As I write this message, like many of you, I am recently back to work after a great summer break and contemplating what promises to be a challenging year for our profession. Decreasing workloads, generally pessimistic activity forecasts, lower fees and, lower returns and salaries have contributed to a mood of uncertainty which can make strategic planning difficult. I am especially aware that this is a generation of younger architects, recent graduates and students for whom such uncertainty is a new phenomena. Those of us who have been around a while retain vivid memories of similar tough times and have learned the importance of making tough decisions to adapt to the new circumstances. However, this time seems to be different and although we in Australia have been spared some of the more serious impacts and vicissitudes which have fallen on our international colleagues, the longer and more enduring nature of this financial downturn is, for some, challenging some of our core beliefs and faith in architecture as a fulfilling profession. I am not one of those. I feel we have no choice but to grasp the experience of these times to reconsider our core beliefs, how we practice, our design methods, improving our business skills and how we advocate for the value we bring to our clients and the wider community. Whilst it is never easy to “relearn to swim whilst surrounded by crocodiles”, adapting and changing to meet the needs of contemporary conditions in a faster world is an inevitable part of practice these days. I believe that architecture and architects continue to have the power to change the world for the better, not by heroic gestures or by great individual feats, but by the day to day accumulated affect of all of us and our work, working with integrity and care and taking a leadership role within our communities to advise, guide and advocate in those areas relevant to our skills, knowledge and experience. Over the past months in my role as President through my consultation with many members around the state and in Chapter Council meetings a strong theme has emerged which is the responsibility of all of us; Leadership. I believe I speak for many when I say that architects will recapture the respect and be seen of greater value when we become better leaders. When I say that I mean across the wide range of our services, with allied professions, industries and communities. This is not simply the role of the Institute, but one for us all in our own way. To a large degree, this has been the focus of the work by both National Council and Chapter Council over the past year and will continue to be a focus in the year ahead. I encourage you all over the next year to consider how you may become a better leader and assist in establishing a more respected voice for architecture.
Recently and in the year ahead we have already initiated and committed to significant programs to advance the leadership agenda. These include:
-The Design Dividend program of weekly “postcards” and a dedicated website setting out the tangible values of good design, specifically targeted at all elected representatives in Queensland
-Built Environment Meets Parliament Queensland will be initiated in March this year where the Institute will have a prominent role, in association with the Property Council, Consult Australia, PIA and GBCA
-A Qld Chapter Procurement Advisory paper and submission to the State Government as part of their review of the Govt’s Procurement Policy
-A National program to completely review how the Institute communicates and consults with members
-A review and consultation with the State Govt on a revised Consultancy Agreement
-A commitment to assist the PCA with their “Make My City Work” public program
-The 2013 Queensland Regional Architecture Conference in Cairns in September
-Consultation and advocacy to James Cook University about the establishment of a new School of Architecture in Cairns Safety In Design seminars
-Grass Roots Workshop with all Chapter Councillors and regional chairs and secretaries, focussed in 2012 on improving public advocacy.
-President’s Round Table discussions to hear from regional and common interest groups, initiated in 2012 and to continue in 2013.
-World Architecture Festival, Singapore; Successful application to the State Govt for funding to assist shortlisted Qld Practices to attend and promote Qld Architecture
-Advice to the State Govt on the more effective delivery of the Indigenous and remote area housing program.
-Round table conferences with practitioners and academics to discuss better and more effective ways to provide student and post graduate work experience
-2013 World Architecture Day program, 7 October.
-A National review of Acumen
Chapter Council will reconvene in February at which time we may also know the results of recent Chapter Council elections. Soon after we will be conducting a major strategic planning session to confirm the more particular strategies and actions for the major areas of concern which have emerged from our consultations with members. These issues have consistently been those reinforced in discussions;
1. A stronger voice for Architecture; better public and government advocacy for the profession
2. Better career progression for women in the profession
3. Better support for regional members
4. Improving post graduate practice experience
My role as President of the Qld Chapter is also paired with my role as a National Councillor. This has given me not only the opportunity to contribute to the shaping of policies and programs at a national level, but through that role to better understand how National Council and the National Executive work. I understand that many of you have had concerns in the past about the empathy for the needs of members and the effectiveness of both National Council and the Executive. In my experience, National Council, led in an exemplary manner by Shelley Penn as President, has been a revelation as a well organised, robust, open and effective forum for National Leadership. Membership concerns are taken seriously, intelligent and informed ideas and debate are encouraged and inclusive decisions are developed. Having served on a number of boards and Committees over many years I am pleased to be a part of a very caring and exceptionally high performing leadership group. Similarly with the National Executive led by CEO David Parken and COO Ross Clark, where there is generally a very strong “esprit de corps” across the organisation with a clear sense of common purpose in serving the profession, a well defined management structure and delegated authority with high performing personnel. In my view the institute is exceptionally well run and provides very high value for members.
Please accept my best wishes for the year ahead, and as our great regional awards program gets underway, I am looking forward to catching up with many of you.