Andrew Burns Picks the 9 Best Buildings in Australia


Sydney-based architect Andrew Burns, designer of Australia House in Japan, guest blogs about the best-designed buildings in the country.

Andrew Burns became the Australian architect to watch last year after designing Australia House, a gallery and studio in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture. Formally recognised for his talents when he was awarded the 2013 Emerging Architect Prize, Burns is also known for the Crescent House pavilion at Sydney’s Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, the first project to be completed for the inaugural Fugitive Structures exhibition. We asked the architect, who we profiled in our September/October issue’s ‘Next Generation’ feature, to tell us about his favourite buildings in Australia.


Sydney Opera House (architect Jorn Utzon)

A building that has defined a city, the Sydney Opera House is a great work of synthesis: its concrete vaults seamlessly house the flowing timber walls of the theatres, the dynamic form of the glazing, and the irregular stairs around the theatres. It has a kind of orchestral complexity, where each element of timber, glass and concrete is brought together to form something wonderful – and the concrete plateau beams under the stairs are very cool.


Bundanon, Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Centre, Riversdale (architects Glenn Murcutt, Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark)

Response to landscape doesn’t get better than this. As you drive into the valley you see the razor sharp roof form, glinting in the sun. Eventually you arrive into the property and all you see is a grouping of old farmhouses. Walk under the verandah of one of the farmhouses and you suddenly see the building in its complete form, the pitched roof cranking up to create an entry. It’s like a temple in the Australian landscape.

RMIT Design Hub, Melbourne (Sean Godsell architects)

A crisp, rectilinear form, this building is a total contrast to many of the crazy forms of Melbourne architecture. It is the perfect palate cleanser, but a very refined building in it’s own right. The rooftop terraces feel like a space you might find in Tokyo – I like the confidence and uncompromising quality of this building.


Prince Alfred Park Pool, Sydney (Neeson Murcutt Architects)

Set into the parkland and surrounded by a field of grasses, Prince Alfred Park Pool is a very special building.  The space inside is playful and full of joy; the soft blue painted finishes are set so nicely against the deep colours of Australian hardwoods. Mosaic tiles, enormous round skylights in the changerooms and sharp graphics create a sense of fun that Sydney has embraced.

Parks Pools Playgrounds

Sydney University Main Quadrangle (Edmund Blacket)

There are many sandstone university buildings across Australia, and this one is in my list because of proximity, it’s about 500m from our office! This building established the intent of the university in the 1850s and to me, is a very clear statement about learning. The green lawn and brilliant jacaranda creates a valued space, protected by the thick perimeter sandstone walls – it suggests that a certain order can come from education, and that learning is valuable. Contemporary buildings rarely express ideas so clearly.


Grosvenor Place (Harry Seidler)

This building is very much a system, with a large lobby space and fine columns that support the building overhead. The arced shaped of the facades catches the sun nicely, and the sunshades fold down progressively as the facade gradually faces west. Seidler had so much flair.


Aurora Place (Renzo Piano Building Workshop)

In designing this building, Renzo Piano responded to the fluid form of the Opera House, and in doing so created the most elegant tower in the country.


Holman House (Durbach Block)

A curved form that cantilevers over the cliffs of South Head, the Holman House has large windows open up to the north and south horizons. This is a truly exuberant form.


Snowy Mountains House (James Stockwell)

This is an extremely elegant house, a taut piece of engineering perched on a ridge set above Lake Jindabyne. There is so much architectural skill packed into this small house and James Stockwell brings together detail, geometry and material like no other Australian architect.


Words: Andrew Burns
Introduction: Dijana Kumurdian
Photography: Max Dupain (hero image), Michael Wee (Andrew Burns portrait), Earl Carter (RMIT Design Hub), Altai World Photography (Sydney University quad), Dirk Meinecke (Grosvenor Place), Aurora Place (John Gollings), Brett Boardman (Holman House)

One Response to “Andrew Burns Picks the 9 Best Buildings in Australia”
  1. Reblogged this on Juzt Little Things and commented:
    Australian architect, Andrew Burns, picked 9 best architecture. Are they your preference?

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