When smoke billowed from Carlton’s iconic La Mama Theater in 2018, it felt like Melbourne had stopped for a minute, grappling with the monumental cultural loss. The building was virtually destroyed by fire. But four years and a pandemic later, La Mama is rising from the ashes. The old print works have been redesigned by Meg White and Cottee Parker Architects, taking on a new but familiar form. And its impressive reconstruction was shortlisted for the Victorian Architecture Awards this year (in two categories: public architecture and for the prestigious Melbourne Prize).
Divided into 14 categories, the awards celebrate architecture in its many forms – from retail and heritage to residential and interior. And the 2022 shortlist is the longest ever, spanning restaurants, galleries, community centers and homes.
Yakimono, which was enthusiastically received in Melbourne’s restaurant rotation, was shortlisted in the interior design category. Chris Lucas’ kaleidoscopic, futuristic, neon-lit restaurant playfully references the rain-soaked streets of Tokyo (and Blade Runner 2049). It is shortlisted alongside Lucas’ other recent opening company, which along with Yakimono is located within the compound of 80 Collins. With colossal crystal chandeliers, alluring velvet banquettes, and a strikingly angled marble bar, Society is all about big-city sophistication. (Both were designed by Melbourne architects Russell & George.)
A stunning art deco entrance and a towering red-brick facade mark the location of the Collingwood Yards arts district and community center, which is shortlisted in three categories: heritage, urban design and public architecture. More than half a decade in the making, local architect Fieldwork has restored the 6,500 square meter former school, which spans three buildings. The vision was to create an affordable and permanent space for artists and organizations; it now houses more than 50.
The Victorian Pride Center in St Kilda – the first purpose-built LGBTIQ+ community center in Australia – is also shortlisted in the public architecture category. It’s a feat of modern design, and there’s deeper meaning to its “exposed” interior and egg-shaped atrium, as well as the circular nature of much of the structure. Designed by Brearley Architects & Urbanists (BAU) in partnership with Grant Amon Architects, “The building challenges the norms of architectural hierarchy, order and justification,” says James Brearley, director of BAU. “It engages the notions of incompleteness, in-between, emergence and coexistence.”
Meanwhile, this year’s residential shortlist celebrates careful attention to detail. The 110 square meter Canning Street house by Foomann Architects is small but mighty; the tidy, relaxing and bright family space has a dramatic curved ceiling. The Stable and Cart House by Clare Cousins Architects is a beautifully renovated brick warehouse built in the 1920s in North Melbourne; despite the worn industrial bones, there’s a delicate serenity, akin to that of a day spa. Elsewhere, with earth tones and wood paneling throughout, Multiplicity’s Music Box home is shortlisted in the new residential construction category. And the Always House in Flinders (interior design category), by Kennedy Nolan, is spectacular – with peaceful ocean views, a towering stone-walled entrance and a rooftop garden.
If La Mama’s triumphant resurgence is to be believed, Melbourne is well and truly back on the move. And after the better part of two years at home, this year’s shortlist for Victorian Architecture Awards is a symbol of the city’s reintroduction and enthusiasm for public space.
Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on Friday, June 17.