From the National President

Clare Cousins

 

12 Nov 2018

The last month has been both an exhilarating and challenging time for Australian architecture.

National Architecture Awards
It was wonderful seeing many of you at the Institute’s 2018 National Architecture Awards, where we could come together and celebrate the amazing achievements of Australia’s architects and our international members.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every architect and practice who entered, the juries and the Institute staff.

Demolition of Anzac Hall
The Institute was disturbed to hear the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that the Australian War Memorial’s Sir Zelman Cowen Award-winning Anzac Hall, just 17 years old, would be demolished to make way for a new, larger building.

While we recognise and support the vital importance of properly honouring our service men and women, we are saddened and angered that the proposed redevelopment fails to consider options that would allow for Anzac Hall’s preservation.

This appears to be part of an emerging pattern where great public architecture is not appropriately valued or respected by our politicians. To demolish Anzac Hall would not only represent wanton waste but illustrate flagrant disregard and disrespect for our craft. It also raises concern as to what iconic buildings may come next.

I met with Australian War Memorial director, Dr Brendan Nelson, last Wednesday to discuss our concerns, together with ACT Chapter President Philip Leeson and Adrian FitzGerald from Denton Corker Marshall.

Our sense coming out of the meeting with Dr Nelson is that he and the AWM Board and management have no intention of reconsidering their intention to demolish Anzac Hall. This is despite Dr Nelson advising us that some 18 designs were considered, 17 of which allowed for the preservation of the existing structure. We understand at least one of these alternatives was also more cost effective.

Needless to say, we will continue to contest this approach so stay tuned for how you can lend your support. A huge thanks to those local members who turned out at short notice in the rain on Wednesday – it was terrific to get some continued media coverage of our message.

Competitions
Another growing issue for the Institute is what appears to be an increasing tendency to seek out the so-called ‘cache’ of overseas architects for major new public buildings. We are putting governments around the country on notice that the Institute will accept nothing less than a full, fair and transparent process for each and every competition they run – especially those funded by the taxpayer.

The architectural profession in Australia demonstrably has the talent, capability and capacity to compete at the highest levels alongside international counterparts.

While we would never seek to exclude our overseas colleagues from participating, the Institute will call out any suspected bias or government-directed preference for an overseas architect over an Australian architect, for any reasons other than a fair, peer-judged process of merit.

The Institute has a robust competitions policy and guidelines which competitions need to comply with in order to be endorsed. Any significant departure from this policy risks the Institute and its members’ endorsement being lost.

We acknowledge the NSW Government’s engagement with the Institute to date regarding the Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) at Paramatta competition and look forward to seeing full compliance on this and in all other competitions around the country.

Submission to the Royal Commission
Following our submission to the Royal Commission I recently met with Anna Bligh, CEO of the Australian Banking Association, to discuss our concerns with the increasing discrimination by banks of architect-administered construction contracts.

Ms Bligh was receptive to our concerns and agreed to raise the issues we discussed with a number of lenders. It was a very positive meeting, and we hope to be able to work collaboratively with the ABA to inform lenders of the value of architect-administered contracts in lowering their risk profile. We will keep you informed of progress.

Clare Cousins
National President