Page N1.2 . 23 April 2008                     
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Australian Gold for Richard Johnson

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Other recent work includes commercial projects, such as the Hilton Hotel redevelopment and Westpac Place, both in Sydney, and exhibits such as the "Arts of Islam" at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Johnson has also been involved in a long-term series of projects at the Australian War Museum in Canberra.

The jury praised Johnson's multidisciplinary approach to architecture, which draws on urban, landscape, interior, and exhibit design. They observed that his work "typically integrates at the ground plane new significant public spaces that improve existing urban conditions."

"The work has a sense of certainty and permanence — confident without being intrusive, rigorous in conception and executed with exemplary skill," continued the jury. "This is architecture that is selfless — architecture that is memorable, functional and exceptional."

Alec Tzannes, RAIA national president, said the award recognized Johnson's "executed work of exceptional merit, and his outstanding contribution to the development of the profession in Australia."

Johnson's current projects include the new National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, and the Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum in Hobart (in collaboration with Terroir).

Sydney Roots

Johnson was born in Sydney in 1946. He studied architecture at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), then earned a master of philosophy in town planning and urban design from University College, London.

From 1969 to 1985, Johnson served as principal architect for the Commonwealth Department of Housing and Construction. During that time, he was responsible for many major projects, including the Australian pavilions at Expo 74 in Spokane, Washington, Expo 75 in Okinawa, Japan, and Expo 85 in Tsukuba, Japan; the Australian Embassy in Beijing; and the master planning of the Australian Embassy in Tokyo.

For his work on Okinawa Expo 75, Johnson was admitted as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for Public Service in the field of architecture, at an unusually early age. He later collaborated with Yoshinobu Ashihara on Tsukuba Expo 85.

"Richard has commented that along with his education at the UNSW, particularly under Professor Peter Kollar, his work in Japan and the collaboration with Ashihara was influential to the development of his architectural direction," according to the awards jury.

Johnson joined Melbourne-based Denton Corker Marshall in 1985 as a director. He established the firm's Sydney office and worked on a wide range of projects.

In 1998 he was appointed to advise the Sydney Opera House Trust on the strategic plan for the future and is collaborating with Jørn Utzon on the project.

In 2001, the Sydney-based directors of Denton Corker Marker — Richard Johnson, Adrian Pilton, and Jeff Walker — split the Sydney office from the firm to create Johnson Pilton Walker, a multidisciplinary design firm.

The jury praised Johnson's "masterful design leadership" and "willingness to collaborate," adding that "His skills have fostered an inclusive approach to the design of many buildings and places of significant technological, spatial and urban complexity."

Johnson has lectured and taught widely. He has been an adjunct professor of architecture at the UNSW since 1999. He has also been a visiting design critic to all schools of architecture in Sydney, and an external examiner at the University of Tasmania's School of Architecture. In addition, he frequently gives guest lectures to schools of architecture, museums, professional groups, and the public.

He is also a founding director of the Australian Architecture Association.

Professional awards received by Johnson Pilton Walker, or by Denton Corker Marshall's Sydney office under Richard Johnson and his codirectors, include an RAIA national award and a Sustainable Energy Authority energy-efficiency award for the Sydney Hilton (2006); and RAIA national awards for the Art Gallery of New South Wales Asian Galleries, Sydney (2004); 363 George Street, Sydney (2000); Pyrmont Bay Park Stage 2, Sydney (1997); Governor Phillip Tower, Sydney (1994), Australian Embassy, Beijing (1992).

Awarded annually since 1960, the RAIA Gold Medal is the Australian architecture community's highest honor. Past recipients include Enrico Taglietti, Glenn Murcutt, and Jørn Utzon.

The RAIA Gold Medal jury for 2008 was chaired by Alec Tzannes, and included past RAIA president Carey Lyon, 2001 Gold Medalist Keith Cottier, Professor Philip Goad, and Melinda Dodson.   >>>

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Governor Phillip Tower faces a plaza at the First Government House Place development, designed by the Sydney office of Denton Corker Marshall under Richard Johnson.
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Backlit semitranslucent stone panels inside Governor Phillip Tower.
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On the plaza of the Museum of Sydney, the plan of Australia's original Government House is marked in light stone pavers.
Photo: Courtesy RAIA

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Freestanding columns of varied heights and materials serve as monuments on the plaza of the Museum of Sydney.
Photo: Courtesy RAIA Extra Large Image

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Johnson Pilton Walker's New Asian Gallery addition to the Art Gallery of New South Wales was completed in 2003.
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A narrow, two-story glass-and-steel space joins the New Asian Gallery to the older Art Gallery of New South Wales building.
Photo: Courtesy RAIA Extra Large Image

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Ordinary fluorescent lights are arranged in artful geometric patterns inside Westpac Place.
Photo: Courtesy RAIA Extra Large Image

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Johnson Pilton Walker designed the 2005 redevelopment of the Sydney Hilton Hotel.
Photo: Courtesy RAIA Extra Large Image

 

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