Architecture, Advocacy and Public Space

One of Melbourne’s most loved and visited public spaces, Federation Square has recently undergone a substantial review led by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect. With the State Government now shifting responsibility of the square into the Creative Industries portfolio, what does this mean for Victoria’s most iconic piece of architecture and youngest heritage protected site? What are the wider implications for public space across Australia, and what can be learnt from the process of advocacy?

With this Lean in proudly presented by the Institute’s Supporting Partner, Built Environment Channel, we unpacked these issues with Victorian Government Architect Jill Garner, who co-authored the review, and Tania Davidge and Michael Smith from public space advocacy group Citizens for Melbourne, who ran the ‘Our City, Our Square’ campaign, opposing the demolition of Federation Square’s Yarra building and its replacement with an Apple store.


Jill Garner

Jill took the helm of the Office of the Victorian Government Architect in 2015, stepping into the role as a public advocate for architecture and design after more than twenty years in practice. As an architect, her practice – Garner Davis – has received numerous industry awards for delivering sensitive, crafted public and private work. As a design advisor and advocate in government, she strongly promotes the value of contextual, integrated design thinking and a collaborative approach across design disciplines.

Jill has taught at both RMIT and Melbourne University in design, theory and contemporary history; she is one of the first graduates of the innovative practice-based Masters by Design at RMIT; she is a past board member and examiner for the Architects Registration Board Victoria; she chaired the national Committee for the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018 and she is a Life Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects.

Tania Davidge

Tania is an architect, artist, educator, writer and researcher.  Her practice focuses on the relationship of people and communities to architecture, cities and public space.  Tania is the co-founder of the architectural research practice, OoPLA (formerly OpenHAUS). Through the creation of public art projects, exhibitions and architectural events OoPLA aims to draw attention to the public spaces we use every day and how these spaces affect and influence our lives.

In addition, Tania is the president of Citizens for Melbourne, the public space advocacy group who ran the ‘Our City, Our Square’ campaign opposing the demolition of Federation Square’s Yarra building and its replacement with an Apple store.

Tania has a Master’s degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University in the city of New York.  She is currently undertaking PhD research at Melbourne University, focusing on the development of strategies for engaging public audiences with architecture, the city and public space.

Michael Smith

Michael is an architect, writer, built environment advocate and co-founder of architecture practice Atelier Red+Black. His practice has a focus on public benefit through outreach and activism.  Michael is heavily engaged in the architecture community and writes the Red and Black Architect, and has also written for Domain. Michael is also a member of the Citizens for Melbourne public space advocacy group that ran the successful ‘Our City Our Square’ campaign.

In 2018, Michael was guest editor of the Autumn issue of Architect Victoria, which focussed on the issue of Federation Square and the proposed Apple Flagship Store.

From 2014 – 2017, Michael was a member of the Australian Institute of Architects National Committee for Gender Equity (NCGE), a mentor with the Institute’s Constructive Mentorship Program and a guest design critic for the School of Architecture at Deakin University and Monash University.  Michael is also the consulting architect for the Built Environment Channel and has helped design this exciting new media platform from inception.


This Lean In session is proudly supported by Built Environment Channel, National Supporting Partner of the Australian Institute of Architects.

The Built Environment Channel is a media platform dedicated to supporting the architecture industry. Members receive a premium screen which broadcasts an audio-free combination of practice work, global design inspiration and important industry news and events. All at no cost. Inspiration. Information. Connection.