A man credited with "shaping Sydney's physical and culture landscape", with creating some of the city's most "iconic public spaces", and "ensuring the better design of all new residential buildings over three storeys", has been awarded Australia's top national architecture prize - the Australian Institute of Architects 2009 Gold Medal for Architecture.
Presenting the honour at a ceremony in Sydney, Australian Institute of Architects National President Howard Tanner said he was proud to announce that outstanding architect, landscape architect and urban design advocate Professor Ken Maher of HASSELL has won the 2009 Gold Medal.
Architecturally, Ken Maher is best known for the creation over the past 38 years of a large range of significant projects in Sydney, but also Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, China and Melbourne. In Sydney alone, his projects include icons such as the restoration of Luna Park at North Sydney, the North Sydney Olympic Pool, Olympic Park Railway Station at Homebush, National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) buildings, and the new Epping Chatswood Rail Line. Overseas, he has provided the concepts for an innovative new sustainable city centre in Ningbo, China and leads the design team for the new underground railway station in Singapore. In Melbourne, he is designing a vast new workplace for the ANZ Bank at Melbourne's Docklands.
As importantly, he is known as an advocate for architectural "engagement" and collaboration, for chairing one of Australia's largest practices, being a key contributor to half a dozen top state and national urban design committees, and for being instrumental in the introduction of the State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) 65 in NSW, the residential design pattern book and the use of design review panels to vastly improve residential developments across Sydney.
In awarding the prize, Mr Tanner said the Gold Medal jury firmly believed Ken "had excelled in all areas." The jury citation noted: "Many architects agitate on public issues, but few can drive change as positively and constructively as Ken Maher. As chair of the NSW Premier's Urban Design Advisory Committee, the complex negotiations he resolved between government and the various stakeholders were impressive. A major outcome was SEPP 65, which requires the involvement of an architect for larger, denser residential projects and ensures measurable design and environmental outcomes."
In its 49th year, and awarded annually since 1960, the Gold Medal is the architectural profession's highest accolade and recognises distinguished service by architects who have designed or executed buildings of high merit, or who have produced works of distinction resulting in the advancement of architecture. Recent past recipients include high profile architects such as Richard Johnson, Kerry Hill, Glenn Murcutt, Jørn Utzon, Gregory Burgess, Keith Cottier, Brit Andresen and Peter Corrigan.
Well-known Australians applauding Professor Maher's award include the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore, and former NIDA director John Clark and former NIDA general manager Elizabeth Butcher. Ms Moore said: "Few Sydney architects can cite as many public service roles, award-winning buildings and urban projects as can Ken Maher. I have known Ken for over 10 years and have watched with enormous respect his gentle yet astute demeanour shape Sydney's physical and cultural landscape."
She added: "In writing this I was reminded of Ken Maher's City Talk in 2006, titled Sustaining Sydney, where he outlined six propositions for creating a sustained future city. All six propositions are now firmly entrenched into Sydney's Sustainable Sydney 2030 vision. Ken has an iron grip on broad issues that shape cities and he is able to influence cities beyond the normal professional boundaries."
Of his work on the award-winning NIDA buildings, Ms Butcher and Mr Clark said: "Others will no doubt refer to Ken's broader contribution to Australian architecture with greater knowledge and understanding than ourselves. However we would like it acknowledged that present and future generations of young theatre artists training at NIDA owe him a debt of gratitude, and we believe others will come to agree with the distinguished British stage and film actor Ralph Fiennes, who described Ken's Parade Theatre at NIDA as the best modern theatre he had ever worked in."
Commenting on Ken's ground-breaking design for a new ANZ headquarters in Melbourne, Chris Carolan of Bovis Lend Lease said: "In more recent times, the team and I at Lend Lease have had the great honour to collaborate with Ken and Hassell on a new office building for ANZ on the banks of the Yarra in Melbourne's Victoria Harbour. The project will be completed at the end of this year. It will be one of the most progressive and environmentally advanced office buildings the world has ever seen. It will be a great testament to Ken Maher and the faith and belief that so many people have in him by virtue of his ability to turn their ambition into a wonderful and amazing reality."
Ken Maher has worked nationally and internationally since graduating from the University of NSW in 1970 with First Class Honours and the RAIA Prize for Design. He then went on to complete postgraduate courses in landscape architecture and environmental studies.
His projects have won prestigious awards including Institute Merit Awards, the 1988 Canberra Medallion, the 1995 Lachlan Macquarie National Architecture Award, the Sir Zelman Cowen Award in 1998, Sulman Medals in 1998 and 2002, and national Australian Institute of Landscape Architects awards. He has won a number of national and international competitions, is a respected design jury member, a teacher of design and currently Professor in Architecture at the University of NSW, and writes regularly about architecture.
Ken follows in the footsteps of John Morphett, former HASSELL Chairman and Managing Director, and Jack McConnell, a founding partner of HASSELL who were also awarded the Gold Medal.