A Kawerau school has won its designer the supreme award in this year's Resene Total Colour Awards, announced in Wellington tonight.

For the first time in the awards' five year history the Education Award winner also took home the overall Nightingale Award which is the top Resene Total Colour Awards accolade.

Named after the New Zealand family who founded Resene Paints 70 years ago and who still own the company, the Nightingale Award for 2016 went to Auckland architects RTA Studio (Richard Naish) who designed Tarawera High School in Kawerau.

In his entry Mr Naish explained it was the "turning of a new page" for Kawerau College and Kawerau Intermediate when a decision was made to amalgamate the two schools into one.

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The new school features three 'houses' that both separate and link the flexible spaces.

Acknowledging the cultural importance of a 90 per cent Maori roll, colours in the new school buildings bring together four key elements of the area's history, culture and natural environment: the mountain and forest, the river, the coast and the land - with geo-thermal references in Resene Raspberry and Resene Saffron - all in hard-wearing, low maintenance, low sheen and high UV resistance paint forms.

"The central Wharenui (the heart) faces directly north where the Tarawera River meets the coast," Mr Naish said.

Judges describe the winning Tarawera High School entry as "playful without being predictable; cheeky pops of colour work in seamlessly with natural materials. The colour of each building has helped create a personality for each. The colour is applied in different ways to each building, so that each truly has its own identity within the whole".

Full List of 2016 Resene Total Colour Award Winners:

Overall Winner of the Nightingale Award & Education Award Winner: Tarawera High School, Kawerau, by RTA Studio (Richard Naish).
Runner-Up for the Nightingale Award & Installation/Experiential Award Winner: 'Daughter of the Swamp' at Brick Bay, Snells Beach, Northland, by Alexander Sacha Milojevic, Raphaela Rose, Ryan Mahon and Edward Roberts
Heritage Award Winner: Opera House Interior Centenary Upgrade, Wellington, by Shand Shelton (Mitchell Burrows)
Landscape Award Winner: 'Learn to Ride' bike riding practise area for children, Avondale Racecourse, Auckland, by Studio106 Architect
Neutrals Award Winner: Riverview House, Sydney, by Nobbs Radford Architects
Residential Exterior Award Winner: Seafield Apartments Refurbishment, Milford, Auckland, by Xsite Architects (Malcolm Taylor)
Residential Interior Award Winner: Saddle Hill House, Tawa, Wellington, by Aonui Architecture
Commercial Exterior Award Winner: 'The Wedge' Renovation, Rawene, Northland, by David Truscott and Gaynor Revill
Commercial Interior Office Award Winner: Plant & Food Research Centre Refit, Sandringham, Auckland, by Creative Spaces (Charnay Mouldey)
Commercial Interior Public Space Award Winner: Hindu Temple, South Maclean, Brisbane, by AKVA Chem Consultant (N. Ketheeswaran)
Life-Time Achievement Award: John Mills, Architect, Wellington
Rising Star - Student - Award Winner: 'Don't Play with your Food!' exhibits for Sydney Design Festival by Harriet Beex and Matthew Torr of Auckland