From the National President

19 May

I have just returned from Perth, where I had the immense pleasure of attending the National Architecture Conference – Making 2014.

The Creative Directors Helen Norrie, Sam Crawford and Adam Haddow, the anchors Emma Williamson, Tim Horton, Elizabeth Watson-Brown and Andrew Burns – and the Institute’s event team are to be congratulated for staging a wonderful event.

It was great to take the conference to Perth and to attract such a large numbers of delegates from around the country and internationally. The range and quality of speakers was fantastic, as was the scope of the fringe events. I’d like to especially thank our National Events Manager Kahlia McGeechan, the Coordinating Committee and all the staff and volunteers who helped make it such a success.

The conference brings together everything I love about our profession – the people, the thought provoking presentations, the stimulating discussions and much more. This is one of the final events I will attend in my capacity as National President and what a great way to round out my twelve months in the role. I’m pleased and proud to reflect on the Institute’s achievements over the last year, some of which I’d like to touch on now.

Firstly 41X. On 3 March this year the then Governor General of Australia, the Honourable (now) Dame Quentin Bryce, officially opened the Institute’s new Victorian home of architecture at 41 Exhibition Street, Melbourne.

We are immensely proud of the Institute’s efforts in developing an exemplary, small footprint commercial building that shows how good design, sustainability and the work of architects can deliver outstanding results.

I’d like to share with you a quote from the Governor’s speech: ‘This elegant addition to Melbourne’s CBD makes a bold statement about the value of design. With this building, the Institute is strongly reinforcing the value of architects and architecture to the sustainable growth of our community – tangibly fulfilling its mission of ‘making the world a better place through architecture’.’

The Institute’s new Gender Equity Policy, which was approved by National Council last December, is another very important milestone. I am particularly proud of the Institute’s proactive approach to addressing the disparity between male and female representation within the profession.

Consisting of a series of best practice principles, the policy aims to maximise fair and equitable access to opportunities and participation for women within the architecture professional. Last month the Institute’s National Gender Equity Committee was established and will help deliver policy outcomes.

Earlier this year we launched the new Australian Institute of Architects Foundation. Chaired by former Director of the Art Galley of NSW, Edmund Capon, the Foundation has been established to promote the benefits of architecture and design to the wider community through national programs.

The Foundation’s inaugural program is the Droga Architect in Residence, which invites international architects to participate in a three month program to encourage the exploration of new approaches, the exchange of ideas, international collaboration and cross fertilisation.

Dr Carmen Fiol-Costa is the first Architect in Residence, and has already begun the program, which includes public and private events and activities to engage with students, architects, design leaders and the wider community.

Another exciting initiative we’ve launched is a research project on the value of design, in collaboration with the Government Architects of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

We’ve engaged RMIT University to undertake the research for us (this is an area that has not been properly researched in Australia before). The project aims to develop hard evidence of the value and benefits of good design for Australian communities. We hope to have the research outcomes later this year and I’m sure that they will be of great interest to many of you and help us persuade governments and industry on the benefits of good design.

At last year’s conference I announced the Institute’s bid to host the International Union of Architects Congress 2020 in Melbourne. The congress, held every three years, is one of the largest international events of its type, attracting many thousands of delegates from around the world.

The host city will be decided in August this year at the next UIA Congress, in Durban.

The other important international event is the Australian exhibition at the forthcoming Venice Architecture Biennale. Titled Augmented Australia, the exhibition will showcase innovative technology featuring 11 historical and 11 contemporary unbuilt Australian projects from the past 100 years. It will also bring to life the new Australian Pavilion by Denton Corker Marshall, while it is still under construction in Venice. The exhibition will travel nationally and internationally later this year and in 2015.

Being National President for the last year has given me a much deeper insight into the profession and the Institute.  I am well aware and acknowledge that the participation and commitment of members and staff are key to the delivery of the Institute’s quality programs, events and initiatives. Of course there are many other Institute activities which I haven’t touched on here, but which are no less important.

On 28 May, I pass the baton to National President Elect, David Karotkin. David is Managing Director of Sandover Pinder in Perth. He has been WA Chapter President for the past three years and served on Chapter Council eight years before that.

I wish David the very best for the next year and look forward to working with him, and supporting his work, in my capacity as immediate past president.

As President, I have worked closely with National Council, and the staff of the Institute, who have been extremely professional and supportive. I most sincerely thank and commend David Parken and all the Institute staff, my fellow councillors, members and our corporate partners for all of their support during my tenure.

Paul Berkemeier
National President