The Architect WA Spring 2016

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This landmark heritage / hotel project Como The Treasury at the State Buildings, stands out for the consistently high level of lighting design throughout its interior spaces and the high quality of the external lighting.

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The Official Journal of the Australian Institute of Architects: WA Chapter


4 contributors

5 editor’s message

7 WA chapter president’s message

gender equity

10 gender and architecture

14 architecture: where are the women? 2003 and 2015

18 ‘filling the pool’ – an update

20 national committee for gender equity

24 the hours

socio-economic access

30 are we out of touch? or out of time?

32 architects and housing affordability

34 the nightingale model

40 foundation housing – bennett street

44 304 south terrace

48 academic access at UWA

50 roebourne children and family centre

54 design does matter, but

opportunities and support

60 emerging, emerged, established

64 sprout hub

68 studio, shared

74 on registration

78 3 over 4 under 80 AIA vs ACA

82 more virgins please

88 ten from ten 100 equal access

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. . .


Tanya Trevisan

‘Architecture: Where are the Women? 2003 and 2015’

Tanya is a registered architect and Chief Operating Officer at TRG Properties

Emma Williamson

‘Australian Institute of Architects National Committee for Gender Equity’

Emma is Practice Director and co-founder of CODA Studio

Kieran Wong

‘Are we out of Touch? Or out of Time?’

Kieran is Design Director and co-founder of CODA Studio

Justine Clark / Dr Gill


‘Gender and Architecture’

Justine is an architecture writer, critic, researcher and editor of Parlour: women, equity, architecture / Gill is a researcher, architect and educator based at Monash University and a founding member of Parlour: women, equity, architecture

Marion Fulker

‘’Filling the Pool’ – an Update’ Marion is the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Committee for Perth

Stephen Hicks

‘Architects and Housing Affordability’

Stephen is a Registered Architect

Kerryn Edwards

‘Foundation Housing –Bennett Street’

Kerryn is Projects Manager at Foundation Housing

Bonnie Herring

‘The Nightingale Model’

Bonnie is an Associate at Breathe Architecture

Andrew Mackenzie

‘More Virgins Please’

Andrew is an architectural writer and publisher and Director of City Lab

Dimmity Walker

‘304 South Terrace’ Dimmity is an Architect at spaceagency

Dr Judy Skene

‘Academic Access at UWA’

Judy is Associate Director and Equity and Diversity Adviser at Student Support Services, UWA

Adrian Iredale

‘Roebourne Children and Family Centre’

Adrian is a Director of iredale pederson hook architects

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Important Disclaimer: The views expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Institute of Architects. Material should also be seen as general comment and not intended as advice on any particular matter. No reader should act or fail to act on the basis of any material contained herein. Readers should consult professional advisors. The Australian Institute of Architects, its officers, the editor and authors expressly disclaim all and any liability to any persons whatsoever in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by any such persons in reliance whether in whole or in part upon any of the contents of this publication. All photographs are by the respective contributor unless otherwise noted.

Michelle Bui

‘Design does Matter, But’ Michelle is a final year architecture student and activist with the Refugee Rights Action Network

Jaxon Webb

‘Emerging, Emerged, Established’

Jaxon is a Designer at Post- Architecture

Kate Fitzgerald

‘Sprout Hub’

Kate is Director of Sprout Ventures and Whispering Smith Architects

Beth Parker / Nic Brunsdon

‘Studio, Shared’

Beth is Community Manager of Claisebrook Design

Community / Nic is co-founder of Spacemarket and Director at Post- Architecture

Mimi Cho

‘3 Over 4 Under’

Mimi is Chair of EmAGN WA

Graham Edwards AM ‘Equal Access’ Graham is the former State President of the Returned and Services League of Australia (WA)

Editor Olivia Chetkovich

Managing Editor

Michael Woodhams

Editorial Committee

Emma Brain

Jaxon Webb

Adriana Chiera

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Publisher Australian Institute of Architects WA Chapter

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editor’s message

I had been wanting to do an issue of The Architect on gender equity for some time and as I started to think about this more seriously earlier this year I felt I was seeing this topic everywhere. And it wasn’t just Trump delivering an outrageous sexist comment every few weeks, cranking the media machine. On the ABC particularly I was seeing and hearing more women - for example the visible increase in the number of female hosts and commentators on current affairs programs and the election campaign coverage on TV and radio.

As we worked on this issue of The Architect I conceded this may have just been frequency illusion at play. And then in September John Howard said: ‘It is a fact of society that women play a significantly greater part of fulfilling the caring role in our communities, which inevitably places some limits on their capacity’. He went on: ‘Some people may say, “What a terrible thing to say”, and it’s not a terrible thing to say, it just happens to be the truth and occasionally, you’ve got to recognise that and say it’. Of course, he’s not wrong. And yes, we do need to recognise issues of inequity – Howard’s comment was in relation to his belief that the Liberal Party is unlikely to ever achieve its goal of equal gender representation in Parliament. However, it is one thing to recognise and accept a fact of societal inequity, and another to recognise and address it.

As we brainstormed the development of a ‘gender equity’ issue for The Architect, our concerns around issues of equity naturally expanded to encompass many other forms of equity in architecture. It became obvious that we were talking about some broader themes: access, opportunities, support, flexibility, innovation. The Spring 2016 issue of The Architect thus examines EQUITY in architecture in terms of gender equity in the profession, socio-economic access to architecture, and opportunities and support for practitioners. Each section of the issue has a headline piece introducing the angle of EQUITY, providing some context to the issue and prompting thought. How we as an industry further examine, respond to or tackle the issues follows with a variety of initiatives, projects and propositions. Not just recognition of an issue of equity, but how we address it. Our regular ‘ten from ten’ feature examines equity a little more broadly and we have insights from within and outside the architecture community.

In light of some of the questions asked in this issue, it has been interesting to consider the difference between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’. The former is a state of parity – of being the same as, the latter a quality of fairness. They are not the same thing and I feel that addressing issues of (in)equity is necessary to realise a state of genuine equality. Do we need to treat people differently in order for them to be treated the same? Questions of affirmative action and the semantic minefield of ‘merit-based selection’ continue to polarise positions on this topic.

As the issue came together and I reviewed the content, it became apparent that ‘equity’ was as much about ‘access’ as anything else. Access to a career path, access to quality design (although is this always the most important issue for clients?), access to home ownership, access to the market. Our back page piece addresses access in design head on. And in promoting access in the profession comes support - how we support each other to maintain a diverse, responsive and fair industry which benefits not just practitioners, but also clients.

Of course, this is just a sliver of the work in this field, but I hope it prompts thought, debate and hopefully action in our readers. •

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chapter president’s message

Equity in our profession was sparked by a discussion on gender equity, which rapidly transitioned into workplace equity. Gender was a very important starting point and remains a significant issue, with many young male and female architects looking for flexibility.

The biggest bugbears are pay and opportunity inequalities, together with regaining a place in the profession after significant periods of absence, or the desire for part-time engagement. Parlour and Committee for Perth’s ‘Filling the Pool’ have identified the issues and some pathways towards more equitable and diverse workplace arrangements, and while some large companies are acting on the actions identified, many architecture firms are not. The Male Champions of Change publication ‘Accelerating the Advancement of Women in Leadership; Listening, Learning and Leading’ was also very enlightening.

One of the significant gaps in equity is in child rearing years when many – a lot of women and some men – either leave the workforce or want to play a more significant role in the raising of their children which means that part-time work suits best. There is a perception that this won’t work, but that’s not the case in my own experience. Part-time means being well organised and often means five days of work achieved in less.

Affirmative action on equity issues causes a philosophical divide and is best avoided. A more proactive

engagement where industry leaders adopt an approach aimed squarely at equity might work better. If that does not significantly improve things, some form of affirmative action may be required, but I would hope we can transform practice in a way that avoids quotas. Institute members would do well to apply the 10-point statement of principles on gender equity developed during Paul Berkemeier’s presidency in 20131

Ensuring that our workforce is diverse and provides opportunities for all throughout their careers means a better balance during times when energies are required for parenthood, retention of talent in the industry, and a better prospect of returning to full-time engagement. With changes in technology and workplace mobility, it has never been easier to contemplate and implement a diverse and equitable workplace. Diversity and flexibility make happy workplaces. They change behaviour and create a richer, more considerate environment.

