Malcolm Middleton outgoing Queensland Government Architect

A message from Queensland Chapter President Michael Lavery

Recently, with the great support of a key sponsor, I had the pleasure of attending an Institute event for members in Cairns. On the same day, I was booked to fly back to Brisbane and farewell our outgoing Queensland Government Architect Malcolm Middleton. Unfortunately, my flight was cancelled and on the night Michael Keniger generously stepped into farewell Malcolm on behalf of all members. Thank you, Michael.

For my part, I had prepared a short statement to read, giving some background to the events which transpired and acknowledging Malcolm’s service.  I think it is still appropriate that these words are made part of the public record:

Last month, after 10 years’ service, Malcolm Middleton left the role of Queensland Government Architect.  In that time Malcolm has seen three premiers, nine ministers and numerous departments.  

For me, the most telling story about Malcolm is his time as a part of Q-Fleet (the state government’s car purchasing arm!) where his staff were all dismissed, the Board for Urban Places disbanded, and he was moved out of the heritage offices his office had enjoyed along with the Queensland Practice Academy, to a faceless office within the walls of Housing and Public Works.  In March 2012 the first LNP State Government in nearly 15 years was elected in Queensland.  The idea of a government architect was far from a priority in an era of economic conservatism and a push for small government.  (For those old enough to remember many lost their jobs and project services was largely disbanded).

As a result, Malcolm found himself attached to Q-Fleet which effectively downgraded the role and severed his ties with both the relevant departments and key ministers on a day-to-day basis.  Private work beckoned and the LNP government of the day looked both popular and ensconced. Many would have resigned their commission. Malcolm, however, was committed first to retaining the role and then to building its influence. This is a story of sheer determination, a belief in the value of the public realm and it shows a deep understanding of the potential to be gained by simply retaining the role of Government Architect.

In the years that followed Malcolm not only survived but thrived. A snippet of Malcolm’s achievements include:

  • Reinstituting the Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel, allowing the panel to then undertake reviews of important public projects including Queens Wharf and several major hospital projects
  • Running the Missing Middle competition and overseeing the pilot projects this spawned
  • Convincing the education department to amend their procurement practices for the new inner-city secondary colleges
  • Providing advice to the Gold Coast Light Rail project
  • Providing advice and support to regional councils
  • Providing advice to the Cross River Rail project 
  • Developing the QDesign Manual and obtaining the minister’s approval to publish, and
  • Advising large public institutions such as the University of Queensland, among others.

At the heart of this role has been Malcolm’s steadfast commitment to representing the woman and man in the street.  The forgotten stakeholders, the people who are otherwise without advocates when the door is closed and decisions are being made.

There has never been a greater need for the buildings, infrastructure and public places that we build to be as robust and adaptable as the buildings of our past. This ethos, combined with a passion for amenity in the public realm and the advocacy required to achieve it, sits at the heart of what Malcolm has been doggedly working on, on our behalf – officially – for the last decade.

This work and keeping the role intact are part of the legacy that Malcolm leaves us.

I am relieved to say Malcolm is committed to remaining engaged in the public realm through his work and I look forward to what that brings.

On behalf of the Institute and its members, I would like to say thank you and congratulations Malcolm.

Postscript

I note that Leah Lang has been named as the incoming Queensland Government Architect. Leah brings a wealth of experience with her from her time as the Gold Coast City Architect and we very much look forward to what she will bring to the position, congratulations Leah.

In noting Leah’s appointment we acknowledge the Queensland State Government’s commitment to retaining the position of the State Government Architect. Particularly the honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland Premier, and the Honourable Mick de Brenni in his role as Minister for Public Works and Procurement.

However, we also maintain an interest in lifting the capacity and profile of the Office of the Queensland Government Architect to be better resourced (at a minimum to be in line with its interstate counterparts), so as to properly serve and advocate for the Queensland public, both in the lead up to the 2032 Olympic Games and in the face of the predicted doubling of Queensland’s population in the next 30+ years.

The Australian Institute of Architects, therefore, remains committed, along with like-minded organisations such as the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects and the Planning Institute of Australia, to advocating for a better resourced and more effective Office of the Queensland Government Architect.

Finally

A note on the event, to all those (including past and present staff) who assisted in organising and making this event happen, thank you. A special thank you must also go to QPAC and CEO John Kotzas for his support and generosity of spirit. The collegiality engendered by these things is invaluable to building our community and extending the reach of our voice to, ultimately, improve the public realm.