The much-maligned Crown Street Mall revamp has won one of the state's top urban design awards.
The Wollongong CBD strip was labelled cold and sterile and compared to a prison yard when it first re-opened, but its "flexible" grey-paved design has now earned one of the highest accolades at the Australian Institute of Architects awards.
At a ceremony in Sydney on Thursday night, the Wollongong City Council project - designed by the Government Architect's Office - was named the winner of the prestigious Lloyd Rees Award.
The prize recognises projects which have enhanced the public domain or contributed to the wellbeing of the community; the awards jury commended the mall renewal for supporting an active city life.
"By careful design process the project amply succeeds in its aims, providing a flexible and durable place for people which stretches 360 metres through the city," the jury said.
Overall, Wollongong cleaned up at the 2015 awards, with three projects taking out honours across multiple categories.
The University of Wollongong's striking sustainable research centre, designed by Cox Richardson, won the state's top prize for sustainable architecture - the Milo Dunphy Award - as well as a commendation in the educational architecture category.
The award jury said the Innovation Campus building was "water, energy and carbon neutral; beautiful, inspiring and educational; socially responsible and equitable; non-toxic and healthy".
GPT's Wollongong Central building, designed by HDR Rice Daubney, took out the categories of commercial architecture and urban design. It was also commended for its use of steel architecture through the Colorbond Award, while the unusual use of colanders received the IALD lighting prize.
"This is an exemplary project representing the new role of shopping centres as active players in the life of the city," the awards jury said.
"As a catalyst for further development and fine grain revitalisation along the adjacent streets and laneways, it will continue to impact upon the city's transformation as a vibrant and dense urban centre."
The president of the institute's NSW chapter Shaun Carter made note of Wollongong's success at this year's awards, saying it was "fantastic" to see so many projects from a regional centre competing with their metropolitan counterparts.
"Our regional towns and cities are integral to our national fabric and it's exciting to see design excellence reaching beyond the boundaries of the capital city," he said.
"It is important to remember that the requirement for quality architecture and urban places and spaces exists outside of Sydney."