We are also looking at socio-economic access to architecture, a discussion that has been prompted in part by housing affordability and a degree of dissatisfaction with the product delivered by developers. This has led to more group development and bottomup design to get away from standard and often unaffordable options. Kristian Ring recently gave a stimulating Dean’s lecture on the topic based on her practice in Berlin. In this issue some of the alternative options for delivery are explored, including the Nightingale model. This offers the option of exploring how we really want to live and how we might do it in a collective way, with the prospect of developers’ margins being invested in the outcome, rather than being pocketed.

I must finally mention that we have been pursuing and assisting the State Government with the development of a planning policy on apartment standards. Our aim was to have a scheme that sets minimum requirements, design review through skilled panels, and the mandatory use of architects on projects above a threshold. The base model was the New South Wales State Environmental Planning Policy No. 65 (SEPP 65) Design Quality of Residential Apartment Development and much work has been done by all industry players to achieve a robust and useful policy. We look forward to the draft being advertised and trust that you will be supportive. •

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gender equity

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GENDER PAY GAP: FULL-TIME WORKERS 25 20 15 10 5 0 100,000 90,000 80,000 70,000 60,000 50,000 40,000 30,000 20,000 10,000 0 1924 1934 1944 1954 1964 1974 1984 1994 2004 2014 Statistical compilation and analysis led by Dr Gill Matthewson for Parlour $ ANNUAL INCOME PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN REGISTERED ARCHITECTS AGE GROUP IN YEARS
25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 6% 6% 8% 14% 17% -2% 8% 15% 58,420 55,052 74,097 69,822 87,290 80,002 93,359 80,412 96,773 88,514 95,259 81,140 95,011 78,798 88,953 91,137

gender and architecture

On gender

First, a few caveats. Talking about gender and architecture is not the same thing as talking about women in architecture. Gender is not a synonym for women: gender-based stereotypes also constrain men, and gender inequity is a societal problem that needs to be addressed by us all. Gender is also not a simple or straightforward binary. That said, a large proportion of the research, resources and discussion about genderbased effects in architecture is about women. This includes our own research and much of the advocacy and activism undertaken by Parlour1. This is because women, as a group, experience more severe career constraints than men as a group. It is important to note that talking about women and men as groups can lead to generalisations that might not chime with our own particular experiences. But by looking at the experiences of groups we can identify structural factors and by attending to career stories other than our own we build empathy and acknowledge a diversity of experiences. So, with those caveats out of the way, what is the situation for women in Australian architecture, how are things changing, and what can we all do to improve things?

Women in Australian architecture

Women have been active participants in Australian architecture for over a hundred years. The numbers of women in architecture grew steadily over the last century, and escalated steeply from the 1990s onwards. Yet all is not rosy. Both statistics and qualitative findings suggest that many women have unequal opportunity in the profession. Despite rising numbers women still lag behind men in every measure of participation, and the rates of women becoming registered architects have not kept pace with increasing graduation rates.

Women have comprised over 40% of architectural graduates in Australia for more than two decades and women are well represented, and active, as student and graduate members of the Australian Institute of Architects2 However, following graduation women start disappearing from professional demographics – they lag significantly in registration statistics and they are under-represented in Institute membership categories available to registered architects. Women are also more likely to be employees than employers, and those who are directors of practices are most often found in smaller practices. There is clear

evidence of gender-based pay gaps, and women comprise a much larger component of the profession’s ‘informal’ workforce: the Census identifies twice as many women working in architecture as there are female registered architects3

All of this points to a gap between education and opportunity which emphasises two things. Firstly, that the absence of women in the profession, and particularly at senior levels, is not a result of too few women studying architecture. Secondly, conditions within the profession constrict and impede women’s careers in architecture. That is, women are slow to progress, or leave altogether, because of structural and cultural factors within architectural workplaces and professional cultures. These factors are complex and intertwined. The structures of the profession are still geared towards the tradition of linear, rising career trajectories. This kind of career is aided by long working hours and social connections that favour men in the male-dominated construction and developer industries. This has a detrimental effect on many women (and some men), regardless of their talent, commitment, expertise and experience.

1 See Parlour: women, equity, architecture Research conducted as part of the research project ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work, and Leadership’. Led by Dr Naomi Stead (University of Queensland), the team included Justine Clark, Dr Karen Burns and Professor Julie Willis from the University of Melbourne; and Professor Sandra Kaji-O'Grady, Professor Gillian Whitehouse, and Dr Amanda Roan from the University of Queensland. Gill Matthewson undertook doctoral studies associated with the project at the University of Queensland 2011–2015. The research was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant and included five industry partners, the Australian Institute of Architects, Architecture Media, BVN Architecture, PTW Architects and Bates Smart.

2 Gill Matthewson “Updating the Numbers: At School” ; “Updating the Numbers: Institute membership”

3 Gill Matthewson, “Mind the Gap”; Gill Matthewson and Justine Clark “The Half Life of Women Architects”,

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Other factors include: relatively low pay rates across the industry, a paucity of meaningful part-time and flexible work options, entrenched long-hours cultures in many practices, and the multiple impacts of implicit gender bias. Of those who leave, some women move into other, related, areas where they do great work and find new opportunity. But others feel forced out and are left disillusioned and dispirited by the structural factors that leave them unable to fulfill their potential in architecture.

The loss of women in a workplace or profession is sometimes explained as a result of women’s ‘choice’, but there are numerous complexities and constraints around the notion of choice4. For example, the argument that women leave architecture firms or the profession ‘by choice’ puts the responsibility on the women in question, rather than seeing the structural issues in the firm or the profession. Choices are made within the complex contexts of both architecture and wider society. These nudge women (and men) one way or another because of gender-based assumed ‘natural’ abilities, behaviours, inclinations, values, psychologies, personalities, and attributes. In actuality, gender is seldom a single contributing factor, and most often

interacts with the complicated economic, political, and social imperatives that control much of the work of the architecture profession. As such, bias due to gender is able to be obscured, and then dismissed, as not existing.

On a more positive note, an enormous amount of work and action over the last few years has greatly increased awareness of the issue, with many people in many places working to transform the profession. In our work, Parlour has pursued a strong advocacy program, and developed tools such as the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice, which aim to provide practical strategies to help the profession move towards more equitable work practices, and thereby a more robust and inclusive profession. Other groups have formed across the country.

The Institute now has a Gender Equity Policy, a very active National Committee for Gender Equity, and a number of newly formed state-based Gender Equity Taskforce groups, including the NSW one, which has initiated a Male Champions of Change program. There are also statistical indications of change: recent registration figures show a dramatic increase in the numbers of women becoming registered architects5. This recent flourish of activity builds on

decades and decades of activism and advocacy of women (and men) who have gone before us.

Entrenched issues

Regardless of all this work, we still encounter the persistent belief that gender equity has been achieved because promotion, opportunities, and success are merit-based6. This is something of a curiosity: it is the way we think the world should work but all the evidence suggests that it is not the case. Indeed, the very idea of ‘merit’ is highly problematic – Australian National University Professor of law Margaret Thornton simply calls it a mirage7. She argues that any evaluation of someone’s achievements and abilities is made by fallible people who can only ever be a product of their culture and society –one that consistently exhibits gender bias. Indeed, some might argue that gender inequity structures our society.

The mirage of merit hides the structural issues that impact on everyone’s careers, for good or ill, and doesn't prepare architects with the political and social skills they need to navigate a career. This is important because inequity is experienced differently at different career moments, and both advantage and disadvantage build up over time through the accumulation of many small things.

4 Gill Matthewson, “Architecture and the Rhetoric of Choice.” Parlour: women, equity, architecture. October 6, 2013.

5 Gill Matthewson, “ The Parlour Effect”, .

6 Emilio J. Castilla and Stephen Benard, “The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations,” Administrative Science Quarterly 55, no. 4 (2010): 543.

