129 years after the first sod of soil was turned on the historic site of St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne conservation architects Falkinger Andronas has taken out the prestigious Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage at the Australian Institute of Architects national award held in Melbourne yesterday.

The Melbourne-based architectural firm has been working to restore the stonework of the impressive neo-gothic cathedral for almost a decade.

Company director Arthur Andronas was elated this morning at the victory. “Last night when I was called up [to receive the award], I was surprised we had won it because there were another 18 national projects of excellent quality.”

Mr Andronas emphasised the nine years of hard work that had gone into the project, and the need for a major and detailed plan for a restoration project of this scale. “You also need to have a vision, a sense of where the work will go. The building itself is considered to have a substantial Byzantine flavour, with the interior banding drawing attention to the altar, so we tried to stay true to the building’s original form,” he said.

When asked by NKEE about what impact the prize will have on his architectural practice Mr Andronas said, “Now the capacity to work for federal government and for major institutions is easier. It also validates the skills and our experience that we have gathered over a long period of time.”

Mr Andronas will now begin to extend the practice overseas. “I am concentrating on stone conservation for the United States and India. We are in discussion with architectural firms there.”

He emphasised that his main focus is still Australia, where he will aim to secure large national projects.

At last night’s ceremony, the jury said: “Falkinger Andronas have been responsible for the conservation of both of Melbourne’s major cathedrals, and at St Paul’s have been involved for over nine years. The decay of the building has been slowed, stormwater failures have been addressed and the building surfaces cleansed, so that we can more readily appreciate the visual qualities of the cathedral as its designers intended.”

The Sydney based practice of Greek Australian architect Angelo Candalepas, Candalepas Associates, also won two awards; the National Architecture Award for Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing, for Pindari, a multiple housing project in the Sydney suburb of Kensington; and the National Award for Public Architecture, for its design of the All Saints Primary School in the Sydney suburb of Belmore.