At the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Arts Minister Simon Crean launched the long-awaited National Cultural Policy. The multi-million-dollar policy, Creative Australia, is an ‘official strategy for the arts, culture and creativity in Australia’.
Upon its release, the Australian Institute of Architects expressed disappointment at the lack of any significant measures to facilitate architecture to achieve better outcomes for the Australian community.
David Parken, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute said ‘While the government is to be commended for its commitment to developing a National Cultural Policy, it was hoped that, given the guidance the Institute provided to the government, the references to architecture would be strengthened, and would lead in turn to complementary changes in government policy, programs and activity.’
Mr Parken continued, ‘As a cultural enterprise, architecture is punching above its weight at both local and international levels – and all without government assistance. The profession is a key player in the creative industries and yet it has been overlooked. Architecture has again been the victim of its own success. I am disheartened by the tokenism of the policy in regard to the profession.’
Creative Australia has been sure to acknowledge the place that design and architecture hold in Australia’s heritage, culture and economy, but in the 152 page-document, the only significant reference to architecture is the following paragraph:
Australian architecture has evolved in response to our particular climatic conditions, resources and cultural demands. It now represents a unique architectural tradition, recognised annually through our own National Architecture Awards. The maturity of this sector is reflected in the recent success of Australian architects and designers at the 2012 World Architecture Festival in Singapore, where Australians won eight of 33 award categories. We are also exporting our architectural talent and expanding our international influence-at least seven of the major venues at the 2008 Beijing Olympics were designed by Australian architectural practices.
In response to this passage, Mr Parken asks ‘If the government really does value architecture so highly, why does it not support the profession in any meaningful way within this policy for a creative Australia?’
In 2011, the Australian Institute of Architects made a robust submission in response to the discussion paper and clearly stated why architecture and design are integral to Australian culture then pointed to a number of ways the government could strengthen the recognition, promotion and facilitation of architecture and its contribution to our culture.
The Institute pointed out that architecture encapsulates the development of our culture like no other art form. It demonstrates our technological advancement and innovation, our cultural ambition too. Also, that where most arts engagement- seeing a play, reading a book, visiting an exhibition – are experiences specifically chosen by an individual, architecture is in the public realm, buildings are ubiquitous and inherently part of our lives.
The submission proposed key government activity, including
- Supporting, seeking, facilitating and celebrating good design and architecture at all scales, through awards, design competitions, and selection and assessment panels
- Encouraging public discussion about the role and importance of architecture and urban design in Australian life
- Raising community expectations and participation that is guided by best available information of the value of architecture and good design
- Encouraging State Departments of Education to develop architectural and urban design issues in their curriculum development.
In addition, it outlined specific areas in which it could better support the role of architecture within our culture, such as:
- through the Venice International Architectural Biennale
- through the Gallery of Australian Design, a showcase for Australian design and architecture
- investment in architectural innovation and exploration, and
- the development of an architectural policy.
The built environment faces many challenges; an ageing demographic, climate change, affordable housing and traffic congestion, for instance. Better recognition of the role in which architecture and design plays in helping address these issues can be achieved through both a cultural policy and in the development of an architectural policy. Also, an increased emphasis in government policy on well-designed communities can help achieve a quality of life that supports the environment and a rich and vibrant culture and economy.
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The Australian Institute of Architects is the peak body for the architectural profession, representing 11,500 members across Australia and overseas. The Institute actively works to improve the quality of our built environment by promoting quality, responsible and sustainable design. Learn more about the Institute, log on to www.architecture.com.au.