7 Margaret Thornton, “The Mirage of Merit: Reconstituting the ‘Ideal Academic’,” Australian Feminist Studies 28, no. 76 (2013). Also Ruth Simpson, Anne Ross-Smith, and Patricia Lewis, “Merit, Special Contribution and Choice,” Gender in Management: An International Journal 25, no. 3 (2010).

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Gender bias means that it is more difficult for women to demonstrate competence in a workplace, particularly when they are few in number. Women tend to be judged on their accomplishments, but men on their potential. Virginia Valian cites numerous studies to show that, despite stated beliefs in equality, people tend to underestimate the abilities of women and overestimate those of men8. Although such estimates can be quite small and individually seem insignificant, Valian argues that they add up over time to become decisive, and men’s accumulated advantages result in better opportunities and greater success. Gendered under- and over-estimation of abilities can also be internalised, affecting individual confidence levels, often negatively for women. In addition, gender bias means that the mistakes women make are less easily forgiven or forgotten than the mistakes of men. This is because women are subjected to heightened scrutiny over their performance. Moreover, male success is often attributed to skill, but female success to luck. Finally, the stereotypical expectation that men will be more competent at a particular job –especially those related to construction – affects the even application of ostensibly objective rules. Because of these gender biases, women are required to constantly prove and prove again

their competence. The criteria and tests used to measure and assess merit are unable to be free of both conscious and unconscious bias, and what we think of as merit is far less about ability and experience and far more about connections and political behaviour.

For women to be able to participate to their fullest capacity we need to address these issues. We need to see structural change, to shift what is valued in the profession and how this value is expressed. There also needs to be serious workplace change – particularly to redress the pressing issues of long hours, low pay and the lack of availability of meaningful part-time work. Addressing these problems is essential to the ongoing viability and sustainability of the profession as a whole.

There is also a now well-established ‘business case’ for gender equity, which goes something like this: a more diverse workforce, especially at senior levels, delivers better outcomes for multiple reasons. Diverse voices lead to more creative approaches to problem solving, more robust overall decisions, and better economic performance. A diverse, inclusive culture helps avoid ‘groupthink’, and brings significant gains in retaining staff and reducing ‘churn’9. These findings are relevant

8 Virginia Valian, “Sex, Schemas, and Success: What’s Keeping Women Back?” Academe 84, no. 5 (1998): 54.

to architecture – creative problem solving and better overall decisions are obvious assets in architectural practice – but they are also relevant to the wider profession. The attrition of highly educated and skilled architects who happen to be women diminishes architecture’s potential for change and renewal. If the profession is to adapt effectively to new environments we need more people who think in diverse ways, not fewer.

Architects are trained to question the assumptions that determine the way the built environment is organised and constructed. Greater equity and diversity in the profession broadens the scope of that questioning through a wider range of perspectives and that range also assists with answering those questions. But to achieve this we need to do some questioning ourselves. We need to examine how the profession itself is organised because it currently produces working conditions that specifically exclude women. Addressing the lack of equity and diversity in the profession is clearly a worthy challenge for creative professionals.

Architecture must find new modes of work that will ensure a robust, viable and sustainable future for the profession. •

9 Justine Clark, “Architecture, Gender, Economics”, published in Architecture Australia as “Engendering Architecture” (May 2012) and available online Contribution and Choice,” Gender in Management: An International Journal 25, no. 3 (2010).

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where are the women?

In 2003 and again in 2015, Tanya Trevisan asked the question: ‘Architecture: Where are the Women?’. Here we re-present her investigations.



Approximately a year ago at the endof-year barbecue at the University of Technology, Sydney, a trio of female architectural students banded together and asked me what it was like to be in the profession as a female architect. They asked me if among architects in practice, there is gender equality and equal opportunities – What is it like? How disappointing it is to reveal that inequalities exist when the universities to a great extent are sheltered from this fact. Why is it then that the workplace is not? To help answer this I emailed a short questionnaire to many architectural practices throughout the Sydney area. The responses seem to confirm that in 2003 there is still great inequality for women, certainly within the profession of architecture.

The questionnaire

Part One

Q1: How many architects work in your organisation?

Q2: Out of that total how many are women?

Q3: How many architects are in management type positions within your organisation (ie associate, director level, etc)?

Q4: Out of this number, how many are women?

Part Two

Q5: In your opinion, why do women represent such a small percentage of the architectural profession?

Q6: In your opinion, why do women represent such a small percentage of the management structure within professional organisations?

Responses were received from architects within 17 architectural practices. The responses came from people who work in practices of all sizes: from sole-practitioners to large practices that employ more than 50 architects with many practices falling in between these two extremes. The time in which this information has been collated is short and the number of responses is relatively small (24). It is therefore arguable that this may not be representative of the true picture; however for the record these are the results.

Results for Part One

Q1: Total architectural workforce for the 17 practices that responded is 688 architects.

Q2: Total of female architects within these practices is 191.

Q3: Total number of managers (ie associates, directors etc) within these practices is 188.

Q4: Total number of female managers within these practices is 29.

Statistically within the limitations of this model:

male architects make up 72% of the workforce

female architects make up 28% of the workforce managers make up 27% of the total workforce of these managers, female architects represent 15% of these managers, male architects represent 85%.

These figures are at odds with the student female-to-male ratios at the two universities where information was readily available: the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Technology, Sydney and the Faculty of Architecture at the University of New South Wales.

New entry in 2003: 70 female students (41%) and 101 male students (59%). Final graduation in 2002: 61 female students (46%) and 72 male students (54%).

Female architectural graduates from this limited survey represent 46% of the total of students graduating, yet in practice female architects represent 28% of the total within the workplace and only 15% of the total of management within that structure.

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Results for Part Two

Interestingly, the answers to the questions within Part Two were reasonably consistent within the female responses and also consistent within the male responses. However, the female and male responses were quite different from each other.

The issues related to caring for a young family, taking time off to have children and making the choice to work part-time came up much more in the male responses to both questions than the female responses, in fact almost exclusively. These issues were acknowledged by the female respondents, however this apparent gender inequality was also attributed to other issues, which were given greater or equal importance. These other issues deemed to be important are: the lack of female role models the perception that women tend not to promote themselves or their particular skills in the same way that men do that most workplaces are dominated by men who have different values from women.

A colleague recently gave me a copy of an article entitled ‘A Glassbreaker's Guide to the Ceiling’ by Myra H Strober, David L Bradford and Jay M Jackman (Stanford University, California, 1992). This article argues that, contrary to popular myth, time alone will not create equality within the workplace. According to their research there are a number of key changes that need to occur sociologically and within the structure of the workplace to allow women to participate as actively as, and equally with, their male counterparts should they choose to do so. The article calls for organisational change and support in order that women have the choice to both fulfil a childbearing role and contribute as an active professional.

The article also cites more than just the traditional childcare role as the cause of this inequality, noting that there is need for change on both sides, within both male and female behavioural patterns which to some extent are perpetuating gender stereotyping.

On a personal note I wish to acknowledge that there are a great number of women in both small and

large practices who are achieving noteworthy results within the practice of architecture; results irrespective of gender. This article does not intend to undermine those achievements, but it does seek to highlight the current situation as it exists. Thank you to all those who responded to the questionnaire.


When I wrote the article ‘Architecture: Where are the Women?’ in November 2003, Facebook was still three months away from being invented, the global use of email and the internet was still in its early days, and societies and media interacted in a very different way from today. This last decade has been one of enormous social change led, I believe, by the communication revolution.

I note the rainbow colours on my friends’ profiles sweeping through Facebook almost within a 72-hour period – friends from different phases of my life and unknown to each other, as far removed as Berlin to Sydney, embracing the anti-prejudicial stance

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Society of Beaux-Arts Architects Costume Ball, 1931

of equal rights to marriage, a stance I need to say that I support fully and unreservedly.

