Australian architects win World Architecture Community Award

Jan 21, 2021
  • Article by Tili Bensley-Nettheim

Sydney architecture practice Kaunitz Yeung Architecture has been announced as one of only 15 winning projects at the World Architecture Awards.

Kaunitz Yeung Architecture’s Munipi Arts Centre on Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands, 80km north of Darwin, has been recognised as one of the ‘Realised Award Winning Architecture Projects’ at the 36th World Architecture Awards.

The Munipi Arts Centre on Melville Island was opened on the third anniversary of the island’s rising star, artist Natalia Puantulura. Photo: Brett Boardman.

Completed in 2019, Munipi Arts Centre is a continuation of the firm’s focus on delivering architecture in sincere and reciprocal dialog with culture and environment. Commissioned by Melville Island’s Munupi Arts and Craft, the new art studio at Pirlangimpi is at once a celebration and a commemoration.

The centre was opened on the third anniversary of the death of one of the island’s rising stars, artist Natalie Puantulura. Puantulura’s art is distinguished by Jilamara or body designs that found their way into her paintings through an intricate and delicate geometry. Painted in ochre by hand and through the use of a timber comb or pwoja, it is this Tiwi mark-making that has become the ‘skin’ of Kaunitz Yeung Architecture’s design.

The centre is emblematic of Kaunitz Yeung Architecture’s focus on delivering high-quality community-focused buildings. Photo: Brett Boardman.

Puantulura’s distinctive Jilamara have been transposed onto a series of hand-drawn, laser-cut metal panels that wrap around the new art centre building. These dynamic perforated panels protect the body of the building just as Jilamara protects the body in Tiwi ceremony.

“We believe best practice architecture should be available to all Australians and we are thrilled these projects have been recognised in such a prestigious, international environment,” said the firm’s director David Kaunitz.

Natalie Puantulura’s Jilamara transposed onto the perforated panels of the Munipi Arts Centre. Photo: Brett Boardman.

“Good buildings are not possible without great clients. This project draws on what we have learnt from working with Indigenous and remote communities for over a decade and demonstrates what is possible from true collaboration with local people.”

The World Architecture Awards highlight projects from regions often overlooked by traditional media that challenge contemporary architectural discourse.

Across the categories of ‘Architecture’, ‘Interior Design’ and ‘Student’ categories, the 36th cycle of the awards celebrated 49 projects from South Korea to Iran, Vietnam to Antarctica.

Wilson Architects’ drew on Indigenous culture and conversations in the firm’s student accommodation at the University of WA.

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