The adjudicator rater

In any field of endeavour, it’s great to be recognised, whether it’s getting a metaphorical, (or literal) pat on the back from your boss for a job well done or winning a national or international award for your work.

No one can deny that scooping a prize for one of your projects is an incredible rush, some gongs carry more cachet than others, especially within a given industry. A trophy that is awarded based on the number of votes received can rightly or wrongly be viewed as a popularity contest rather than a true reflection of the excellence of the winner – potentially, he who has the most mates on the ballot, wins.

A more objective metric of excellence is the judged award, where a panel of experts within their field look at the nominees and select a winner based on merit. This is particularly true of the architecture, interior design and urban development sectors. For most, these are the awards that carry the most weight, because they are decided by panels of respected industry figures. As a result, they are a more genuine reflection of excellence – or, to put it another way, the value of an award can be judged on its judges.

Here at Hames Sharley, we have been honoured to provide a number of judges to sit on the panels of awards for bodies such as the AIA, DIAand the PCA, and it’s a responsibility we take very seriously. It takes a very definite mindset to judge well, not to mention being seen as worthy to make the decision in the first place. We asked a number of key figures across the studio about the qualities they think most valuable in an awards judge – here’s what they came back with.


A good judge has to be able to put aside individual opinions of what works and what doesn’t and consider a design within the context of its own brief, says WA based Associate Director, Gary Mackintosh. “This is reflected in the way Hames Sharley has no discernible architectural style. We design for the best architectural site response and individual client brief/needs, not our own personal taste. One example is the classical building we’re doing at Forrest Street in Cottesloe.”

The ability to look deeper

Judges need to go beyond the superficial when assigning worth. Instead, they investigate the role and effectiveness of a project. “Know and judge according to the relevant criteria,” says Stephen Moorcroft, National Workplace Portfolio Leader and DIA awards judge in 2016 and 2017. “Be prepared to lead debate and challenge preconceptions or prejudice. Take full account of the client brief and look at how a project specifically meets client aspiration and need.”

Reward restraint

Hames Sharley’s Principal of Interior Design, Charlotte Kennedy sat on the 2018 panel that selected the winners of the residential, retail and hospitality category o the WA Chapter of the Design Institute of Australia.

“Budget, brief, functionality, history and culture are all extremely important criteria to evaluate projects on”, Charlotte says.

“After my most recent experience, I believe a judge should recognise and applaud restraint.”

“A designer needs to understand when to stop, put down the pen and let the design be. Often what’s not there is just as important as what is there. A good design is a cleverly edited collection of decisions”.

“Judges need to be aware of the designer’s journey but at the end of the day it’s how others unaware of the process experience and ultimately enjoy the space”.

Respect history

To appreciate how a building has been designed, it’s important to understand what’s preceded it. “You’ll be more likely to recognise revolutionary ideas that will be successful” says Queensland architect Matthew Seddon.

“A primary point-of-reference is what’s happened before,” adds Harold Perks, Senior Associate in the practice’s Melbourne studio. Timeless design is something that has no name and is happily owned by society.”

Cultural awareness

It’s important to take into account the customs and cultures in which a design sits If a judge is well-traveled. “Living or studying within cultures with different values, constraints or environments brings experience and ability to determine the appropriateness of a design to its neighbourhood and future users,” says Senior Planner, Rebecca Spencer.

Recognition of limitations

In theory, a project should be easy when it has a perfect site, unlimited timeframe and a large budget. A judge, however, should consider the confines a design has been forced to negotiate to be successful. “Often the cleverest use of a low budget may put high function over beauty,” says Stephen Moorcroft. “And, perhaps controversially, client brand may outweigh social or environmental responsibility.” Similarly, a good knowledge and consideration of technical constraints and possible obstacles in legislation can throw a very different light on how successful a project has been.

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