At the same time, the ABC news confirmed women in Australia in 2015 are paid 70% of men’s salaries when compared like for like. Disturbingly the gap has been widening since 2004. This news didn’t even generate a frontpage headline. The Matildas soccer team, ranked 10th globally, go on strike because they are paid 15 times less than their male counterparts. At $21,000 for a full-time job, this is substantially less than the minimum wage in Australia. Oscar-winning US actress Jennifer Lawrence made headlines for taking her industry to task over gender inequality and sexism, a practice made public by the Sony hacking incident in 2014. All this news has emerged in the last two months and has disappeared without controversy or discussion.

In Australia in 2015 more than 60% of law graduates are female yet as things stand, less than 20% will make it to partnership positions. According to 2015 Parlour research, architecture practices have very similar ratios: the majority of architecture graduates are female and

only a tiny minority of those make it to senior directorship level. Imagine for a minute if you changed the headline of the ABC salaries article from ‘women’ to any sort of minority group. What sort of reaction would there be? Yet not one person I know changed their Facebook profile to make a fuss about this or even commented on it. Women in Australia are arguably treated more fairly than in most other countries and we have laws set up to protect every Australian against discrimination of this sort, so what is this about? I don’t understand it. I look at positive discrimination requirements in relation to board representation and I admit I am not totally comfortable with this. I believe that it undermines the real full-value contribution women make irrespective of gender. However, I equally acknowledge the article ‘A Glass breaker’s Guide to the Ceiling’ which argues contrary to popular myth that time alone will not create equality within the workplace – something I frustratingly now believe to be true.

So when Justine Clark of Parlour asked me if she could re-publish ‘Architecture: Where are the Women?’ and if I would write a preamble, I reflected on what has

changed. Twelve years is a long time. Since writing the article, what’s changed for me is that my five-year-old daughter is now approaching her final year of school, full of enthusiasm and huge potential. I am not going to accept that she experiences this sort of prejudice and neither should anyone else. I believe we really need to start making a lot more of a fuss because the low-key approach is simply not working.

‘Architecture: Where are the Women?’ was originally published in Architecture Bulletin (the official journal of the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects) in June 2003. ‘Architecture: Where are the Women? Revisited’ was originally published by Parlour in November 2015. •

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‘filling the pool’ - an update

The Committee for Perth’s landmark gender equality report ‘Filling the Pool’ recently celebrated its first anniversary1. Since June last year what has followed could only be described as a phenomenal response. In the months after the report came out you couldn’t go to a meeting on the Terrace without it being discussed. In the year since, I have been kept busy presenting the report’s findings and recommendations roadmap. To date, I have done 67 presentations and, pleasingly, not only here in Perth but also in Geelong and Sydney. It is gratifying that a report that was specifically ‘by Perth, for Perth’, has resonated so strongly at home and also across the Nullabor.

The two year-long research effort was to understand why women in Perth don’t get ahead and therefore don’t occupy enough influencing and decision-making roles. Its qualitative approach placed women at the core of the subject and their stories, provided through 150 interviews, were then checked against the facts. What has resulted is a body of evidence that is irrefutable, with a clear pathway forward, proposed through 31 practical and actionable recommendations in which Government, businesses, leaders and women all have a role to play.

One of the very first organisations that asked for a briefing on ‘Filling the Pool’ was the WA Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects. If you haven’t read the report here is what you need

to know: getting more women into the workforce and, importantly, progressing their careers has a number of structural barriers and social norms that need to be overcome.

Unfortunately, the trajectory that leads to gender inequality starts in early childhood and continues during the formative years. As parents, it comes from the decisions we make in raising our children and the subjects we guide them to take. It arises from the professions that are deemed acceptable and suitable for one gender over another. It is exacerbated by the emphasis placed on mothering rather than parenting by society as a whole. In essence ‘pink vs blue’ biases exist everywhere.

Women make up 51% of the nation’s population and below is a list of lead indicators that demonstrate the magnitude of gender inequality in Australia:

women take on 97% of the primary care-giving role whether they are working or not women make up 46% of the Australian workforce yet hold only 4% of CEO positions, 16% of directorships and 5% of board chair roles

the gender pay gap continues to increase, going from 14.9% in 2004 to 18.9% in 2014

55% of university graduates are female. In most degree areas 55% of women make up the graduate pool except in the areas of science and

engineering. This has been the case for more than two decades.

Looking at those figures is illuminating. Another gem from our researchers is that at the current glacial rate of change it will take 300 years to have an equal number of men and women in CEO roles. Based on the above, it is fair to say that a woman who graduated some time over the past 30 years who has been able to capitalise on her abilities and forge a career that takes her all the way to the C-Suite and boardroom and who has been also able to balance that with the needs of her family would be rare. I am not sure the same could be said of her male counterparts.

‘Filling the Pool’ deliberately concentrated on the corporate sector, the place where the most change could be effected that would lead to large scale transformation. However, that barriers need to be overcome so that women can take an equal seat at the table is an issue for all parts of our economy and society.

The study found that the four pillars that need to be working in concert so that a woman can successfully return to work are:

spouse support family support external childcare providers flexible employment.

Two of the four pillars relate to individuals and their circumstances, the third to government and the

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1 A copy of ‘Filling the Pool’ can be found at

marketplace and the fourth is where organisations have a role to play. Access to flexible work arrangements, not necessarily less hours or responsibility, is crucial for balancing career and caring.

At the Australian Institute of Architects presentation last year, two primary concerns were raised about moving from a traditional practice environment. I have listed these and offered an update about what is happening more broadly in the Perth business community:

Issue: Offering flexible working arrangements to a woman returning to work will be inequitable for others.

Update: Organisations that are focused on keeping a talented workforce are deploying flexible conditions for all and are gaining a reputation for being employers of choice.

Issue: Client work with deadlines cannot be done flexibly.

Update: All professional service firms face this challenge; however there have been a number which have deployed an

‘all roles flex’ policy even in litigation areas of law firms.

A central recommendation of ‘Filling the Pool’ was to create ‘targets with teeth’ in order to achieve gender equality in each workplace. Here are some good first steps for all organisations, regardless of size: undertake a gender count to understand your workforce composition analyse the gender count to ascertain the number of women and men in all roles within the organisation create strategies to move women through the pipeline where any imbalance occurs undertake a like-for-like pay gap analysis where there is a pay gap for women undertaking the same roles with the same accountabilities as their male counterparts, close the gender pay gap

be accountable and transparent with the results and communicate regularly with your staff.

Critical to the roadmap is the interlocking nature of the recommendations for governmentbusiness-women. Without all parts pulling together with a sense of shared responsibility the desire for a Perth in which men and women have equal opportunity will not be realised.

A lack of action will result in current and future generations of women continuing to squander their education and not fully realise their goals and ambitions. What a shameful underutilisation of female talent, particularly when Perth faces some significant challenges growing to a region of 3.5 million people. This is a time in which we need diversity of thought around the table in order to devise workable, actionable, intergenerational solutions. •

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australian institute of architects national committee for gender equity

Can you describe the purpose of the committee?

The National Committee for Gender Equity was established in 2013 and through a couple of somewhat unexpected twists and turns (read pushes and prods) I found myself on the committee and then as the founding chair.

The mandate for the committee is to enact the Australian Institute of Architects Gender Equity policy, looking at the practices of the Institute itself as well as developing ways to make the profession more equitable. Despite a 50/50 split of men and women entering architecture schools, and a relatively even split of graduates there is an alarming drop in women’s participation in the profession after 30 years of age. This represents a major loss of talent, experience and competency within the profession and the Institute rightly takes this very seriously.

What was your particular stance on the issues of equity in architecture prior to joining? What did you think that you personally could bring to the committee? These are so many cultural constructs that create inequity between men and

women, which are in no way unique to architecture. I see the issue as not just about creating more opportunities for women, but about creating the same opportunities for men and women. This may sound like a subtle difference but it’s a big one. Annabel Crabb’s The Wife Drought captures and articulates this position perfectly. It's easy to refer to the lack of opportunity for women, but how about the pressure on men to maintain full-time work, or the negative bias toward men who seek more flexible arrangements?

