National architecture awards have been handed to projects including an Onehunga helicopter base, a group of Waiheke houses, and a Queenstown bus shelter and toilet.

Wellington architect Hugh Tennent, jury convener for the Institute of Architects Awards, praised the breadth of work submitted.

Auckland Heliport by Maxcey Architects won a commercial award, with 21 Queen St for Peddle Thorp Aitken's Cinderella-like transformation of an unremarkable building into a graceful glass tower, which also won for sustainable architecture.

Houses on Waiheke Island that earned praise included sailing champion Brad Butterworth's $3.9 million hideaway by Andrew Patterson's Patterson Associates.

The house, dubbed the Rock House or Brad's Pit, won a regional award last year.

An Oneroa retreat by Fearon Hay won plaudits for being conceived as a camping space with taut boxes opening up to reveal refined interiors.

Wellington's Supreme Court interior by Warren and Mahoney was praised for displaying a high level of refined craftsmanship in its joinery and execution.

The Frankton bus shelter and public toilets at Queenstown by Mary Jowett Architects was a carefully considered project and a welcome community asset, offering shelter with style and delightful straightforwardness.

Tennent said the judges liked both large and small projects.

"We were particularly impressed with some brilliant public and commercial buildings," he said.

"The Birkenhead Library and Community Centre is a wonderful community asset, St Kentigern School Jubilee Sports Centre is very cleverly sited, and the high-rise at 21 Queen St shows that sustainability and commerce can be reconciled."

The houses were particularly outstanding.

"Highly accomplished houses are being designed by New Zealand architects, often in beautiful settings.

"New Zealanders traditionally have prized landscapes over buildings but architecture and the environment shouldn't be at odds.

"Houses like those designed by Mitchell and Stout, Patterson Associates and Fearon Hay on Waiheke Island, and by Stevens Lawson at Te Mata and Wanaka, and the Dunedin eco-sanctuary designed by Architectural Ecology, prove architecture can be appreciated in the landscape in its own right," he said.

Enduring architecture awards went to Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre, almost 30 years old, and to the 1960s Freyberg Pool on Oriental Parade. The original Supreme Court in Wellington and Oamaru Opera House won heritage awards.

Architectural quality didn't depend on building scale, Tennent said.

Several awards were given in the small project category. Appropriately, one went to an Auckland building commissioned by Plunket, the organisation that cares for our smallest citizens.

The jury comprised Auckland architects Marshall Cook and Daniel Marshall and Sydney's Camilla Block.

On May 20, an overall winner will be chosen for the 2011 New Zealand Architecture Medal.