And the Winner Is: Sydney Opera House Crowned at Timber Design Awards!

The iconic project featured recycled brush box and white birch and was the crown jewell of a $350m project to renew the World Heritage site.

Mon 06 Nov 23


The Sydney Opera House Concert Hall is the winner of the Australian Timber Design Awards after being crowned in Melbourne last night.

Described as “the best of the best in timber design,” the ARM Architecture designed project took more than two years to deliver and was the final project in what the NSW Government billed as the landmark’s “decade of renewal.”

Involving a total acoustic upgrade, it recycled the brush box and white birch already in the hall to reconstruct solid carved panelling around the stage, stalls and rear walls. In addition, smart interventions were made to the existing ceiling to enhance the acoustic performance.

According to Andrew Dunn, the Timber Development Association CEO and award organiser, “the new panels diffuse the acoustic energy, prevent direct reflections and create a blended sound and sense of envelopment in the music.” 

Described by the five-person judging panel, headed by Rebeca Gilling, CEO of Planet Ark; Chris Grinham, winner of the 2022 Awards and including Bettina Steffens, Phillip Tondl and Professor Hamid Vali Pour Goudarzi, “as a project enjoyed by Australians for generations to come.”

Whilst Kevin Peachey, lead of Wood Solutions and award sponsor, commended the design team for its “elegant contours of various timber features.”

Kevin Peachey, lead of Wood Solutions, awarding the overall winner of the Australian Timber Design Awards to the design team from ARM Architecture.

The award coincides with the landmark’s 50th anniversary, not lost on architect Adam Hannon, who accepted the award on behalf of the ARM Architecture team.

Opened in mid-2022, it was described by former NSW Minister for the Arts “as the beating heart of the Opera House.”

The project rose above arguably the awards strongest-ever field

In total, 15 projects were awarded, including nine from New South Wales, four from Victoria and two from Western Australia.

That included Boola Katitjin, winner of the “Excellence in Engineered Wood Prize,” “People’s Choice Award”, which is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest mass timber building.

More than 1800 individual pieces of glulam were connected together using a simple bolt and pin connection system, which allows for easy disassembly. (Photo Credit: Murdoch University)

Designed by Carey Lyons from Aspect Studios and supported by Perth-based Trent Woods, Officer Woods – and local design firms Fulcrum Agency and Silver Thomas Hanley, it has already secured Western Australia’s top Architecture and Engineering prizes.

Now it is the favourite to complete a sweep of national Architecture and Engineering awards in the coming months.

Over 200 packed into the Cargo Hall in South Wharf, Melbourne and were entertained by Tim Ross, the Australian comedian, presenter and self-proclaimed architecture geek.

According to Mr Dunn, Tim was the perfect host, having written on architecture for various publications, including Real Living, Habitus, The Saturday Paper, The Smith Journal, Qantas Magazine and The Guardian. 

“In 2019, Tim was awarded the prestigious National President’s Prize from the Australian Institute of Architects for his advocacy work in architecture,” he told the Wood Central Publisher.

In his opening address, Mr Ross said the awards “is not solely to recognise a building’s abundance of use of timber or its photogenic appeal. Rather, it’s about acknowledging exceptional design, the inventive utilisation of timbers and the advancements of new markets for timber products.”

And he is not wrong, with Australia now leading a global push towards greater utilisation in buildings.

“Australia has such a strong history and tradition regarding timber design,” Mr Dunn said.

“We have always punched above our weight, and the applications have once again been exceptional.”

They include Marramarra Shack, winner of the Recycled Timber Award; ANMF House, which took home the Sustainability Prize; Austin Reed, this year’s Rising Star; Galkangu Bendigo Govhub, which picked up the Australian Certified Timber Prize; and the list goes on.

The complete list of the winners includes:

  • People’s Choice – Boola Katitjin – Murdoch University by Aurecon, Lyons Architects and Multiplex 
  • Sustainability – ANMF House by BayleyWard Architects
  • Rising Star – Austin Reed from Brother Nature for Kunama Townhouses
Excellence in Timber Applications: 
  • Residential Class 1: New Building – Pocket Passiv by Anderson Architecture. 
  • Residential Class 1: Alteration or Addition – Music Room by Alexander Symes Architects
  • Multi-Residential – Eternity Life Apartments by k20 Architecture 
  • Public Buildings – The Pavilion Performing Arts Centre Sutherland by CHROFI & NBRS
  • Commercial Buildings – Barker College Maths and Student Hub by Architectus  
  • Interior Fitout: Residential – Elsternwick House by Melanie Beynon Architecture & Design 
  • Interior Fitout: Public or Commercial – Sydney Opera House Concert Hall Renewal by ARM Architecture
  • Furniture and Joinery – Art Gallery of NSW Library and Members Lounge by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects
Excellence in Timber Products 
  • Australian Certified Timber – Galkangu Bendigo Govhub by Icon Fairbrother Joint Venture and Lyons Architects
  • Engineered Wood Product – Boola Katitjin, Murdoch University by Aurecon, Lyons Architects and Multiplex
  • Recycled Timber – Marramarra Shack by Leopold Banchini Architects and Cantilever Consulting Engineers


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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