Riverbank House Heads the Queensland Architecture Awards Honour Roll

Wilson Architects’ Riverbank House has taken out the Robin Dods Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (New) at the 2021 edition of the Australian Institute of Architects’ Queensland Architecture Awards.

Located in Highgate Hill on the edge of the Brisbane River, Riverbank House is a reflection of the iconic ‘Queenslander’ form. Perched high atop the riparian block, the lower level of Riverbank House draws upon the understorey of a highset Queenslander, anchored by a ribbon of concrete – a fence line that transcends into the wall of the building that informs much of the house’s textural palette.

The house references many biophilic design principles, blurring the boundaries of interior and exterior spaces with a range of plantations and materialistic choices on the lower level living space. The remainder of the home, situated above the lower level, seemingly ‘floats’ above the rest of the dwelling.

Riverbank House Heads the Queensland Architecture Awards Honour Roll

Wilson Architects Managing Director Hamilton Wilson says the clients wanted their home to be deeply connected to the river, topography and surrounding landscape.

“We set out to leverage the extraordinary landscape, as part of the experience of the property because it is so unique,” he says.

Riverbank House was created in unfortunate circumstances, with its occupants Clayfield home tragically burnt to the ground. Wilson Architects assisted the clients in finding a site that would be unparalleled in quality and intrigue. Upon discovering the Highgate Hill site, a landscaped easement (non trafficable) was of significant interest to the practice, due to its unique qualities. The easement had been hand-constructed around the same time the existing dwelling was built in the 1940s, that was left laden with asbestos and rot and later demolished.

riverbank house wilson architects

“You rarely get a river, a significant heritage riverbank and an easement down on one side of the property that is fully landscaped as well,” says Wilson.

“We wanted to make the house feel like it almost continues into that landscape. If you look to the south, the house disappears and virtually floats over the river. It becomes quite visceral.”

The judges have praised the architect’s biophilic approach.

“Riverbank House is orchestrated between the steep landscape of the river edge and a private courtyard for a family in a suburban setting,” says Jury Member Dirk Yates.

“The maintenance of remnant stairs and garden walls, along with the integration of native plantings, firmly imbed the new building into the historically layered landscape.”

The relationship between built form and landscape is often at the core of Wilson Architects’ designs, with four generations of the Wilson family operating out of the practice for the last 130 years.

riverbank house wilson architects

“A lot of the buildings we do have a very strong landscape idea about them. The idea of the landscape is sometimes stronger than the idea of the house, but that becomes the house in essence,” Wilson says. 

“As a practice, we’re very much driven by landscape ideas as the thing that drives the architecture, so you’ll see in a lot of our institutional buildings there’s a landscape component that ends up being extraordinary.”

For the clients, their home is perched on “the cusp of the natural world”.

“The house is reduced to what matters,” they say. “Deceptively simple, it enables us to curate our acquired things and encourages us to be together as a family. These four walls have brought out the best in us and they are an enormous privilege to reside within.”

Riverbank House is now eligible for the Australian Institute of Architects’ National Awards, to be announced later this year.

riverbank house wilson architects

Please find the full list of winners for the 2021 Queensland Architecture Awards below.

Commercial Architecture 

The Beatrice Hutton Award for Commercial Architecture

12 Creek Street, The Annex, Brisbane – BVN

Award for Commercial Architecture

Land 121 Facilities Project, Lavarack Barracks, North Queensland – BVN


Education Architecture

The Jennifer Taylor Award for Educational Architecture

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College, Brisbane – Cox Architecture

Award for Educational Architecture

Brisbane Girls Grammar School Science Learning Centre – m3architecture

St Rita’s College Trinity Centre, Brisbane – m3architecture

JCU Ideas Lab, Far North Qld – Wilson Architects with Clarke and Prince


Heritage Architecture

Commendation for Heritage 

Chambers House, Brisbane – Shaun Lockyer Architects


Colorbond Award

Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture

Land 121 Facilities Project, Lavarack Barracks – BVN


Interior Architecture

The GHM Addison Award for Interior Architecture 

Mary Rice Early learning Centre, Brisbane – m3architecture

The State Award — Award for Interior Architecture

Transurban, Brisbane – Cox Architecture


Public Architecture

The FDG Stanley Award for Public Architecture

Cairns Performing Arts Centre, Far North QLD – CA Architects, Cox Architecture

The State Award — Award for Public Architecture

Waltzing Matilda Centre, Central QLD – Cox Architecture


Residential Architecture — Houses (alterations and additions)

The Elina Mottram Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (Alterations and Additions) 

Beck Street, Brisbane – LineburgWang

Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (Alterations and Additions) 

Clayfield Fern House, Brisbane – Paul Butterworth Architect


Residential Architecture — Houses (new)

The Robin Dods Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (New)

Riverbank House, Brisbane – Wilson Architects

Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (New)

Mt Coot-tha House, Brisbane – NIELSEN JENKINS

Long Road House, Gold Coast-Tamborine –     James Russell Architect


Residential Architecture — Houses (multiple housing)

The Job & Froud Award for Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing

Alondra Residences, Brisbane – BVN


Small Project Architecture

The Hayes & Scott Award for Small Project Architecture

James Cook University Central Plaza, North QLD – Cox Architecture, Counterpoint Architecture 

Award for Small Project Architecture

Doggett St Showroom, Brisbane – Cavill Architects


Urban Design 

The Karl Langer Award for Urban Design

QUT Campus to Country, Brisbane – BVN


Sustainable Architecture

The Harry Marks Award for Sustainable Architecture 

JCU Ideas Lab, Far North QLD – Wilson Architects, Clarke and Prince