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The Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has awarded Melbourne architect, educator and urbanist Graeme Gunn the 2011 Gold Medal at the Australian Achievement in Architecture Awards (AAAA).
Announcing the award at the AAAA ceremony in Perth on 24 March, AIA National President Karl Fender said: “At a time when we face enormous challenges around the built environment, Graeme Gunn provides an inspirational example of the engaged architect. He has steadfastly pursued his ambition to demonstrate innovative architecture, while at the same time devoting himself to improving the quality of how we live as well as projecting architecture to a broader group of people than would normally afford it.”
Gunn’s career spans more than fifty decades. A RMIT graduate, Gunn began work with Grounds Romberg and Boyd in 1960, before establishing his own practice in 1962. His career has encompassed pivotal work in housing design, education and urbanism, affecting a “transformative impact” in each field.
The Victorian architect is most well-known for his Melbourne work, but also has built projects in Sydney, New South Wales and Dilli in East Timor. Celebrated Melbourne projects include the Melbourne City Baths and the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union Building on Victoria Street, together with housing projects completed with Merchant Builders, the Bower House, Molesworth Street Townhouses and the Richardson House. Gunn is particularly well-known for cluster building projects including Winter Park – described by the jury as “an outstanding example of careful design extended into a consideration of the importance of landscape and open space and, ultimately, the presence and feel of a place,” and one of the most noteworthy examples of the way Gunn and Merchant Builders “educated and articulated new ideas to the public”.
The jury said: “Like many of his generation, Graeme is an advocate of architecture’s social mission – he brought a unique authority to this message through his architectural mastery.” Gunn first collaborated with Merchant Housing in the 1960s, a successful partnership that saw a series of sustainable and site-responsive homes credited with enriching the residential language of the time. His built work has been rewarded with 14 major architecture awards, including the Victorian AIA Chapter’s 25 Year Award for Enduring Architecture, presented in 2007 for the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union Building.
In the field of education, Gunn was the founder of RMIT’s Faculty of Architecture and Building, remaining as Dean from 1972 until 1982 and then staying on as adjunct professor. Gunn transformed the technically based environment to become a wider and more socially engaged school, setting the foundations for the faculty’s now world-recognised architecture program.
Gunn was appointed Principal Design Advisor for the Docklands Authority in 2000, before moving into his current role as Principal Architect and design advisor to VicUrban. He also continues in practice as Director of Gunn Dyring Architects, which specialises in residential design.