Sydney architecture student takes out top Design Medal

15 May 2009

University of Sydney architecture graduate Monica Earl has won the prestigious Australian Institute of Architects NSW Design Medal at an awards ceremony on Wednesday 13 May.

The Design Medal is award for excellence in architectural design based on the work produced in the last two semesters of the final year of the Master of Architecture program. Students from Sydney, UNSW, UTS and Newcastle, the four universities that teach Architecture programs in NSW, are invited to nominate three entrants for the Design Medal.

Monica's winning work proposes an inventive new Opera Theatre for Sydney's Belmore Park, converting the park into the theatre's foyer space while still allowing free access for all that might use the park for recreation or transit. The citation for her medal states that this "enables the Opera Theatre to convincingly become a part of the public domain, not only for Opera-goer's, but also for anyone either passing through or using the park."

Her work, which included models, sketches and stylised paintings of the proposed venue, was from the Urban Architecture stream of the Master of Architecture, one of three streams students can choose for their final semester, along with Sustainable Architecture and Digital Architecture. Students complete each of these in the previous three semesters, before retaking their chosen graduation studio at a more advanced level.

Monica, who since commencing her professional Master of Architecture qualification has worked at Tribe Studio in Surry Hills, was thrilled at her win. "The project was based on abstract ideals, but the process involved thorough site analysis drawings to develop an understanding of the limitations and functions required of the site and the opera program."

The design drew on the vibrations caused by the adjacent and underground train line and incorporated these into the vibrations of the music in the Theatre.

"Genevieve Lilley, my tutor, was particularly inspirational and allowed me the creative freedom to explore concepts while still keeping me grounded with following rigorous processes in the studio. In fact the whole studio environment at Sydney Uni sets a really high standard of design, while also encouraging collaborative learning amongst students."

Monica also drew inspiration from the sketches of her grandfather, architect Cyril Christian Ruwald (1895-1959). "His sketches have been inspirational to me throughout my architectural studies, and the jury recognised the importance of my sketchbook in winning this award, so I feel I must attribute this achievement to what I have inherited from my grandfather."

Acting Head of Architecture, Dr Glen Hill was impressed not just at the calibre of the winning entry but all the entrants from NSW Architecture schools. "The level of creativity, combined with attention to detail and application of research, bodes well for the professionalism of the next generation of architects in Australia."

Monica Earl added "winning the award, even being nominated for the award, is an incredible confidence boost for young architects and acknowledges the value of new ideas in architectural design and thinking."

Monica's award-winning work, along with the other entrants from The University of Sydney will be exhibited at the Faculty of Architecture, Design & Planning from July but in the mean time her models and artwork can be viewed in the shopfront of PSA Consulting, located at 18 Glebe Point Road, Glebe.

For more information contact John Elliott, Marketing Manager, Faculty of Architecture, Design & Planning on +61 2 9351 7591 or the Media Office on +61 2 9351 2261