From the National President

Richard Kirk
National President, Richard Kirk.
Photo by Toby Scott

May 2017

At the National Architecture Conference, PRAXIS, earlier this month, there was a particularly poignant moment when the energetic Indian architect Rahul Mehrotra observed, ‘As architects we face a complete misalignment [between] our sphere of concern [and] our sphere of influence.’ I believe this goes to the heart of the challenge facing the Institute and the profession, and is certainly something that other institutes internationally are reflecting on.

In the public debates facing our nation, from energy security to housing affordability, architects are an underutilised resource.

Architects possess a unique spatial sensibility, we understand how to achieve the best outcomes for our cities, towns and communities. Building awareness of everything our profession can contribute is a key task for the Institute moving forward and to convince policymakers of the immense benefits in harnessing our skills and broadening the debate.

So how do we deploy our influence to ensure that our concerns are understood and acted upon by those who are responsible for public policy in our built environment?

We have undertaken considerable work these past 12 months in reviewing our policies to strengthen our position as an advocate for the profession and more broadly for community benefit. And this work will continue to grow and develop into a long term engagement strategy.

Recently, National Council adopted four new policies (as reported in this edition of E-news) on affordable housing, Indigenous housing, multi-residential standards, and work experience and internships – and these along with our other refreshed policies, will form a solid base from which we can speak with a stronger voice.

Housing was the centrepiece of the recent federal budget and while the focus here has been on increasing supply to reduce barriers to home ownership, we will be seeking to broaden the debate to include a discussion on the benefits of good design. We don’t just need more homes, we need better homes and planned public spaces that are enduring and break out of current market constraints. Read Ken Maher’s address to Members of Parliament on housing affordability at Parliament House in March here.

Despite energy security featuring high on the political agenda this year, the focus has remained solely on generation. The failure to address energy demand and consumption is a glaringly obvious missed opportunity, when for decades this profession has promoted the importance of building sustainably and how that can occur without a cost impost.

Unfortunately climate change, despite its obvious connection to energy use and consumption, did not rate a single mention in any of the budget papers and announcements. This is where the Institute can play a part in expanding the public discussion to be more rounded and complete. I look forward to your support in expanding this conversation in the public realm.

At our Annual General Meeting last week, we received overwhelming support to adopt a Plain English form of constitution document that is typical of modern not-for-profit organisations. The new Constitution replaces the outgoing Memorandum and Articles of Association. You can view the new Constitution here.

This new document is easily understandable and best practice for this type of organisation. In addition, it also reflects the Institute’s public interest purposes to make the world a better place through architecture and to educate the public about the value of good architecture both to individuals and to society at large. The Institute will now consider an application to the Australian Charity and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) seeking formal registration and public recognition of the Institute as a not-for-profit. Although registration with the ACNC cannot be guaranteed, securing formal registration as such would deliver tangible benefits to the Institute as an organisation.

It is a great honour to be elected National President of our Institute and as I begin my term I would like to acknowledge the immense contribution made by my predecessor, Ken Maher. Ken devoted an amazing amount of time to the role and provided excellent leadership in what was a challenging period during the on-going transformation of the Institute. On behalf of the membership, I thank him.

 

Richard Kirk

National President