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.
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.
“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.
“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.
Please find the full list of winners for the 2021 Queensland Architecture Awards below.
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
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
Commendation for Heritage
Chambers House, Brisbane – Shaun Lockyer Architects
Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture
Land 121 Facilities Project, Lavarack Barracks – BVN
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
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
The Karl Langer Award for Urban Design
QUT Campus to Country, Brisbane – BVN
The Harry Marks Award for Sustainable Architecture
JCU Ideas Lab, Far North QLD – Wilson Architects, Clarke and Prince