Award Categories

Below is a list of the different Award Entry Categories, which are consistent across all State Chapters. Winners of these award categories at State level subsequently progress to consideration by the National jury for National Architecture Awards.

In addition, the NSW Chapter award a number of Prizes which are either awarded to relevant entries in the awards submission pool, or presented following independent nominations. Prizes open for nomination include the Marion Mahony Griffin Prize, Adrian Ashton Prize, David Lindner Prize and Emerging Architect Prize. For more information on how to nominate, please select the relevant links below.

NB. Categories 1-9 can be entered into directly. Categories 10 – 12 are selected by jury from relevant entries, and cannot be entered into as independent categories. For International projects, please see details below for submission at national level.



Category 1:  Public Architecture
Projects in this category must be predominantly of a public or institutional nature generally falling within BCA Class 9. It does not include projects falling within the definition of Educational Architecture or any BCA Class 9b building used primarily for educational purposes.

Category 2: Educational Architecture
Projects in this category may be any preschool, primary, secondary or tertiary educational facility and/or joint research facilities in which an educational institution is a significant partner. Education projects may not be entered in the Public Architecture category.

Category 3:  Residential Architecture – Houses New
Projects in this category must be residential in nature, generally falling within BCA Class 1a, and must include renovations or alterations or additions to an existing building, whether or not the building was residential in nature in the first instance. Projects with up to two self-contained dwellings may be entered in this category.

Category 4:  Residential Architecture  – Houses Alterations and Additions
Projects in this category must be residential in nature, generally falling within BCA Class 1a, and must include renovations or alterations or additions to an existing building, whether or not the building was residential in nature in the first instance. Projects with up to two self-contained dwellings may be entered in this category.

Category 5: Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing
Projects in this category must be residential in nature,  and comprise of or include two or more self-contained dwellings (whether or not the building includes uses for other purposes).

(SEPP65 requires multi-residential buildings in NSW to be designed only by architects. It covers buildings of three or more storeys and four or more self-contained dwellings. The SEPP definition does not generally include villas or town houses, where the dwellings are side by side, rather than on top of each other. The NSW definition is out of step with the national awards policy for multiple dwellings and is currently under review).

Category 6:  Commercial Architecture
This category recognises achievement in the design of projects used primarily for commercial purposes. Generally, projects considered in this category fall within BCA Class 3b | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8.

Category 7: Heritage 

This category is for architectural projects that prolong and enhance the cultural significance of heritage places using the conservation processes defined in the Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter – and possibly including the introduction of new materials (please refer also to the Burra Charter Practice Note for New Work).

Creative Adaptation
This category is for architectural projects that adapt buildings to new uses through innovative design solutions and sustainability measures, while successfully retaining the design integrity of the original structures.

NB. Winners of the CONSERVATION and CREATIVE ADAPTATION categories will  progress to the National Heritage Awards category. Heritage category definition- National awards policy: This category recognises achievement in the conservation, restoration and/or adaptive design of historic building fabric, which may include a study developed in accordance with the Australian ICOMOS Burra Charter.  Projects considered in this category can be of any type or class of building.

Category 8:  Interior Architecture
This category recognises achievement in the design of an interior spatial environment and may include projects completed within a new buildings or the interior refurbishment of an existing building.

Category 9:  Urban Design
Projects in this category may be single buildings, groups of buildings or non-building projects, studies or masterplans, which are of public, civic or urban design in nature. Awarded projects must have enhanced the quality of the built environment or public domain or contribute to the wellbeing of the broader community.

Category 10:  Small Project Architecture
This category recognises achievement in design considered to be ‘small’ in terms of area or budget. Generally, projects considered are those which have been constrained by space or cost restrictions, but have achieved a level of invention, creativity and craftsmanship beyond those constraints.  This category can accommodate projects which might be over-looked against larger scale projects in other categories. Generally, projects of all functional types may be considered.

Category 11:  Sustainable Architecture
This category recognises projects which excel as architecture, and also display innovation and excellence in terms of environmental sustainability. Juries will assess the environmental performance in terms of the Institute’s Environment Policy (Supplement: Sustainable Design Strategies for Architects). Other non-building projects that contribute to the advancement of architecture and to the goals outlined in the Environment Policy may also be considered for this Award.

Members are not able to enter this category directly via the online entry system, but all submitted Awards entries may be considered. Entrants should provide information regarding the sustainable design of the project as part of the entry process. Upon review of all entries, the relevant Jury will determine a shortlist for consideration in this category. Juries will determine a Named Award in this Category where at least 5 entries have been shortlisted for consideration.

Category 12:  Enduring Architecture
Open to buildings of at least 25 years of age, this award recognises achievement for the design of buildings of outstanding merit which remain important as high quality works of architecture when considered in a contemporary context. Nominations for the award are open to all, and members, non-members and non-architects are encouraged to put forward recommendations for consideration by the jury.

Category 13: Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture
Entrants can elect to be included for consideration in this category at the time of entering their project details. The ColorBond Award for Steel Architecture is sponsored by Bluescope Steel and recognises projects in which steel products play a significant role in the architectural solution and exemplify innovation in the use of steel products. To be considered for this Award the use of BlueScope products, including ColorBond, is not mandatory. Bluescope Steel will offer short-listed entrants in this category one complimentary ticket to attend the  Awards Presentation Dinner.

Category 14:  International Architecture
This award acknowledges the work of Institute members resident outside Australia and local members undertaking commissions overseas. Projects in this category must be located outside the eight State and Territory jurisdictions of the Commonwealth of Australia. This award is not considered at Chapter Level, and all members wishing to submit entries for the International Architecture Award should refer to 7.9 INTERNATIONAL AREA in the Awards Entry Handbook for full details. All enquiries should be directed to Peter Beratis ( tel: 03 8620 3861



The NSW Chapter of the Institute of Architects introduced its first design award in 1932.  The Sulman Medal was named for the English-trained architect John Sulman who had been working in NSW since the 1880s.  Sulman was a passionate advocate of town planning and the Medal which commemorates his work was intended to be for a building of exceptional merit that contributed to the streetscape. 

For over three decades the type of building given the award cycled between five classes:

1.         Public and Monumental – Government Buildings, Town Halls, Art Galleries, Railway Stations &  Hospitals &c

2.         Educational and Ecclessiastical – Schools, Churches, Convents &c

3.         Commercial & Industrial – OfficeBuildings, Warehouses, Factories &c

4.         Recreational – Theatres, Sporting Buildings &c

5.         Domestic & Residential – Homes, &c.

In addition Australian buildings were eligible for awards given by the Royal British Institute of Architects (RIBA).  The Sulman Medal became a vehicle for the introduction of new architectural ideas, and the award to Harry Seidler for the Rose Seidler House in 1951 caused a controversy that was reported across the country.

In 1958-1960 the cycling through building types for the annual Sulman Medal was abandoned, and buildings of all classes could be entered each year.