A Wairoa school, described by the judges of the 2016 New Zealand Architecture Awards as "small but ambitious" has picked up one of the national titles - and one of the four awards given special acknowledgement by being named for outstanding New Zealand architects.

The Ted McCoy Award for Education was presented to Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngāti Kahungununu o Te Wairoa, a small Māori school in Wairoa which was designed by RTA Studio in Auckland at last night's awards dinner in Wellington.

"This is an exemplary case of architecture helping to make a difference," the jury said.

"The school's architecture sends a message to its students that their community values them and has high expectations of them."


Judges said the school had been designed to facilitate a particular pedagogy, to inspire its students and to accommodate flexible use.

They said the planning was "generous" and the colour palette well chosen.

"The school opens out to its fields and the wider neighbourhood, making its stand with pride and purpose."

Twenty-eight buildings and structures won honours in the country's leading architectural awards programme, which recognises the best work across all the types of projects designed by New Zealand's architects.

The building was the only one in the Hawke's Bay region to pick up a prize.

The awards jury, led by Christchurch architect Jasper van der Lingen and comprising Auckland architects Megan Edwards and Michael O'Sullivan, and Melbourne-based architect Andrew Maynard, visited 50 shortlisted buildings from the Bay of Islands to Central Otago.

Four of the winning projects received special acknowledgement in the form of awards named for outstanding New Zealand architects.

In other main awards, the John Scott Award for Public Architecture went to Auckland's neon-pink LightPath and Canada St Bridge, designed by Monk MacKenzie together with GHD, Landlab and Novare Design.

"The LightPath and Canada Street Bridge are fun as well as functional," the jury said.

"It's a surprising and uplifting project that sends a message that Auckland is becoming a people-centred city."

The Sir Ian Athfield Award for Housing went to Wellington multi-unit development Zavos Corner, designed by Parsonson Architects.

"Zavos Corner would be a great project at any time, but is especially welcome when the country is in such need of high quality, medium-density rental housing," the jury said.

"The architect and client should be congratulated for fighting so hard to realise this project."

The Sir Miles Warren Award for Commercial Architecture went to Annandale Farm, a group of holiday houses designed by Patterson Associates for a coastal property on Banks Peninsula.

"A highly accomplished trio of buildings - Olive Grove, Scrubby Bay and Seascape - show how architecture can complement and enhance a setting of great natural beauty," the jury said.

Jasper van der Lingen said the Architecture Awards jury visited projects ranging from house additions to churches, schools and office buildings. Award-winning buildings this year included a new bus station, a suburban library and a restored war memorial.

"All of the award-winners are highly impressive projects," van der Lingen said.

"They go above competence to reach excellence - they set the benchmark for architectural achievement in New Zealand."