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An inimitable duo respected for their uniquely Australian architecture has been selected as the 2014 recipients of the Australian Institute of Architects’ highest honour, the Gold Medal.



March 20th, 2014

Phil Harris and Adrian Welke, co-founders of Troppo, were honoured at the Australian Achievement in Architecture Awards presentation ceremony in Hobart on Thursday 20 March.

Driven by a desire to produce socially responsible architecture, the pair founded Troppo in Darwin in 1980, and have since grown the practice to include offices in Perth, Adelaide, Townsville and Byron Bay cultivating a portfolio of over 2500 projects ranging from tiny remote buildings to full-scale city design.

‘Troppo’s work pioneers a unique and special Australian approach to architecture: irreverent but sophisticated, inventive with a tinge of larrikin spirit.

‘In 34 years of practice they have evolved an architecture that deals with the heat, the rain, the place and subtleties of climate, while understanding and reviving the lessons of the Top End’s important history and legacy of projects,’ Paul Berkemeier, National President and Jury Chair said.

Troppo’s work spans the continent and is extensively recognised, including numerous state and national residential awards and the 1994 Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Buildings for the Bowali Visitors Centre in Kakadu, a joint project with past Gold Medallist Glenn Murcutt. In 2010, at a ceremony in Paris, Troppo were the recipients of the Global Sustainable Architecture Award.

Their ethos epitomises the importance of building for place and people: producing work that is sympathetic to the land, using locally relevant materials to create settings that work for the informal Australian lifestyle.

Troppo is especially proud of its work in remote Australia, so distant from sure power and water, builders’ yards and hardware stores. However, it is not only an architectural pragmatism that the practice has learned; it has also absorbed ecological perspectives of this ancient land through projects that have connected with Indigenous Australia.

In addition to their built work, Adrian and Phil have been committed to the role of the profession as agents of change: enthusing, educating and influencing people’s views on architecture and its position in society. They have supported, mentored and educated many students and graduates, helping to develop new generations of architects and collaborators.

Adrian and Phil are champions of a number of political and regulatory issues, including recent Building Code amendments that contradict Troppo’s hallmark leanly constructed, broadly opening and traditionally energy efficient design principle.

The pair published their first book (together with James Hayter and Justin Hill) as students in their final year at the University of Adelaide. The 1978 title, Influences in Regional Architecture, stands as the nation’s first investigation of Australian architectural heritage outside the urban arena.

The Gold Medal is the highest honour the Institute may bestow. It is presented in recognition of most distinguished services by an individual architect who has designed or executed buildings of high merit, or produced work of great distinction to promote or facilitate the knowledge of architecture, or has endowed the profession of architecture in such an exceptional or distinguished way as to merit the award.

Phil Harris and Adrian Welke were selected as the worthy recipients of the 2014 Gold Medal by an eminent jury led by Institute National President, Paul Berkemeier, and including Immediate Past President, Shelley Penn, 2012 Gold Medallist, Professor Lawrence Nield, Head of School at University of Tasmania, Professor Steven Loo, and University of Western Australia’s Associate Professor Kate Hislop.

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