When they were asked to come up with a plan for a small studio in the backyard of a Macedon Ranges house, where the owner would hang his late wife's paintings, the directors at PHTR Architects settled – almost immediately – on a big arrow.
"It was a very quick idea, but the client was very enthusiastic about it," said Toby Reed, one of the directors of the firm, which does small and medium-scale residential and commercial projects.
The client, Ron White, lived near Hanging Rock, and wanted a small gallery facing the bush where he could hang artwork. To maximise hanging space and make the four-by-eight-metre studio secure, he asked the architects to minimise windows, which ultimately dictated the studio's shape, with windows placed at each end.
Now, the completed shed – built in just 10 days – acts as a giant garden lantern at night, illuminating the bush from its windows.
"It's a modern reconfiguring of the country shed," Mr Reed said.
The budget for the plywood and steel building, of about $1500 per square metre – not much more than an off-the-shelf garden shed with slab – was tight. "We were basically competing with a Bunnings garden shed price-wise," Mr Reed said.
The building has now been shortlisted in the steel architecture category in this month's Australian Institute of Architects awards. It is among about 100 projects throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria shortlisted in 11 categories for the institute's 2014 Victorian awards.
Bendigo Library is shortlisted in the awards' public architecture category.
City of Greater Bendigo organisation support director Marg Allan said the listing demonstrated the importance of good quality design in public buildings.
"We are pleased the contribution that the design makes to the city and the community is being recognised," she said.
"The architects' brief was to retain the existing shell to create a high-quality building that was inviting and accessible to the community but also very considerate to the environment."
Ms Allan said community members had said how much they enjoyed being in the building.
"It has met all our expectations in terms of look and function to be able to deliver the service," she said.
MGS Architects designed the redevelopment.
Among other projects shortlisted are the renovated Prahran Hotel in Windsor in the commercial architecture category; a new canopy in Federation Square in the small projects category; the redeveloped Bendigo Library in the public architecture category; and a small family home in Coburg including a roof garden in the residential category.
A free exhibition, giving a snapshot of all the designs and projects entered in this year's awards, opens on Tuesday at Federation Square's atrium, and runs until June 15. The winners of this year's awards will be announced on June 20.
– with GEORGINA HOWDEN-CHITTY