In my early career as an academic I had my first taste of the limitations of career progression that resulted from part-time work. Now as a practice owner I feel the complex relationship between time, money and competition that ultimately impacts on the quality of work (trying to do things quickly because there are no fees) and the (un)desirability of the profession for people seeking a balanced life.

Although I was initially resistant to the idea of being part of the committee, I did eventually feel that it was better to put some positive energy into making change rather than observing from the

sidelines. Surely, we could capitalise on the conversations that are happening across the board about equity?

As chair, I set an agenda of combining long term strategic moves with ‘quickwins’ with the idea that these would energise the committee and create an environment of change. We were extremely fortunate to be able to operate in the slipstream of energy and action created by Parlour.

The committee is intentionally made up of men and women from small, medium and large practices as well as academia from all over Australia. This has helped to ensure that we consider the impact of equity from all angles. As a director of a medium sized practice, as an employer and as a working mother I think I have been well placed to contribute to the space that lies between the sole practitioner and the corporate practitioner. I have also learned a great deal from the other committee members and their experience in the profession.

What do you think are the key issues in architecture to do with equity right now? Each time I have made a presentation of the work of the committee I started by

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including some of the diagrams that had come out of the detailed and in-depth Parlour research, as a background to our work and approach. Despite the overwhelming evidence, each time I did this it seemed to spark a question and then a debate about why we have this problem, or why we still have this problem, or if it is a problem, or what is the problem or how do we tackle such a big problem.

In practice the question of how we tackle wicked problems can be stifling, yet as architects we are trained to solve complex problems! Whilst the issue of equity is firmly part of the public discourse, it does challenge so many professional norms and can lead to a type of practice paralysis! It's difficult to know where to start, but the committee did take the broad view that if there is a problem and it has been identified then there is also an appetite for change.

Nowhere have the issues around equity and architecture been more succinctly articulated than in the Parlour ‘Guides to Practice’. Broken down into bite size chapters, the guides cover pay equity, the culture of long hours, part-time work, flexibility, recruitment, career

progression, negotiation, career break, leadership, mentoring and registration. Each chapter reveals a depressing truth but amazingly manages to present it in such a pro-active way that one instantly feels empowered to make change.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to unpack and address one of these issues without revealing more about the state of the profession as a whole. How is it that we have managed to make ourselves so spectacularly undervalued whilst maintaining a culture of long hours? How can we offer so little in the way of contemporary work practices, and take on more and more liability, not only for our work but for the work of our consultants?

I believe a radical shift in the leadership within the profession is required to embrace change and make ourselves relevant again. Doing this requires not only recognition of equity but also diversity. Within the senior ranks of the vast majority of large practices in Australia there are VERY few women. In fact, they are largely made up of white men.

Study after study shows that we tend to employ people in the image of ourselves. This human tendency toward an unconscious bias means that there is little on the horizon in terms of real leadership shifts without some serious policies being put in place by practices. Proposing such a change requires courage and executing it is even more challenging – but I think it can be done! I would like to see more practices taking this on board and seeing the effect of having more women in leadership positions. These women would need to be supported in their roles and allowed to contribute to a shift in what we see as the cultural norms in architecture. I believe this top down approach will help to create better pathways for both women and men. To do this we need to reimagine a professional life that is more flexible, that repositions itself in a way that can communicate the value in the work that we do.

The thing that I love about architecture is the challenge and the opportunity of problem solving. There are so many complex, layered and unique challenges in each project. In designing a building we have to ensure it stays relevant for many, many decades. It's these skills

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Australian Institute of Architects National Committee for Gender Equity members . L-R: Catherine Startari, Emma Williamson, Lee Hillam, Leone Lorrimer, Michael Smith, Jessica Hardwick, Sander de Vries, Dr Gill Matthewson, Sam McQueeney, Madeline Sewall.

in imagining a future that need to be brought into play to re-think practice.

How effective do you think the various initiatives of the committee have been so far?

I feel very proud of the work of the committee and feel that the conversation around equity has made a dramatic shift in the past three years. The Institute has been very supportive of our recommendations and, at a time of contraction, realised the importance of a partnership with Parlour in order to reach out to non-members and to demonstrate its work in this area. It is important to note that Parlour is completely independent of the Institute and the NGEC. The work of Parlour has been so influential in our thinking and approach. The initial research project demonstrated compelling evidence of the need for change within our profession and we respect the significant groundwork that led to the formation of the committee. I am so pleased that as a committee we have managed to establish and maintain a strong working relationship with Parlour, and that we are able to use the Parlour website as a major communication channel to reach out to members and non-members.

We have established The Paula Whitman Prize for Leadership in Gender Equity which was launched this year. We have started a range of communications initiatives that look to raise the profile of women within the profession and outside; in part, we recognise that this has allowed us an opportunity to broaden the definition of an architect.

Significantly, we successfully lobbied for a mandatory 30% representation by men and women on the new Board of Directors of the Institute.

Although we cannot take credit for it, we were extremely pleased to see the appointment of a female CEO this year.

What do you imagine should be the ongoing priorities for the committee in the future?

The role of the committee is strategic and we will continue to raise the profile of women and push for equity. Our priority is to help more women become leaders, to keep mid-career women engaged and valued and to help changes in practice culture that will keep more women contributing to the built environment.

We also have a mandate to keep checking in on the equity of the Institute and this lens is being applied to every aspect of Institute operations from its own employment policies to the equitable representation of men and women in CPD events and to the composition of award juries.

The committee reports directly to the National Council but we are also uniquely positioned to connect with each chapter. Now that we have a few big runs on the board I think it is time for us to combine these bigger picture moves with what’s happening locally. Our ambition is to have more women who are visible in architecture and to help women find a workable solution for their mid-career. Every little thing helps. •

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Source: Australian Institute of Architects.
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A lot of commentary surrounding gender equity in architecture, as with other professions associated with long hours, points towards flexible working arrangements as a strategy to support working parents and redress the disappearance of women from the workforce at this stage, resulting in inequities in pay and underrepresentation in senior roles. Here we present reflections on two examples of flexible, family-friendly working arrangements: experience in working in architecture in Norway, and arrangements established in a Perth law firm.


Architecture in Norway

Could you please paint a picture of the typical working week you experienced in Norway? As far as you know, does this apply to all office-based professions (including architecture)?

The typical working day was from 8am to 4pm and this is the national average across all disciplines in both the private and public sector. Flexi-time is standard. My colleagues rarely worked overtime and this was discouraged. The directors would rather hear about your evening stroll through a national park than how you worked all evening (at a 25% productivity rate).

Working in architecture is often associated with heavy workloads and project-driven deadlines resulting in long hours and overtime. How were these pressures addressed in the firm you worked for and a typical Norwegian office?

There is an enormous focus on resource management and open lines of communication. In weekly staff

the hours

meetings the directors and the executive assistant ran through every project and quickly addressed any issues the project teams were having. Being honest and outspoken was encouraged and as a result we all knew what was going on and were able to play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There was very little ego or bravado, just a workforce driven to all get the job done together. Projects always ran on time.

Could you please describe your working week, including coordinating out-of-work commitments - such as childcare? How did the working environment in Norway facilitate or support this?

Oh my goodness, this was so easy!

The local barnehage (kindergarten) opened from 7am to 4:30pm which aligns with the standard working day allowing parents to easily coordinate pick-ups and drop offs between themselves, or even manage it solely. Pretty much every Norwegian child attends staterun and subsidised barnehagen from the age of one until school age. There is no stigma, no guilt associated with dumping your kids at these Montessoriesque wonderlands. And, compared to Australia, it’s really affordable!

What do you think are the major benefits of the working environment you experienced?

The money that the Norwegian government invests in providing job security for working mothers through paid maternity (and paternity) leave (one whole year!) and subsidised childcare is offset by the increase in GDP these working mothers (and fathers) contribute by returning to fulltime work within a year or so. It helps to uphold a happy, healthy and skilled workforce which is good for everybody.

Reflecting on the general work environment in Australia, and particularly in industries typically associated with long hours - such as architecture or law, where do you feel the major differences lie?

