60 Years of
Acumen Practice Notes

Barangaroo House | Collins and Turner | Photographer: Rory Gardiner

Celebrating 60 years of Acumen Practice Notes

Our Acumen Practice Notes continue to provide knowledge and engagement to all levels of the profession, from students to experienced practitioners.

This year we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Acumen Practice Notes. On this dedicated page, take a look back at a timeline of Acumen’s history, read some member reflections and learn more about this membership benefit.

Your Acumen reflections


Predecessor notes are published in the RAIA yearbook

The first recorded publication of practice notes for Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) members was prepared by the NSW chapter. Notes included Engagement Contract between Client and Architect, A Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect, Advice to Tenderers, and Standard method for the Cubing of Buildings.

Image. 1959 to 1960 Yearbook cover page and page from A Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect.

1959 to 1960
A practice group of Victorian practices is formed to provide mutual support and advice in practice matters

A practice group of Victorian practices was formed by Sir Osborn McCutcheon of Bates Smart McCutcheon in response to ‘a study of the effects of government initiatives on architectural practice, arising from the then proposed Australian Universities Commission. This particular study led to the conclusion that many architects’ offices had common problems which could and should be solved, or at least studied, collectively.’ (The Arbitrator 1986)

Image. A model of ICI House by Bates Smart McCutcheon (ArchitectureAU 2018)

Practice Services is established by the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and the publication of Practice Notes commences

The publication of Practice Notes began immediately and was soon followed by notes on topics such as management, law and cautionary notes, along with reports and dissertations. The practice group transformed from an informal and private organisation to a formal part of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, led by Richard Butterworth.

Image. Richard Butterworth (ArchitectureAU 2000)

RAIA Practice Division is formed

‘In 1970, the RAIA adopted its present structure, with functional Divisions, and in 1971 the RAIA Practice Division was formed as the first of those Divisions, with Richard Butterworth as the first Director.’ (The Arbitrator 1986)

Image. 30 Howe Crescent, South Melbourne. In 1978, the National Practice Division was located in this building.

The National Practice Committee is supported by Practice Committees in each Chapter

'Practice Notes were drafted by Practice Committee members or their state members, or [the Practice Division], then circulated for comment and given approval for publication at a quarterly meeting of the Practice Committee, usually in Melbourne…Once approved…they were printed on a little off-set printer….and it was all hands to the plough to collate, staple and mail the notes to the subscribers’ (Lothian 2024).

Image. NPC circa 1980s, Sydney (Image: Margo J. Photographics) (click to enlarge image)

1970s to 2000s
Practice notes become ‘Advisory Notes’ and the four volume hard-bound coloured folder set is established

The Practice Notes were reviewed and reordered under the new collective name ‘Advisory Notes’, comprising around 550 notes. The notes were printed and organised into the recognisable hard-bound coloured folder set.

Image. Advisory Notes coloured folder set

1996 to 2009 (approx.)
CD-ROM version of the Advisory Notes is made available alongside the hard-bound coloured folder set

In 2005, there were over 500 notes in a full set. The Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) sponsored the RAIA Practice Notes from 1999 to approx. 2009, noting the ‘ACA supports RAIA Practice Services, recognising that it is an invaluable resource in the successful practice of architecture. The RAIA Advisory Notes on CD are proudly sponsored by ACA’.

Image. Advisory Notes CD-ROM 2006 

2000 to 2009
Practice of Architecture Learning Series (PALS) commences

The Practice Notes became an included benefit of the PALS program with Acumen notes forming an ongoing part of the PALS reading material.

Image. Current PALS banner

2001 (approx.)

Acumen launches as an online platform based on the Advisory Notes

In June 2014, there were 1264 individual notes published on Acumen. The original notes were divided over different notes to accommodate the new digital format.

Image. Original Acumen logo

2009 to 2018
The Acumen Content Review Panel (ACRP) is formed and has its inaugural meeting

Since its inaugural meeting, there have been 20 members of the ACRP from Feb 2014 to Feb 2024 inclusive. See Acumen Acknowledgements page for full list of ACRP members.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Australian Institute of Architects and the Architects Registration Board of Victoria (ARBV) is established

The MoU enabled Acumen access to newly registered non-member architects within given years. The MoU facilitated a commitment to the development of a new Acumen platform and establishment of dedicated Acumen editor role.

Image. ARBV logo

2017 to 2019
Revised Acumen website is launched in April 2018

The design of the current Acumen website was established, with four main sections – Practice, Project, Resources and Environment.

Image. Screenshot from current Acumen website

2018 to current
Revised Acumen website is launched in April 2018

A separate subscription for non A+ members is no longer required for access to Acumen.

Environment is introduced into Acumen, incorporating the Environment notes

Environment notes (previously the online Environment Design Guide (EDG)) is incorporated into Acumen in December 2018. See more about the history of Environment here.

Image. Original EDG branding and current Environment logo

Acumen is available to all members

Acumen is made available to all members (including Affiliate members) as a membership benefit. 

The Acumen Content Review Panel (ACRP) celebrates 10 years

The ACRP celebrates 10 years as an Australian Institute of Architects national committee, tasked to develop and maintain the accuracy, currency and quality of the Acumen Practice Notes.

Image. The ACRP over the years (click to enlarge image)

60 years of Acumen

The Australian Institute of Architects celebrates 60 years of the Acumen Practice Notes.

Image. Dedicated 60 year Acumen logo



ArchitectureAU 2000 – Obituary: Architecture Australia, July 2000

ArchitectureAU 2018 – Australia’s first skyscraper turns 60

The Arbitrator 1986 – ‘Richard Butterworth Awarded High Honour’, August 1986

Lothian 2024 – Marg Lothian, former Legal Officer, Director of the RAIA Practice Division, between 1986 and 1989

*This timeline has been complied to the best of knowledge, input and available resources.

Membership benefit

Acumen Practice Notes is an online resource of architectural practice material, providing an extensive database of advisory notes on managing architectural practice and projects in Australia.

The Practice Notes are continuously updated with new and revised notes, informed by the Acumen Content Review Panel and Environment Advisory Group, and include downloadable resources such as the ABIC reference contracts (as applicable to all states and territories), digital versions of the Institute’s Client Architect Agreement and the Client Architect Agreement for Limited Services, Guide letters, Client information notes and Case studies.

Acumen covers the primary streams: Practice, Project, Resource and Environment.

Acumen is an included membership benefit.

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