During my student years I was fortunate enough to have the late John S Chappel as my mentor. I vividly remember my introduction to him one cold and wet evening in the University of Adelaide Club Room of the Union Building. He was running late, burst through the doors grumpy, frustrated and seriously angry returning from a project meeting. As a mere student I think I was trembling at where the introduction to this South Australian doyen of the architectural community would go.
I don’t recall the exact conversation but it went along lines of ….. “ I’ve spent the last few months designing this building and have had the integrity of the design totally dismantled…after having it finally agreed with my client, now the planners don’t think it will fit in with the streetscape, the Council wants me to change the materiality, the roof form is too flat…etc …etc…. and subjectively appraised by all in half an hour ………… it’s going to look like. …###!!!!… “…….everybody wants to be an architect !….” he blustered referencing the multiple hands of interference (or collaboration if you like) on his design” ……..I’m getting really ####..!!!… with all of this…… my advice to you is stay away from this profession!”
Well I didn’t take his advice but the generosity of the man allowed me to access his studio when I needed to, always generous with his time and not afraid to express an opinion.
I’ve taken that exclaimed line with me throughout the years of practice and really not much has changed.
The state of architectural practice is in intensive transition and flux. The introduction of continual subjective regulatory overlays to validate our design outcomes is producing a critical intersection of conflicting expectations on the Profession.
We have somewhat lost our voice in the debate of the built environment in this State, seen mostly as an adjunct to that taken over by others. In turn, we seem to be fragmenting ourselves and becoming inward critics rather than externally advocating our views and values.
Critique starts at University and follows us into Practice. After design approval from our Clients we can now be critiqued firstly by our own peers, then by statutory authorities and then by the relevant Assessment Panel. It is not unusual for a project to have multiple reviews on many levels and many bodies before being presented for official assessment.
The cost of this to our Practices, project timeframes and economic development is I think heading towards that perfect storm.
In some cases the project approval system is being extended well beyond acceptable commercial timelines and directs unjustifiable blame on the profession. The question needs to be asked is this leading to better built outcomes?
Leading into this role I have received numerous vocal expressions, aside from the obligatory…… “ what does the Institute do for me “….. on perceived issues affecting our profession perhaps best summarised (to name a few) below:
- is the Planning Reform review system working
- is Design Review working and how can it be improved
- is the trading over approving extra height vs perceived better design quality providing a better urban form for our city or are we creating silos
- why do we require to bring in experts from interstate or overseas to offer commentary to us on what works in our State – surely we have enough expertise in our own backyard who understand our City
- are graduates work ready or should Universities reassess courses to better inform vocational and professional practice…. would this increase the worth of a graduate’s salary that is currently one of the lowest entry levels of the professions?
I understand that design lives in a subjective world, always has, but let’s have a mature debate about where we are at and where we are going. Critique works in both directions, and accordingly we have the right of reply in expressing our views. An informed mature debate with people of relevant experience is better than a subjective directive.
I would like to hear your views in representation of our membership of the key factors that are affecting our Profession at firstname.lastname@example.org and together effect and frame commentary as an independent body for our membership. It is important.
Over the next few years in this role I would like us to engage in dialogue and advocate on the following:
– to forge an everyday connection with the public to share in how architects can contribute to issues affecting our society from affordable housing to the liveability of the built environment in which we work, live and play as something that is more socially inclusive rather than exclusive;
– to strengthen an inherent understanding of our regional design culture and identity of our State and City;
– to increase multi-generational involvement in the Institute
but most importantly the need to advocate and foster the contribution of local and emerging practices and graduates by giving them opportunity in this State is of prime motivation.
More on this to follow.
In closing, a big thank you to Mario for his leadership and ongoing commitment in his role over the last two years. Amongst other initiatives, he has tirelessly provided input into the Planning Reform Process advocating for the role of design and architects to be enshrined into the current overview, the profession owes him gratitude to the outcomes that are being released.
SA Chapter President