Brian Patrick Keirnan Prize for Students of Architecture



“Brian was a modern renaissance figure with a scholastic appreciation of art and form – all self taught. He could walk into a space and almost immediately reimagine it.“  – Former Prime Minister, Paul Keating.


The Brian Patrick Keirnan Prize is open to NSW students of architecture and is based on the theme of ‘Reimagining, Reinventing and Reinterpreting Public Space’. The prize is for overseas travel and research and/or overseas study to enrich professional development.

Brian was a Sydney based designer who passed away in 2018. Through a career spanning more than 40 years, Brian’s body of work encompassed both the private and public domains. His work was characterised by a profound and intuitive understanding of how spaces defined interiors and exteriors and how that influenced the ways people experienced those places.

His approach to design reflected a deep generosity which extended to those he encountered professionally, not least student and emerging practitioners of design and architecture whom he was passionate to support. Brian was himself a lifelong student and encouraged those he mentored never to lose the fascination with learning and to challenge convention and the ordinary as central tenets of good design. He was generous in his advice and time, taking reward from seeing new careers flourish. This prize seeks to capture that generous spirit.


Following review by the jury, only one winning proposal will be selected each year. The winning individual or group will receive funding of $10,000 expressly for overseas travel and overseas research and/or overseas study for professional development that is aligned with the prize theme. In addition to selecting a winner for the Prize, it is also open to the jury to award a commendation/s for an entry/ entries which expresses strongly the themes of the Prize.


The Institute thanks the donors of the Brian Patrick Keirnan Prize and their support of both students of architecture and architecture more broadly in Brian’s memory.


Entry Information

Eligibility & Conditions of entry

To be eligible, an entrant must have been enrolled in 2020 and/or be enrolled for 2021 in one of the following schools of Architecture in NSW:

  • Faculty of the Built Environment, University of NSW School of Architecture and Built Environment,
  • Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment University of Newcastle
  • Faculty of Architecture University of Sydney
  • School of Architecture, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Faculty of Architecture, Western Sydney University

Both individual and group submissions are accepted.

A proposal can be entered up to two times for consideration, should it not be successful the first year. If an entry is unsuccessful after two submissions, it is not eligible for further consideration.

The prize recipient will be required to share a “travel diary” via social media, and develop a written report articulating how their original project has changed, evolved and/or developed as a result of the travel, study and research they have undertaken. This will be a combination of text and graphics, with an extract to be published in the NSW Architecture Bulletin. The prize recipient will also be invited to present their work in a public presentation organised with the Institute’s NSW Chapter.

Important note re COVID-19:

The Brian Patrick Keirnan Prize is expressly for overseas travel and overseas research with the Prize recipient required to complete and report on their project within 12 months of being awarded. Given the current COVID19 restrictions on overseas travel and unpredictability of when it will resume, the Prize Donors have relaxed the timeline for completing the overseas travel and / or overseas research. Travel will only occur when the recipient/s feels safe to do so, government regulations permitting.

Key dates

  • Submissions open 1 November 2020
  • Submissions close 1 March 2021
  • Judging period 2 – 30 March 2021
  • Winner announcement date to be confirmed

Submission requirements

The digital submission consists of two parts – design proposal and written statements.

The design proposal must:

  • Be an unbuilt project in the public domain sited (situated) in NSW;
  • Demonstrate the theme of ‘Reimagining, Reinventing and Reinterpreting Public Space’; and
  • Include a minimum of 3 A2 panels (1 to 3 renders alongside any other additional graphics, video or drawings you wish to include to communicate your work);

Three written statements are required to complete your submission, they are:

  • Statement of motivation addressing your passion for the built environment (maximum 250 words)
  • A rationale describing the project and how it responds to the theme (500 to 1000 words); and
  • A proposal outlining how travel, and/or research on the Prize theme in relation to your submission will enrich further study and professional development of (maximum 500 words).


This page has moved, see here for updated information. 



Evaluation criteria

Juries will judge entries based on the following criteria:

  • Strength, innovation and originality of the proposal
  • Demonstrate the prize themes through direct interpretation of, and new thinking about, an existing space in the public domain within NSW
  • Clearly outline the rationale behind your proposal. This should include how the current and potential people that use the space would benefit from the proposal, e.g. how your proposal addresses place-making opportunities.

Conditions for award

A minimum of three eligible entries must be received by the closing date or the jury may reserve its rights not to award a winner.

The jury may choose not to award a winner if they believe the entries received are of insufficient standard or do not fulfil the judging criteria.

Jury composition

  • NSW Chapter President
  • Representative from EmAGN
  • Representative from Government Architect NSW
  • A practising architect with a focus on public architecture and/or architecture education
  • Prize donor or a nominated representative
  • Other advisers can be invited if the jury requires specialist input

No jury member is to have held academic position at any of the NSW schools of architecture during the period for which submissions have been developed, i.e. 2018 – 2021.

At least one member of the jury must have teaching experience in a university studio setting.


Past winner

2020 winning proposal

 | Antoine Portier and David Cadena | University of Sydney

View images here

This project reimagines, reinvents and reinterprets one of Sydney’s most iconic public spaces – Circular Quay – in a challenging, dynamic and thought-provoking way. Located on the western side of the Quay at the site of the Overseas Passenger Terminal, the proposal’s conceptual
underpinning and the resolution that flowed from it were particularly impressive. Located opposite from the terminal, the high platform and grand stairs of the Sydney Opera House were designed  with influence from Mayan pyramids, aiming to “free and raise buildings and people above
everyday life”. Extending this narrative, ‘Immersion’ proposes an inverted monumental gesture – a playful counterpoint to a site seeming to call for an iconic object.
‘Immersion’ displays a progressive approach to the way people in this reimagined public domain would interact with and experience the natural environment, which they are unable to do so at present. It encourages a return of a largely privatised waterfront to the community by addressing the existing impediments to public access to the foreshore and harbour. ‘Immersion’ reflects the aims and purpose of the prize in expressing on a grand scale – with imagination and lyricism – the possibility of a reimagined space and the opportunities that flow from that.
Read more here.


Carrington Living With Water
 | Christopher Zietsch, Brady Ainsworth and Joseph Gonzalez| The University of Newcastle
Although we must strive to limit the impacts of climate change, there are some realities that may no longer be reversible. Carrington Living With Water presents a future in which we not only learn to adapt to these realities, but in which we learn to thrive. The proposal takes the industrial suburb of Carrington and transforms its streets into a network of biodiverse waterways, and its warehouses into new housing typologies, storage for shared cars, or compelling artefacts within a verdant landscape.

2020 NSW Student Awards Catalogue

Media Release

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