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Architectural writing awards announced

02 November 2017

UK-based writer Anna Kate Blair and Auckland student Piper Whitehead have won the top prizes in New Zealand’s annual architectural writing competition.

Anna Kate Blair, a New Zealand architecture graduate who has been undertaking post-graduate study at Cambridge University, won the Open Category in the 2017 Warren Trust Awards for Architectural Writing. 

Piper Whitehead, a year 13 student at Auckland’s Diocesan School for Girls, is the winner in Secondary School category of the competition. 

Another student at Diocesan School for Girls, Emma Uren, who is in Year 12, received one of three Highly Commended Awards. 

The other two Highly Commended Awards have gone to architectural graduates Matthew Grant, from Hamilton, and Joseph Lyth, from Auckland.   

The Architectural Writing Awards competition was established by the New Zealand Institute of Architects, and is supported by the educational trust founded by the eminent New Zealand architect, Sir Miles Warren. 

New Zealand Institute of Architects spokesperson John Walsh said there was a great response to this year’s competition, in which writers were invited to discuss architectural sites of personal significance to them. 

“The purpose of the awards is to promote longer-form writing about architecture,” Walsh said. “We want to encourage writers, especially younger writers, to try their hand at essay writing, which requires the careful crafting and compelling expression of a personal viewpoint.” 

“We’re very pleased that the submissions in both of the Awards categories demonstrate a public interest in both the subject of architecture and in the competition’s challenging writing format.” 

The Awards were judged by a panel comprising Nicola Legat, publisher at Massey University Press, Chris Barton, an architecture writer and teacher at the University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning, and John Walsh, who is the Institute of Architects’ Communications Manager.  

The jury said the essay by Open Category winner Anna Kate Blair is a sophisticated piece of writing that combines a personal response to her family’s glass and steel home on Waiheke Island with a consideration of the qualities of some of history’s famous transparent houses.

“As well as offering an interesting take on a type of building, Anna Kate’s essay is a sensitive and self-aware treatment of that stage of life when the predictability of study is left behind for the uncertainties of the wider world.”   

The essay by Secondary school category winner Piper Whitehead also integrated a family narrative with the story of the eccentric Coromandel house built by her grandfather.  

“Piper’s essay is a fond and humorous appreciation of a very imperfect house, and the idiosyncratic man who constructed it,” the jury said.       

The Institute will include 10 of the 2017 Architectural Writing Awards essays, including the winning and highly commended essays, in a book that will be published in early 2018.