FEW would disagree with Professor Philip Goad's comment on the house that has won Victoria's top residential architecture award - "you are not going to see these in your everyday suburban subdivisions". The "Letterbox House" in Blairgowrie by McBride Charles Ryan architects is confronting and impressive from the outset, with the street-frontage facade representing a massive suburban letterbox.
The property's real letterbox may be the only similarity the award winner has with most other suburban homes. Judges described the house, which won the prestigious Harold Desbrowe-Annear Award for Residential Architecture at the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Architecture Awards in Melbourne last night, as continuing "Melbourne's rich history of architectural experimentation with the coastal weekender".
But this "weekender" is unlikely to be accessible to all - experts estimate construction costs alone would be about $750,000, before land and architecture fees. "I think McBride Charles Ryan really push the boundaries of how one might think a house might look," the chair of juries, Professor Goad, from the University of Melbourne said.
"This house is celebrated for its experimental ambitions and the architectural confidence of its resolution
," the judges said. Last year's winner was the "Klein Bottle House", also by McBride Charles Ryan, which is in neighbouring Rye.
"What it does highlight is that still the Mornington Peninsula is the laboratory for architectural experiment and a lively one, and it still remains that way," Professor Goad said. He said the Letterbox House "highlights Victoria as one of these places where there is still radical experiment attempted with domestic design".
There were a record 196 entries for this year's awards, despite the financial crisis, with the awards ceremony held in Melbourne's stunning new convention centre in front of more than 800 people. Melbourne's celebrated new Recital Centre and MTC Theatre Project was the top award winner for the night, taking out the Victorian Architecture Medal and the William Wardell Award for Public Architecture and the Joseph Reed Award for Urban Design.
"The Melbourne Recital Centre and the Melbourne Theatre Company are landmark additions to the tapestry of the Southbank arts precinct," the judges said. "This project offers a significant architectural experience that successfully crosses design boundaries, having achieved accolades in the diverse categories of urban, interior and architectural excellence."
Professor Goad encouraged Victorians to visit the new Recital Centre. "Most people really ought to make a visit to the Recital Hall," he said. "They will be absolutely amazed at the interior, which is like a beautiful violin."
The Recital Centre's facade was also very dramatic, he said. "The light effects at night, it really is a night-time building, with those strange distorted cubes all lit up - it's like a piece of public art." The Sidney Myer Music Bowl won the 25-year Award for Enduring Architecture.