From the SA Executive Director

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to hear five architects speak – Kirsten Thompson. Marco Spinelli, Ian Moore, Tony Zappia and Angelo Candalepas.  Their careers have followed different trajectories, the structure of their practices varies, and their work is distinctive.  All produce architecture which has been awarded by their peers and, more importantly, provides great environments for their clients and enhances the public realm. 

The way in which they discuss their work also reveals a confidence in their ability to create architecture that addresses the multiple constraints and opportunities that are present in any project and to do this in a way that adds value and provides delight.  It was pleasing to hear these architects speak about their work with pride and authority – both the creative aspects and the They could acknowledge their successes and frankly discuss those aspects of their projects that they would have done differently.

Each has worked hard to establish themselves and to develop their own architectural oeuvre.  Each has developed principles that provide structure and inform decisions.  Each revealed the ‘non-negotiable’ aspects of their practice – the things that they would not compromise to achieve architecture that meets their standards.  

Producing excellent architecture is not something that just anyone can do.  It requires a high degree of technical knowledge and skill.  It also requires an innate ability to synthesise multiple often contradictory inputs to generate a resolved, logical, functional and aesthetically balanced physical outcome. 

As a profession, architects need to be comfortable in acknowledging and advocating for what it is they do.  Not in a shouty, arrogant way, but with assurance and confidence.  We need to provide our clients and the wider public with trust in our ability to successfully deliver outcomes that are far outside their capacity to fully understand.  To admit this is not arrogance, it is reality. 

Too often I see architects questioning or apologising for their work.  ‘What we tried to do’, ‘I think we might have’, ‘it kind of does….’  None of these statements should be used in explaining projects.   Either a successful outcome has been achieved or it hasn’t, in which case we should be able to articulate why this is the case. 

We would not want medical professionals to approach health care with that degree of uncertainty.  We want them to acknowledge the unknowns but to be confident in their ability to use their skills to manage the situation.  We want them to arrive at a treatment plan that balances what they know, the inherent risks and the resources available.  We don’t want them to be apologetic or doubtful.

The other encouraging aspect of these presentations was the number of students and recent graduates who attended.  So, apart from gaining an insight into the projects presented, my hope is that those present came away with an understanding that it is acceptable – indeed necessary – for an architect to be able to speak with assurance about what they do.

This may not be a comfortable thing for architects to do, especially in a public setting.  An architect’s work is often subjective and personal, and this adds complexity to the task of explaining this inherently complex process.  However, being able to clearly communicate the intent of our work is an important skill to cultivate.  It is essential in enabling architects to establish trust in their clients and respect in the public at a time when confidence in the construction sector under significant pressure. 

Nicolette Di Lernia
SA Chapter Executive Director
10 September 2019

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