All industries in Norway enjoy these conditions and so there is really no need to stay at work much later than 4pm. The directors, QS, builder, project manager, engineers and client are all sitting at home eating dinner by 4:30. And the major difference is of course that what is underpinning this societal norm is a massive state funding allocation (and high taxes!).

What lessons, if any, have you been able to apply to your own attitude to work-life balance, or would you like to pass on to others?

I took work-life balance for granted in Norway. It was passive; a societal norm. Back in Australia I have to ensure that I am fulfilled and focused at work which in turn enables me to be relaxed and able to focus on my loved ones outside work hours.

Where do you think major changes are required in our industry to support worklife balance, families or flexible working arrangements?

A defining memory from my first day of uni was stepping into my design studio and counting five mattresses propped against the wall. Long hours are par for the architecture course and the real life workplace is no different. I believe attentive resource management and good communication is key to running an efficient, happy and healthy workforce. A little groundwork goes a very long way.

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What aspect of the working environment you experienced in Norway did you appreciate the most?

Not feeling guilty at home or at work. My circumstance, as a mother of two young children under the age of five, wasn’t extraordinary or a hindrance because everybody (married, single, new parent, grandparent etc) enjoyed the same workplace entitlements. I was in a supportive, nurturing, compassionate place at work and, in turn, I was able to be a lovely, nurturing and compassionate mummy at home.

Bekk Crombie is a Graduate of Architecture working at Taylor Robinson.


Cullen Macleod

Could you please provide an overview of the flexible working arrangements at Cullen Macleod?

We have 25 staff (including the two director-owners) and only 11 of them work traditional hours (8.30am to 5pm, five days per week). So 14 out of 25, or just under 60%, and across all areas from practice manager to solicitors to support staff, are on flexible work hours. That gets even broader when taking into account staff taking extended leave. The flexibility includes: people working anything from three days a week to working a nine-day fortnight, early start and finish times to enable family friendly hours, and hours that change at various times in the year to enable staff to study or teach. We also have flexibility of place as well as time: working from elsewhere, not in the office. Although, this is more relevant to the solicitors as the support staff usually assist several people and need to be physically available to them.

What is the philosophy behind taking this approach?

It is less a philosophy and more just a practical reflection of the world that we all live in. In this day and age the workforce, and the potential workforce that is out there, are made up of people of all ages, from all backgrounds, with a whole variety of different lives. Offering flexibility in working arrangements means we can accommodate all of these differences, recognise that people have lives outside work, and offer working hours that enable them to successfully combine a life and a job. Ultimately employees (and owners of businesses!) are people who (mostly!) work in order to be able to have happy, fulfilled lives with their family and friends. That includes seeing those family and friends and having the time to do things with them. Dependant on the individual, this can mean starting and finishing early in order to see their young child before bedtime, going on extended travel overseas, or just having a nine-day fortnight which means every second weekend is a long weekend. All of the options are basically about quality of life. I strongly believe that, as simple as it sounds, we work to live, not live to work.

Law is an industry associated with long hours. How did Cullen Macleod engineer this shift? Are there any particular measures you have had to put in place or new practices you had to introduce? For us there was no ‘shift’. As our firm started as a brand new company, we could start as we meant to go on without any previous perceptions or mandates about the way things ‘should’ be done or ‘have always’ been done.  The three founding owners all had lives, young families and outside interests.  Therefore they were always keen to work

efficiently whilst in the office and then go home. There was never the culture that dominates some large firms where doing long hours was seen as a badge of honour. That said, the owners also made a very specific economic decision which continues to this day that enabled that to occur. Law firms are largely based on a solicitor doing a certain amount of ‘billable’ hours per day.  The standard is from 6 to 7.5 per day, which will require anything from 10 to 14 hours in the office per day, sometimes more. Cullen Macleod only ask their solicitors to do five hours billable work. This results in a lower profit level in the business, but far more sustainable and honest work practices, and allows staff to work normal work hours, which is healthy for the employees, good for the clients, and ensures long term sustainability for the business.

In implementing flexible working arrangements, how do you manage clients' and employees' expectations?

There are two aspects to this: employee and client. I will deal with employee first, which is also directly linked with employer expectations. This has been a difficult one, and an ever-learning curve. It was much easier when we were much smaller, for example when we only had five to ten staff. That needed very little ‘overseeing’ or ‘policy’ because it was easy to see when it was working, or not. And generally it did work. It has become more difficult with 25 people and such an array of different working hours. With more people, more administrative time and parameters are needed to make it work. We are currently working on this drafting an internal policy to set out expectations and understanding between employees and the business. But generally the philosophy is the same: the employees

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are expected to look after their clients and manage their workload, we trust them to do that, and they have always achieved that outcome.

Regarding clients’ expectations, my experience is that as long as clients are secure that their work is being looked after by the right person, will be carried out on time, and will be done to the standard required, they are happy. We have clients from small businesses to ASX listed national companies. Overall, my experience is that they care less (often if at all) about the where, when and how, and more about the outcome achieved. Get the outcome right and the process in getting there is largely a moot point.

How do you think flexible working arrangements benefit your firm, your employees, and your clients? Ultimately it results in a far better overall service to the clients, and that is the core of any business.  This is because the work is carried out by people who are happy to be at work, are refreshed and are focused. People who have balanced lives, including flexible work practices, stay in the business longer so we get the benefit of their extended learning and experience, they make better decisions, and because they are more content, they work better together as a team. The clients get the benefits of a long-term team of people with combined skills and experience, who really want to be at work and who really want to be working on their matter.  This benefits the employees almost for the same reasons:  they have a much better time when they are at work, they are more refreshed and focused when they are here, and they simply enjoy work more. People who enjoy what they do are also always better

at what they do. How all of that then benefits our business is simple: happy successful employees = happy successful clients = a successful business!

On the practical level we have one of lowest staff turnovers of any law firm I know, which has economic benefits to us and the direct benefit of offering a high level of skill and experience to our clients. This also has a strong impact on attracting and retaining top level people to come to, and stay with, our business. The flexible work arrangements have been a significant factor in retaining our key staff and attracting the kind of people we want to come and work with us, whether they are parents with children or 20-somethings who want to travel the world, or anything in between.

What are the major differences you have observed by employing this approach? This is probably answered by the above answers? One difference is that we attract a diverse range of people: from parents, to young people, to people whose families are grown up and gone. The diverse range of experiences and skills that this brings together under one roof makes Cullen Macleod an interesting place to work and provides a better service to our clients. Compared to other law firms where flexibility is either only offered to very senior people, or perhaps more of a ‘lip-service’, I have noticed that there can often be a more ‘generic’ workforce than in our business. I believe that being able to view any transaction or problem from a variety of perspectives enables a better outcome. Having flexible work arrangements attracts (and keeps) diverse people, and diversity of people enables that diversity of perspectives. In the last few years this has also clearly been a major

factor in attracting top level lawyers to our business. Seven out of nine of the solicitors who have approached us in the last 18 months seeking consideration to join our firm have stated that our work culture, including flexible working arrangements, has been a factor in their choice. This ties in to retention: many law firms I know who insist on strict adherence to traditional working models and long hours are losing their staff, from junior level to senior practitioners, who see no benefit in it and are moving out of top tier firms to smaller boutique firms to have that true work-life balance.  We are seeing the benefit of this as they approach us to work here! Similarly, our staff appreciate the way that flexibility enables them to live their out-of-work lives and are staying with us.

'Flexible working hours' is often posited as a strategy to address issues of gender equity and career development. Are there any other approaches you feel should be considered?

Absolutely. Flexible work practices are critical to dealing with gender equity. Only when we make allowances for the fact that people have a broad variety of lives, backgrounds and needs can we then start moving towards meaningful workplace equality. Diversity is now globally acknowledged as bringing benefits to the workplace and business success - from diversity on boards, to government, to employees. The only true way to guarantee that diversity is to cater to the needs of the manyvaried employee of today, which may be enabling school drop-offs and varied hours so mums (still usually the primary caregiver) do not have to choose between being a parent or having a job. Keeping those parents (male or female) in the workplace is critical to gender

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equity, and also to career development. For lawyers (and most professionals)  to develop their careers, they need to go ‘above and beyond’ their daily obligations, such as (primarily) bringing in clients, speaking at seminars, building a profile. We need to work out ways to assist with that. Flexible working arrangements are just one aspect.

