Sean Godsell Wins AIA Gold Medal

John Hill
8. May 2022
AIA Gold Medal (Photo via Sean Godsell Architects/Instagram)

The Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has named Sean Godsell the recipient of the 2022 Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal — the AIA's highest honor.

The AIA Gold Medal "recognizes distinguished service by architects who have designed or executed buildings of high merit, producing work of great distinction that has advanced architecture or endowed the profession in a distinguished manner." 

In last week's announcement of Sean Godsell receiving the 2022 Gold Medal, the AIA wrote that "his level of international recognition is unparalleled" for "a small practice that has completed a relatively small number of dedicated projects." Many of those projects are residential in nature, as evidenced by the 2019 monograph on the practice, Sean Godsell: Houses. The practice has built non-residential projects, regardless, including the inaugural MPavilion in 2014, a Vatican Chapel at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, and the RMIT Design Hub at his alma mater, carried out with Peddle Thorp Architects.

The AIA announcement also says that "Godsell’s work has contributed significantly by expressing, on a global stage, an architectural response to Australia’s unique landscape."

Sean Godsell's Vatican Chapel at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

Godsell, who studied at the University of Melbourne and then spent a few years overseas in the late 1980s, returned to Australia and set up his eponymous practice in 1994; five years later he received his Master of Architecture degree from RMIT University. Widespread acclaim came with his design, in 2001, of Future Shack, a "mass produced relocatable house for emergency and relief housing" made from recycled shipping containers. It won awards and was exhibited outside of Australia.

In turn, the announcement contends that "Godsell’s architecture reflects an Australian architect responding to a deeply moral and territorial ethos. It is as unwavering as it is singular. His projects constitute an assembly of intricate detail, free of expectation. His work is at once personal, rigorous and relevant, and each project is envisioned from its specific context."

The announcement fittingly describes Godsell as a "master craftsman": "Godsell’s work defines an extraordinary commitment to excellence in design, detail and resolution, allowing us to experience the expression of an intense master craftsman. To achieve all of this in his practice timeframe is an extraordinary achievement that should be recognized, lauded and celebrated."

Sean Godsell's Vatican Chapel at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
The 2022 AIA Gold Medal jury:

  • Tony Giannone (Chair) – National President | Director, Tectvs
  • Alice Hampson – Director, Alice Hampson Architect
  • David Karotkin – Managing Director, Carabiner
  • Camilla Block – Director, Durbach Block Jaggers Architects
  • John Denton – Director, Denton Corker Marshall

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