2015 Queensland Chapter President’s Prize Citation

The most significant prize is the President’s award. The awards in the past have been given to Institutions responsible for delivery of high quality architecture through appropriate engagement with the profession – with the University of Queensland and Catholic Education for their commitment to traditional procurement that has the architect lead the construction process and a as result produce some of the finest work in the State that well serve many generations to come – the most sustainable act you can make.

The theme of my introduction was really about the importance of understanding the place – that is an understanding of inherent qualities such as the landscape and the light, the built fabric, the streets and open spaces. Without such an understanding it is easy to lose these attributes as our Cities and Towns develop.

To know a place and to understand its dna you need to be able to read the layers of history that make the place what it is. A City with layers is a City with a narrative – a story that one can read about the people and it is these sort of Cities that have a unique identity. And the key to knowing about these layers is to know the social and cultural fabric that made them.

Queensland is incredibly fortunate to have some people passionate about its architectural history for when then they began their journey there was not much a road map at all and it was certainly well before the internet – it must have appeared as an impossible task at the beginning. But we are certainly the beneficiaries to have the earliest part of our architectural history mapped and recorded for us and future generations.

So it is my great pleasure to award the Presidents Prize to Dr’s Don Watson and Judith McKay for their initiative and wisdom to establish a field of research in architectural history almost over a 50 year period.

Doctors Don Watson and Judith McKay are Queensland’s pre-eminent architectural history scholars.

Don Watson began his career as an architectural historian with the National Trust of Queensland in the late 1970s. Justice RM Hope’s 1973 Inquiry into the National Estate and the establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission marked a period of awakening interest in Australian’s history and our built heritage. During Watson’s time at the National Trust he undertook ground- breaking research into the origins and evolution of the Queensland House and authored the 1981 report The Queensland House: a report into the nature and evolution of significant aspects of domestic architecture in Queensland.

Watson furthered that research for another 35 years. He developed a research methodology utilising land title certificates, post office directories and newspapers publications (including tender notices) which are now fundamental primary research techniques for architectural research in Queensland.

Dr Judith McKay is an historian, heritage consultant, museum curator and author. Professionally trained in history, art history and museology, she has worked in national, state and regional museums. McKay pioneered research into early Queensland women architects including Beatrice Hutton and Elina Mottram. She presented on the subject at the first Women and Architecture seminar at the University of Queensland in 1982 and her subsequent article on Queensland women architects is the seminal work on the subject.

As an art historian McKay has a fine record of research into Queensland’s material cultural including two retrospective exhibitions at the Queensland Art Gallery on the work of Queensland sculptors Harold Parker and Daphne Mayo. As a museum curator she was responsible for notable exhibitions such as The Champions about two Queensland embroiderers, Queensland Remembers – War Memorials and Elllis Rowan – A flower hunter in Queensland. McKay is currently a member of the Queensland Heritage Council and has undertaken a number of significance assessments of important collections including the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane and the Queensland Maritime Museum.

While Watson was a lecturer at the Department of Architecture, University of Queensland he continued his research into Queensland architecture. He and McKay supervised numerous students’ theses on Queensland architecture which collectively form a significant body of primary architectural research and represent the foundation of Queensland’s architectural heritage scholarship.

At the University of Queensland, Watson worked with the Fryer Memorial Library to establish the Queensland Architectural Archive and exhibited the collection in an exhibition and catalogue “Well Made Plans” (1988) with Fiona Gardiner.

Together Watson and McKay authored two books on Queensland architects: A Directory of Queensland Architects till 1940 (1984) and Queensland Architects of the Nineteenth Century: A Biographical Dictionary (1994). These publications and the Queensland Architectural Archive underpin all architectural history research in Queensland.

Don Watson is continuing his research into Queensland architects with his current project, Queensland Architects of the Twentieth Century: a biographical dictionary 1900-1950, as a companion to his earlier biographical dictionary, involving research into the lives and work of architects who practised throughout Queensland during the first half of the 20th century.

Most remarkably, Watson is not just devoted to architectural history. He is also a nationally awarded and distinguished designer with a body of beautifully detailed works with a focus on regionalism and environmental climate sensitivity.

Watson and McKay also pioneered the recording of architectural oral histories and have their significant collection of recorded oral histories at the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland.

The depth and breadth of Don Watson and Judith McKay’s scholarly work is extraordinary. They have pioneered the academic and applied fields of architectural history in this state.

Speech and Citation by Richard Kirk and Alice Hampson