Other approaches I believe that are needed include changing the way people carry out business development, hence building and progressing their careers. Too often this is based around some kind of after work function that usually includes drinking. This is simply not an option (or a very difficult and limited one) for many working parents, and especially working mums who more often than not have a partner who is full-time, so by default they are the parttime/flexible parent who deals with the majority of the child care. This approach advantages the full-time working male, or the junior male or female lawyer who, as yet, has no major commitments requiring them to be at home by 4pm. We need to entirely change the way we think of business development and networking events to include ways that are friendly to the part-time parent. Otherwise they often drop out of the workforce or their careers are impacted by their inability to attend events and bring in new business and develop new contacts. A great example I saw of this recently is an initiative by a Perth lawyer, Kimberley Morrison, who started up a ‘Netwalking’ lunchtime group so people can combine exercise with networking at lunchtime. A brilliant idea. And a great example of the new approach that we need.

One of the aspects that is  relevant in any discussion of flexible working arrangements is the challenges to the businesses using them. The benefits are quite clear; the challenges need to be worked through. The difficulty is in persuading more ‘traditional’ business owners that the benefits merit these challenges. I have no doubt that this is the case - we just need to think laterally, because we really have no choice. If we want to attract and keep good people, provide that diversity to clients, and obtain the benefits of that diversity, this is just a factor of running a business in the 21st century.

The main challenge for a business for offering flexible working arrangements is that it takes more time within the business to organise flexible staff hours and this can be seen as having an immediate negative effect on profitability and income generation. This is why it is critical to think longterm and realise that these changes are just the way the world is, and to obtain all the benefits, businesses need to rise to the challenge and realise this has a long term benefit to the employee, the client, and ultimately therefore the business.

The extra administrative time ranges from ensuring the right staff are available at the right time and coordinating who is working when, to payroll time in administering flexible times, to issues with office space.

For example, a business runs on return on investment. If we view the investment  as the costs in providing the income (salary, cost of office space, associated operating costs etc), then if a solicitor only works three days per week but takes up a five-day-per-week

office, that space is only returning 60% of the ‘output’ a full-time five-dayper-week person would return on that office.  Small businesses particularly face more difficulties in being able to deal with these types of issues. For example: a small law firm with ten solicitors, three of whom are part-time (three days per week) each with their own office. These employees would then collectively be generating output equivalent of 1.8 solicitors (three employees at 60% output), while taking up the income generating office space of three solicitors who would otherwise work full-time and produce the output of three solicitors. One option that we are looking at with two prospective new employees who are both part-time working mums and who both would work probably three days per week is to share an office and have one of the solicitors work one day per week from home, which she would like to do and would assist with the office space issue.

These kinds of issues, and solutions, require lateral thinking and innovative solutions. In my opinion they are required in order to gain all the benefits outlined: from diversity in staff, to long term staff retention, to ultimately, benefits to the clients. If staff and clients are the most important aspect of any business, working out what benefits both makes good business sense. Flexible working arrangements are at the core of that.

Catriona Macleod is a Director and co-founder of Cullen Macleod. •

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socio-economic access

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are we out of touch? or out of time?

a challenge of relevance

In Perth I think the great challenge of our time is the growth of our city, and how to make it more inclusive, denser through better designed infill and with higher community amenity. This is a vital and urgent conversation that architects need to be part of. So why are we struggling to get an influential seat at the table? How can our profession maintain its relevance, its credibility and be responsive to the changing needs of society? How can we influence the future of our cities?

I truly believe that design thinking and our skills as architects are an essential part of the mix in working on the complex problems that we face as a society. This includes the increasingly important challenge around infill and the densification of our city, but our experience at the front line reveals both community unease and a general ambivalence towards our profession.

When I speak to other architects there is a sense of frustration in the system (beyond the usual craziness of the ‘Utopia’ TV show antics of working with any bureaucracy) about how our voices, our skills and our ability to synthesise, intuit and respond to the complex problems of our cities are ignored. Much has been written about this and the hand-wringing is often prefigured by a nostalgic gaze, but we need to build a positive relationship with the future of our profession and its ability to be useful, generous and (if needed) stealthy.

A few years ago I attended ‘Transform: Altering the Future of Architecture’, an amazing pre-conference event for

the national Australian Institute of Architects conference in Melbourne. Organised by Parlour, the discussions and the presentations were amongst the best I’ve seen at a conference of architects. One comment in particular stuck in my mind, confirming some of my long held suspicions. Karen Burns, Parlour co-founder, academic and researcher summarised the findings of the Parlour research, outlining the shocking disparity and inequity of our profession along gender lines. But at the end of a compelling slideshow, describing the equity challenge of women in senior roles, the long working hours culture, the lack of flexibility, the cliff of motherhood, and its disproportionate impact upon working women in the profession, she said (and I paraphrase): ‘after all this research, and a career of looking at this problem as a feminist, I’ve started to think that this is less a problem of gender, and more a problem of class.’

Architecture as a profession is most certainly inequitable along lines of gender. The proportion of women in senior (equity-principal or director) positions in Australian practices is tiny. But the challenge of diversity, of equitable representation in our profession, is broad. On so many levels we are failing to represent the communities we serve and it is possible that this is challenging our relevance.

A couple of years ago, Emma and I taught a design studio for Masters of Architecture students looking at the possible growth and infill of Perth transport corridors. These corridors

are spread across the breadth of metropolitan Perth and previously identified as growth corridors by a joint project of The Greens and the Australian Urban Design Research Centre. The students were asked to research a corridor each with a view to selecting a key site along its length. In our first session I asked the students to place a pin where they lived on a large map of Perth. There was a tight cluster of pins in the western suburbs, one in Fremantle and one in Scarborough. Interestingly each student chose a site at the closest point to the CBD or western suburbs that their corridor would allow. No one chose a fringe suburb or a site on the outskirts. Was it that it was not relevant to them, or do such flat suburban landscapes offer little in the way of architectural heroics?

I was reminded of Karen Hitchcock’s memorable piece in The Monthly on medical students:

‘It’s hard to argue that the ideal medical workforce should be mono in culture, class and gender, which was what traditional (university) entrance requirements mostly got you. Come from the same place, hang out together every day for another five or six years, maybe get a few lectures on cultural diversity, and then flood the entire country.

The groups who are least represented in higher education – especially in medicine – are also those with the poorest health: people from low socio-economic backgrounds, and Indigenous Australians. Two-tiered private/public everything doesn’t help. But when it comes to tertiary education, studies consistently show that one of the major barriers to these groups even applying is the perception that they do not belong there.’ 1

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Switch medicine to architecture, and ‘poor health’ to ‘poor design’ and she makes my point most eloquently. Like the study and practice of medicine, a lack of diversity in architecture is not a new issue (it has always been served by and for the middle classes), but given our seemingly constant worry about ‘where will architecture be in 15 years?’ and ‘what is the future of practice?’ I wonder why more is not made of our lack of diversity, in gender, in race and in class, as being one of the reasons we are falling out of view?

There is overwhelming research that shows there are inherent biases in groups that are singular in their composition and this creates a selfperpetuating cycle of rewarding and promoting others who are like them. We see this in research showing that corporations which believe they reward on merit in fact display the greatest levels of gender bias in promotion and have the biggest pool of (white) men at the top making the decisions. We like to support people who are like us, who think like us and look like us. They reflect our values, and confirm our suspicions of others as being less competent or less knowledgeable.

From a designer’s point of view this can make for a disastrous recipe with an inability to make good (broadly informed) decisions or understand complex problems, differing points of views and values that are part of the communities we work in. A profession

that is not diverse or equitable in representation risks making decisions that reflect a very narrow view of the world, providing ‘answers’ to ‘them’ on the basis of our superior knowledge and competence.

