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Overview and judges

The 5th Year Student Design Awards is a competition-based format involving four nominated students from each of New Zealand’s three architecture schools.

From 12 presentations, the jury selects a single NZIA Graphisoft Student Design Awards winner, who receives a monetary prize of $5,000. Two highly commended awards are also conferred.

The student design awards have now been running for more than eleven years and for seven of those years they have been kindly partnered by Graphisoft. One aim of the awards is to provide New Zealand’s leading architecture students with exposure to a jury of high-calibre judges. This year, David Sheppard, from Sheppard & Rout, Camilla Block, from Australian firm Durbach Block Jaggers, and John Melhuish, from Herriot + Melhuish, undertook judging roles. Alongside their critical expertise, each jury member was selected for their strong ties to both professional practice and academia.

The student design awards are presentation based, with nominated students required to present significant final-year projects. Across the years that the awards have been undertaken, a high standard – with respect to both quality of presentation material and verbal explanation – has become customary. In 2013, as in preceding years, there was also evidence of another awards tradition: an incredible diversity in subject matter.

Perhaps no project was more left-field than that presented by University of Auckland student Raphaela Rose.

Based on two key moments in Auckland’s sexual history – the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 and the ongoing plans by the Chow brothers, notorious purveyors of houses of ill repute, for a CBD-based mega-brothel ­– Rose’s project Sex(uality) and the City: Counteracting the Cock-ups of Auckland’s Main Strip, achieves the rare feat of combining architecture, parody and political and sexual folly into a stylish, sparely drawn package.

Like Raphaela, other students channelled social concerns through their work. For Unitec student Tessa Crosby, the placement of health infrastructure at the city fringe is an outdated mode. Her designs for a regional oncology centre within Auckland’s CBD demonstrated that urban medical facilities can enhance patient experience and bridge the gap between the medical profession and everyday life. Unitec’s Daniel Smith, with a proposal for a school in Cambodia, recognised the importance of collaborative design in humanitarian aid projects, if heavy-handed results and neo-colonial impressions are to be avoided. The University of Auckland’s Marianne Calvelo expressed the conflation of the domestic realm and the workplace with a proposed headquarters for Architecture + Women NZ within Auckland’s St. Kevin’s Arcade.

This year there were also projects with theoretical precedents. Ashley Benck, from Victoria University of Wellington, considered human integration with machines, investigating, with wonderful drawings, how the cyborg can be used as a catalyst to re-engage the body with architecture. Toby Coxon, also from Victoria University, interwove with his futuristic designs – for a not-so-humble bakery – ideas related to the Spinozan notion of ‘affect’.

There were also projects rooted in the practical. Solutions to the looming spectre of sea-level rise were sought by Tara-Lee Carden (VUW). City of Flux considers watery iterations of Wellington’s CBD across the next century, with canals and architectural connections as suggested solutions.

Further south, in Christchurch, a city looks to build anew – but what of its remnant architectural history? Unitec’s David Cook proposed a theatre project inserted between the ruined façades of old buildings, seeking a fine balance between responding to the past and preparing for the future.

Extraction lands – oil fields, mines and quarries – and their re-use once mined to extinction provided a starting point for University of Auckland student Nathan Swaney. His designs for a shipbreaking yard and seafarer’s centre were sited in Taranaki, where he sees the extraction of oil and gas putting the port town of New Plymouth on a finite timeline.

From old infrastructure to new, Hayden Grindell (VUW) looked at ways of integrating buildings traditionally associated with remote areas into urban environments. Date with Data imagines how data centres, massive, strictly utilitarian building types, can be reconfigured to contribute spatially and technologically to urban Wellington.

Two final projects neatly summarise the geographical extremes New Zealand architects encounter. Michael Holehouse (Unitec) presented a range of architectural interventions for Waikato’s Whangamarino Wetland based upon the inextricable link between the ground, water and vegetation – three factors which combine in different degrees to create ever-changing conditions for architecture. University of Auckland student Sacha Milojevic chose as his site the urban swathe of Newmarket his university has acquired from a brewing company. Sacha’s ambitious reimagining of this suburb-connecting site is geologically complex, and carefully considered from many perspectives.

This year, the judges awarded the NZIA Graphisoft Student Design Award to Raphaela Rose. Sacha Milojevic and Nathan Swaney were both highly commended. Without exception, the jury reports that the students acquitted themselves with admirable equanimity. The NZIA offers all finalists congratulations and extends its best wishes for the future.