From the National President

National President, Ken Maher. Photo by Brett Boardman

National President, Ken Maher. Photo by Brett Boardman


7 Nov, 2016

As we continue the intensive process of renewal within the Australian Institute of Architects with increased momentum, our new CEO Jennifer Cunich is providing strong leadership in a process of building morale within the management team, rebuilding our IT systems and stabilising our economy. We are in good hands. The new Board of Management is now in place with the appointment of three highly experienced and skilled independent directors: Genevieve Overell, Sarah Richardson, and Giselle Collins. It is wonderful that there is now an equal number of men and women on the Board – a great result in support of our gender equity policy. The Board will be supporting Jennifer in delivering an effective operational basis for National Council’s strategic focus on ensuring effective membership services, delivering the highest quality of education for architects, and advocating the value of architects and architecture. With the support of members our Institute can be a strong and united voice in demonstrating the value of architects delivering holistic thinking and long term values in shaping our physical world.

Last Thursday, in front of a sold-out crowd, the winners of the 2016 National Architecture Awards were revealed. Once again it was an inspiration to see the breadth of talent and ingenuity of our architects around the country and overseas each year. These awards are critical as a peer review process for our profession, identifying benchmarks and hopefully inspiring us all to strive for the highest standards in the practice of our art. They are also a key platform for advocating architecture. The winning projects demonstrate convincingly to the community the richness, complexity and individuality of Australian architecture, as well as the value that architects can, and do bring through design. Congratulations to all involved and especially our award recipients. Your work showcases how extraordinary architecture and public spaces enrich the experience of the places we inhabit. Thank you also to our generous sponsors and partners for their continued support, and to the many staff at the Institute for delivering yet another successful program. Finally, thank you to the national jury of Stuart Vokes, Abbie Galvin, Rodney Eggleston, Fenella Kernebone and led by Jon Clements, for your generosity in giving your wisdom and time.

These awards are a celebration, but they are also a reflection on the state of our profession. They demonstrate that collectively architects can make a difference, by creating fine buildings and public spaces for our communities. Whether it is for buildings, transport or social infrastructure projects, there is significantly more value to be gained when architects provide their insight and leadership. Architecture awards serve to advocate the skills, knowledge and creativity that architects can bring to the community. Yet awards alone are not all that is important in this regard, architects need also to participate in the debate about our future – through having a voice, political engagement and social agency.

The importance of design is being increasingly recognised internationally with rapid urbanisation, densification, and the United Nations commitment to addressing climate change. At the recent UN Habitat III Conference a new urban agenda has been declared paralleling the Paris Cop21 climate pact, with a global strategy for cities embracing important matters of equity and engagement. Federal and state governments here are also recognising the challenges of densification and meeting the zero carbon commitments, yet real action is sadly lacking in most jurisdictions. We can however take heart from evidence of growing interest in design within the community.

Now is the time for us all to be active in spreading the word about what architecture can achieve. We all need to advocate this worth more effectively if we are to earn the right to exert influence more broadly and at the early stages of project inception, and your Institute is critical to this task. We need all architects to support the Institute and for members to encourage their colleagues to do so. We need all architects to join. Together we will be strengthening the Institute as an open, effective and engaging organisation, and a strong voice for the profession.

Lastly, a reminder of the next major national Institute event: our 2017 National Conference to be held in Sydney. This will be an exciting event exploring architecture titled PRAXIS: process.propositions.production, with a focus on significant architects presenting their work and delving behind how the creative thinking and modes of practice inform these projects. We will be announcing the inspiring line up of international and local speakers in the coming months. There will also be an engaging fringe program led by members of the NSW Chapter and EmAGN network. So please save the dates of 4-6 May. We will keep you posted and hope you all can participate to ensure the conference is a great success.

Ken Maher
National President