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Monday, June 7, 2021
John Wardle
Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medallist John Wardle. Photo: Supplied.

With a practice that spans three decades, award-winning Australian architect John Wardle has made a name for himself as the architect’s architect. Innovating across the broadest spectrum of architectural projects, from family homes to a music conservatorium, university research buildings and high-rise towers, it’s the desire for new discovery that continues to drive him, and his practice, today. 

“We have a breadth of practice that has been born out of a curiosity to explore new theories, to do things for the first time, and uncover new territories,” Mr Wardle says. 

“With every project, we’re doing things afresh and searching out new ways of approaching our service, to harness research and ideas in areas that we’ve not travelled before.” 

Mr Wardle leads a team of over 100 design professionals at John Wardle Architects alongside his fellow Partners and Principals in studios in Melbourne and Sydney. The firm maintains the design ethos of a small office, with the desire for discovery at its core. 

“We’re excited by the research, and the chance to engage with opportunities that are first-time experiences for us,” Mr Wardle says.

“We’ve just undertaken a whiskey distillery. We took it on because we’ve never done a whiskey distillery before, so the curiosity about the whole industrial process and engaging with the making of something like that drew us to the project.

“At the same time construction is commencing on a series of interesting research building for the University of Tasmania and a really complex regional courts building in the Victorian historic town of Bendigo. On the boards are a large commercial project and new family homes in three states. It’s the breadth and range that I personally enjoy.

Mr Wardle was awarded the 2020 Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the highest accolade in Australian architecture, which recognises 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. He will deliver the first instalment of the UTZON Lecture series for 2021, the Donald K Turner Address, widening the lens on current architectural practice and his vision of a shared future of architecture.

Mr Wardle says while the lecture draws upon the many lessons learnt across more than three decades of practice, it is one that is very much for the times today. 

“Even though I do look backwards and navigate the history of our practice, the issues presented, and the ideas are brought forward are through the lens of the practice to the time that we now exist in,” Mr Wardle says.

“I’ve refined the structure and storytelling for this lecture at UNSW, so I will touch on more creative aspects than just architecture as part of a broader design discussion.”

Mr Wardle says the experience of the pandemic has become a defining aspect of his architectural practice today. 

“It has reinforced my belief systems in the good that architects do,” he says. 

“For the practice, it’s given us a moment for reflection, but also to look forward at some of the larger issues facing society, most profoundly social equity and the environment.

“These are the two key issues that we feel the work of architects can really benefit humanity and create change.” 


 What: UTZON Lecture | John Wardle

When: 09 June 2021, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Where: Online. 

Register for the lecture