed. The public entrance spaces at each of the park’s gates are well scaled, inviting and appealing. Successful links between the architecture and the landscape elements have created a unified edge to the park, connecting it with the city.


Theatre Royal, Nelson – Palmer and Palmer Architects Ltd

The Architect has achieved a virtually seamless integration of the original timber theatre auditorium with a completely new stage and back-of-house facilities. The attention to the historic detailing and design of this listed 1870s building is commendable, as is the successful incorporation of modern mechanical services, achieved without compromising the appearance and original atmosphere of the theatre. The verandah addition to the street frontage invests the building with a strong and attractive urban presence, in addition to forming a useful balcony area on the upper level.

Sustainable Architecture

NMIT Arts and Media Building – Irving Smith Jack Architects Ltd

The Architect’s absolute commitment to sustainability is evident in this project. Where possible, timber and other materials have been sought locally, and the treatment of timber has been kept to a minimum. Simple systems, which inform the design of the whole building, have been employed for passive ventilation, heating and shading. An innovative response and approach to planning and to the brief ensures that the spaces are flexible and adaptable. 

West Coast Bach – C Nott Architects Ltd

The Architect has used simple construction methods and has embraced environmental principles to reduce the impact of the house in its remote setting. Robust materials, including salvaged timber, suggest the area’s history and evoke a sense of permanence. The bach has a small footprint but with its clever design and links and interactions with its powerful site, it seems larger than the sum of its constructed spaces.

Trafalgar Park Stage 1 Upgrade – Irving Smith Jack Architects Ltd

This project demonstrates a commitment to civic sustainability, through the adaptive re-use of existing structures and the development of attractive urban spaces and landscaping which relate to the new architecture. The creation of a new green park area at the Maitai entry, which links Trafalgar Park to the city by other pedestrian routes, is especially commendable.

 Next up on the architecture awards calendar are the Auckland Architecture Awards, held on October 12. 

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