Celebrating 10 years of HOUSES Awards

Celebrating 10 years of HOUSES Awards

by Ben Downey
Celebrating 10 years of HOUSES Awards

Presented by Houses magazine, the Houses Awards is an annual program celebrating Australia’s best residential projects. Excellence is rewarded in nine categories, with the best house receiving the premier award of Australian House of the Year, a category that has been proudly sponsored by Cult for 9 years running. In anticipation of Houses Awards 2020, taking place on July 31 on Facebook Live, we look back at the awe-inspiring projects that have won the esteemed Australian House of the Year accolade over the last nine years. Each project provides a unique insight into contemporary residential design and the contribution Australia’s architects and designers make to enhancing the way we live today. 

Year: 2011
Practice: Virginia Kerridge
Project: House in Country NSW
Photographer: Max Creasy  

Set against the towering mountain ranges that define the valley site, the architectural expression of this sprawling farmhouse is simultaneously fragile and monumental. The first and most lasting impression derives from the roof form. Scaled to the landscape and designed to heighten the experience of its mass and drama, this folded plane skillion floats across, gathers together and nestles up, creating rooms, connections and spaces with engagingly ambiguous levels of enclosure and function. This is a contemporary architectural interpretation of the Australian colonial idyll. By intuitively embracing this legacy, the designer has created an elegant yet beguiling utilitarian house that truly captures the spirit of the place.

Year: 2012
Practice: John Wardle Architects
Project: Shearers' Quarters
Photographer: Trevor Mein 

Set within a historic farming property in Tasmania, this project is both a working farm building and a place of retreat. While this might seem like a contradictory pattern of day-to-day inhabitation, here it has been effortlessly reconciled. This deft touch has created a house that is an exemplar for contemporary residential architecture, simultaneously functional and beautiful. It is also a model for modest, small-footprint, environmentally responsive houses. Sited in a complex of buildings, but self-contained, its relationship to the existing 1840s cottage is in the farm tradition of small clusters of buildings, outbuildings and sheds. This apparently simple house has an effortless relationship to the built, cultivated and natural landscape. 

Year: 2013
Practice: James Russell Architect
Project: Bisley Place House
Photographer: Toby Scott 

A nostalgic homage to early postwar Queensland, this house recalls a time when new models for subtropical living embraced the essence and immediacy of the elements; utilized natural ventilation, sliding doors and curtains, imbuing a sense of living outdoors; and made climatic consciousness a pleasure rather than a necessary duty. This house's entire front elevation generously opens to the street. Of four garage doors, two serve their usual purpose, while the other two provide staggeringly vast access to the kitchen and eating areas with deep views across the grassed court and shaded playroom beyond. Standard materials requiring minimal applied finishes, used almost exclusively, and little decoration beyond varying brickwork bonds, are as refreshingly economical as the materials are hard-wearing. 

Year: 2014
Practice: Peter Stutchbury Architecture
Project: Invisible House
Photographer: Michael Nicholson 

There is something absolutely Australian about this project, not just its connection to an undeniably spectacular setting, but also its modesty, clarity, resourcefulness and consequential delight. Its magic is created through balance, such as the gridded rigour of the plan balanced with the bloated curve of the long section, or the transparency of the simple exterior balanced with the solid, albeit sliced, nature of the interior rooms. From both inside and out, changes in nature are apparent, in wet and dry, hot and cold and through the seasons of the year. This elegant building, looking out from its position nestled into the hilltop, leaves us drawn to see more.

Year: 2015
Practice: Jesse Bennett Architect
Project: Planchonella House
Photographer: Sean Fennessy 

Immersed in a luscious rainforest in Far North Queensland, this dwelling embraces its tropical climate and is handcrafted at every scale - from the graceful curves of the concrete to the detail of the timber window framing and inbuilt joinery. Raw and honest, the house uses passive, low-tech sustainability strategies in response to prevailing climatic conditions and allows occupants to alter their environment according to how they are using the space. This is a building that will get better with time as it ages, it will recede back into the landscape and appear as a ruin in the jungle.

Year: 2016
Practice: Chenchow Little
Project: Darling Point Apartment
Photographer: Peter Bennetts 

From the significant collection of Australian art it houses, to the spectacular view it embraces and Chenchow Little’s refined and surprising design, nothing about this home is average. The interior is reminiscent of the 1950s dwellings of postwar immigrant-s, where an appreciation for art was reflected in every part of the home design. This project represents a more refined interpretation. The timber is repeated on the floors and ceiling, intensifying the contrast to the views of the harbour beyond. That an apartment was named the Australian House of the Year reflects a shift in the way many Australians live today. This project also demonstrates that an apartment can be designed with the same warmth and sophistication as a detached house.

Year: 2017
Practice: Vokes and Peters
Project: Auchenflower House
Photographer: Christopher Frederick Jones 

Set atop a gentle knoll on the edge of a riverbank, this project is an addition to an existing home for a car collector who had asked for a dwelling that would enable a simple way of living, with spaces for family and friends to enjoy together. The house features two large courtyards that are finely calibrated in response to the site and the levels that organize the plan, designed with a simple idea in mind - to create joyful spaces, which inspire and enrich daily life. Set in tropical North Queensland, the house embraces heritage rainforest surrounds and utilises un-conventional passive design methods.

Year: 2018
Practice: Peter Stutchbury Architecture
Project: Cabbage Tree House
Photographer: Michael Nicholson 

Sited on and leaning back into a dramatic north-facing escarpment, Cabbage Tree House powerfully anchors inhabitation and mass. With stepping volumes and a plan that expands broadly to the north, the house offers a variety of spaces for activity in, around and under it. A limited palette of materials and an acceptance of as-found finishes means that the house is animated by texture, sunlight and landscape. Luxury is found in voluminous, expansive rooms and openings rather than lavish appointment or finish. The Cabbage Tree House impressively exploits architectural opportunities and expresses a striking sense of permanence.

Year: 2019
Practice: Partners Hill
Project: Daylesford Longhouse
Photographer: Rory Gardiner 

The Daylesford Longhouse by Partners Hill is more than a remarkable home - it's also a hardworking farm building, a verdant greenhouse and a new business setup, all within the confines of a 100-metre-long shed. The scale of the shed responds to the expansive landscape setting, but once you're inside, it shifts to the human scale, making it a comfortable space in which to live and work. The shed structure creates a microclimate that protects the productive garden from the harsh climatic conditions and can be opened up completely as weather permits. At the Daylesford Longhouse, a simple, yet compelling idea is executed in its purest form and the design intent is palpable at every turn.

The 2020 Houses Awards ceremony takes place on 31 July at 6pm on Facebook Live. Hit the button below to join us in celebrating the best of Australia's residential architecture.

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