Papaioea Place Social Housing in Palmerston North was one of 15 projects that received awards in the 2020 Western Architecture Awards, a peer-reviewed programme run by Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Papaioea received an award in the Housing – Multi-unit category.

The project "achieves economic and environmentally sustainable objectives in tandem with a level of design that elevates it well beyond other social housing in the region", the jury said.

The awards recognise the year's best architecture in the NZIA's Western Branch, which covers Taranaki, Whanganui and Manawatū.


Demonstrating the breadth of work undertaken by architects in the lower North Island, the award-winners included several school buildings, a couple of offices, half a dozen residential projects and a newly-strengthened icon of New Zealand architecture – Whanganui War Memorial.

The awards' jury convener, Palmerston North architect Matthew Argyle, said the jury, which also included architects Brady Gibbons from New Plymouth and Marianne Riley from Auckland, and Aratoi–Wairarapa Museum of Art and History director Susanna Shadbolt, found that the quality of the shortlisted buildings made judging a pleasure.

"Sustainability was high on the agenda," Argyle said, "with the clever reuse of existing buildings, and even, in one case, the hull of a boat, to create delightful spaces, while new projects also used smart design decisions to improve the quality of space.

"Another feature of the entries was the high level of integrity in the use of materials, with stone, raw steel, solid timber joinery and the humble brick being integral elements of many projects."

WSP Architecture received a commercial award for Te Ao Nui, a Palmerston North 'Importance Level 4 building' capable of post-disaster operation.

"The scale of the building is managed through some smart design decisions and enhanced by its mixed material palette," the jury said.

"Sustainability is key to the building design, with energy efficiency and thermal performance well considered throughout."

Two projects at Whanganui Collegiate School, both designed by RTA Studio, received awards in the education category.


The refurbishment of the HG Carver Memorial Library "skilfully balances heritage restoration with contemporary functionality in a design that celebrates the library's character and provides a diversity of modern study spaces", the jury said.

The Whanganui Collegiate School Administration Building "plays a pivotal role in the school's new campus plan".

"Its siting and repeating gabled forms give presence to the school upon approach and when viewed from across the playing fields. The building completes a quadrangle, bringing shelter and order to the campus, and is a fine complement to the heritage architecture at the Whanganui Collegiate School."

The jury made an award in the heritage category to one of New Zealand's most acclaimed Modernist buildings, the Whanganui War Memorial Centre, which has been strengthened by BSM Group Architects.

The jury said the complex structural strengthening of the building, a Category 1 Historic Place which opened in 1960, "ensures its continued survival by applying sophisticated architectural and structural solutions that complement and enhance the existing aesthetic of the building".

"The result is exceptional," the jury said. "The work has given the War Memorial Centre a new chapter in its life, not only preserving the building for its community but also retaining an icon of New Zealand architecture."

Also in the heritage category, Whanganui Collegiate School's HG Carver Memorial Library won its second Western Architecture Award.

The jury said the library has been beautifully restored by RTA Studio and given a fitting new purpose for a heritage building: the pursuit of knowledge.


"Seismic strengthening has been integrated without adversely affecting the architectural elements," the jury said.

"Clever new character windows have been integrated into the building so seamlessly as to suggest they were always there."

Iona, by Drawingroom Architecture & Design on the banks of the Whanganui River was one of three to win an award in the Housing category.

The judges said it is a "delightful, cleverly designed tiny house sited on the banks of the Whanganui River amongst native flax, and in close proximity to the town centre".

"Iona features the reclaimed hull of a 1925 kauri workboat and is a celebration of the re-use of materials," the jury said.

"Great consideration has gone into the design, construction detailing, and crafting of the building – the complexity of this project is anything but small."


The 2020 Western Architecture Awards is a programme of Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects, supported by Resene. All NZIA Branch award-winners go forward for consideration in the New Zealand Architecture Awards, which will be announced in early November.