Vale Paul Pholeros

On behalf of the Australian Institute of Architects, National President, Jon Clements has expressed great sadness at the death of advocate, humanitarian and Founding Director of Healthabitat, Paul Pholeros.

‘This is a very sad time and great loss for our community,’ Jon Clements said.

‘With his unwavering commitment to improving the lives of those living in disadvantaged communities around the world through his award-winning health and sanitation programs, Paul has long been a source of inspiration to us.

‘Anyone who had the opportunity to hear him speak about his work, could not help but be moved, changed in some fundamental way.

‘His exceptional work has made valuable impact in Indigenous and disadvantaged communities across Australia and around the world from Johannesburg to New York and will leave an enduring legacy on those who were fortunate enough to meet him and those who benefitted from his generosity.’

2014 Gold Medallists and friends Phil Harris and Adrian Welke of Troppo added:

‘In the politically charged world of Indigenous affairs, Paul never stepped back from simply telling it straight. As the best architect should be, he was a champion for his client. He was our mentor, our guide, and always our friend, with a twinkle in his eye and a self-deprecating quip at the ready.

‘It is impossible to imagine his lean and taught bower and studio high on Bilgola Plateau – the platform refuge shared with his partner Sandra – without his big presence. It was here, between months on the road, surrounded by bush and a big view, he would recharge, to continue his polite but unwavering 30 year battle against the antipathy and prejudice that precludes our first Australians in sharing our society’s riches of housing, health and education.

‘The torch will be carried on, for he has taught us well – but how well and with what authority is the question, and, for all of us, our individual challenge.’

Richard Leplastrier, 1999 Gold Medallist, shared his thoughts:

‘Dr Phol as he was lovingly known to so many of us, realised from the youngest age as a student that Aboriginal culture and the land was the spiritual backbone of this country.

‘From that time on, he unrelentingly pursued its sustenance through his brilliant work with Indigenous communities. The background financial support for his Healthabitat practices has been provided by a series of small, modest beautiful buildings done by him over the years … thus showing us an exemplary ethic. What an example. What a tour de force. What a life. What a loss. Game set and match Dr Phol.’

A Life Fellow of the Institute, Paul Pholeros, along with Healthabitat, was the winner of the UN Habitat and Building and Social Housing Foundation’s 2011 World Habitat Award.

He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2007 for ‘service to the community by improving the living conditions and, consequently, the health of Indigenous communities through the design, development and improvement of housing and the surrounding living environment and working with, and creating employment for, local Indigenous people’.

In 2012, Paul and his Healthabitat colleagues were one of six teams that participated in Australia’s exhibition Formations at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Their contribution included a touring team consulting local Venetians about ways to improve their homes and educating the public about connections between housing design and health issues based on their World Habitat Award winning Housing for Health program.

Paul was a speaker at the 2015 Australasian Student Congress in Melbourne, the 2011 recipient of the Institute’s Leadership in Sustainability Prize, winner of a Special Jury Prize from the 2008 National Architecture Awards Jury for architectural contribution to Indigenous housing over 25 years and received the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ President’s Award in 1994 for the publication of Housing for Health: Towards an improved living environment for Aboriginal Australians.