We also face the risk that our skills and capabilities are ignored because (as well put by Sam Perversi-Brooks in his essay on Parlour) the work that we do has less and less relevance to more and more people.2

Design skill and design thinking have never been so important to the challenges we face as a city, and so we must think through ways in which our profession and our people can become more reflective of the communities that we serve. Could it be through quotas in our universities? Or targeted scholarship or entry pathways for more diverse communities to enter our architecture programs? Practice plays a role of course, and we need better mentoring and support for architects of diverse backgrounds. Perhaps in practice we should institute HR policies that remove name, ethnicity and other identifying features from CVs as part of our recruitment process. Sonia Sarangi’s sobering essay on Parlour3 quoted Alison Booth from the Australian National University Crawford School of Public Policy whose research demonstrated: ‘To get as many interviews as an Anglo applicant with an Anglo-sounding name, an Indigenous person must submit 35% more applications, a Chinese person must

submit 68% more applications, an Italian person must submit 12% more applications, and a Middle Eastern person 64% more applications.’ 4

Architecture media needs to play a stronger role too, recognising the often invisible work that good design thinking can do in our cities and communities, which doesn’t result in a ‘hero shot’ but perhaps in a more inclusive place for people.

The Institute’s Awards program and its own marketing of architecture could be considered in these terms. If, like our design studio students, we were to place a pin on a map of Perth of award-winning projects, the clustering would be more intense around areas of privilege. We work for people like us, and we promote people like us, and thus the broader community thinks (quite rightly sometimes) that we are simply out of touch. We need to broaden and diversify the way we talk about architecture and the work that architects do.

There is no easy answer to this but I do know that architecture must stay relevant to the community in the broadest possible terms if we are to have any hope of having a viable profession in the near future. Maybe if more types of people were architects our ability to maintain a relative level of influence, relevance and credibility would be more assured. •

1 Karen Hitchcock, ‘The Student Lottery’, The Monthly, July 2016,

2 Sam Perversi-Brooks, ‘Class and Creed in Australian Architecture’,

3 Sonia Sarangi, ‘Who’s Afraid of Ethnic Diversity?’, 14 July 2016,

4 Alison Booth, ‘Job Hunt Success is all in a Name’, The Canberra Times, 4 March 2013,

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architects and housing affordability –concrete proposals

You don’t have to know much about housing affordability to know that it’s slightly out of control. Recently the Bankwest & Curtin Economics Centre Housing Affordability Report revealed, for example, that an individual on the adult award wage of $33,600 a year cannot afford to rent a one-bedroom unit in any of the Perth metropolitan areas. This statistic highlights the structural problem that Australia has created, where those on lower wages are precluded from stable housing and even those on medium incomes frequently suffer from ‘mortgage stress’. This problem has social, spatial, cultural and political dimensions and no simple fixes. One element of the debate that has been largely absent from the discussion to date is the role of the architectural profession in engaging with affordability issues, both as a question of architectural practice and – perhaps more critically – of social agency and advocacy.

Housing affordability, quite apart from being a challenge to society and governments, is a challenge to the architectural profession, highlighting its increasingly limited urban, social and political influence. Indeed housing affordability, as much as anything, highlights the degree to which the entire enterprise of architecture is under threat from forces that are larger than it can control. As recently noted by Rem Koolhaas:

‘Architects used to be connected to good intentions, notionally at least. With the market economy we’ve slowly found

ourselves supporting, at best, individual ambitions and, at worst, pure profit motives.’ 1

By disconnecting professionally from our good intentions, whether by choice or not, architects have for the most part become aligned with capital, if not at odds with social equity then certainly ineffectively positioned to respond to inequality. If a developer client wants 20 two-bedroom apartments to sell as investment properties, for example, then an architect arguably has limited scope to make a meaningful response to affordability on the project.

This is not to say that we are personally disconnected - quite the opposite - but that the social component of architecture has mostly eroded from professional practice (bright spots, outliers and counter examples notwithstanding). Thus we are left fiddling with form while Rome burns (or, rather, while Perth house prices explode). In the words of Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London, if architecture is not pursued as the ‘application of spatial intelligence to social conditions’ then the ‘alternative is a retreat into architecture’s hubris of form and imposition, and with it further marginalisation’. 2

How then do we reactivate architecture’s social component and respond meaningfully to affordable housing, for example? Paradoxically, it probably

isn’t through designing buildings, which we already do very well while making limited progress on social equity, but through a dual approach that focuses outward on the public (for the most part not our clients) while simultaneously looking inward at our own practice methods and assumptions.

Educate & Agitate

While the majority of people will never engage an architect, this doesn’t mean in turn that architects should not engage with them. Architects must (re)establish the profession as a loud, leading voice on the benefits of affordable housing and, more broadly, with the options that exist for equitable cities and communities. That is to say, architects should identify community education as a core practice that benefits both society and the profession itself. Just as the Australian Medical Association leads public discourse on health policy so the Australian Institute of Architects (and architects generally) should lead and shape discourse around housing, affordability, density, and the like.

Recent research by the Property Council of Australia (with the Conservation Council of Western Australia and property developers Psaros), for example, found overwhelming public support for increased housing density paired with ‘eco-friendly buildings that generate their own power, collect rainwater and use less energy (89% support)’ and ‘an increase in public transport (95%)’.3 The public has a clear belief that housing is unaffordable,

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unsustainable and socially problematic (a triple negative bottom line) but for the most part lacks champions that can advocate for them and publically suggest alternatives.

Although Robin Boyd’s 1940s Small Homes Service in The Age newspaper remains the pre-eminent example of ‘architectural education’, one need look no further than Simon Pendal’s curated monthly column in the West Australian property section for an example of how the profession can make a contribution to public understanding of issues such as co-housing models (to pick just one example from the column’s six year history).4 Elsewhere, CODA Studio are the recent co-authors of the #designperth report (with The Greens, Property Council of Australia, and Curtin University Sustainability Project), offering urban analysis and commentary along with examples of how affordable housing should be factored into wider conversations about greyfields development. Both these local examples successfully demonstrate the role that architects can and, I argue, should play in shaping the public understanding of affordability issues and, critically, their possible solutions.


In searching for structural responses to housing affordability, architects must confront the limitations of the current ‘service provider’ practice models and think creatively about the sides of practice that are often seen as the least interesting: financing, procurement, construction methodologies, and research. As noted by architect and academic Randy Deutsch, ‘architects in the coming years will be needed less as content providers of design intent than as facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators of this information and process.’ 6 Rather than accept a ‘diminishing scope of practice’, in the depressing phrase of the American Institute of Architects,7 we should search for novel ways to use our skills and training (be that in relation to affordability, project management, rapid prototyping, or other areas).

The ‘Occupied’ exhibition at RMIT, in which Perth’s Spacemarket features, offers an overview of work in which these are central concerns, with curator (and architect) David Neustein noting that ‘the only architects who will survive are the ones who are able to wean themselves off how big their

cantilever is, instead of whether their work will have a greater impact’.8 The current industry enthusiasm about the Nightingale housing model, as demonstrated by Breathe Architecture’s The Commons project, itself featured in ‘Occupied’, seems based in part in the way that it short-circuits the typical relationship between architect, developer/capital and client, offering architects the chance to reimagine their role and regain project leadership. Thus while the affordable and sustainable architecture is laudable, it is the creative approach to project financing that is truly instructive.

The staggering costs of Australian housing and the barriers to access that exist for many should prompt the profession’s institutional memory of the important social component that underpins our work at its best. Despite having the word ‘housing’ in the title, housing affordability is a problem that architects will play little part in solving unless there are profound changes in the way that we work and the way that we interact with, and advocate for, the public. •

1 In interview at the 2016 Australian Institute of Architects convention. Quoted from


3 Property Council of WA

4 Ryan, M and Ashe, K. 'Planning must shift to meet end' in The West Australian. Accessed:

5 Buzz word alert!



8 Neustein D in SMH:

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The Commons by Breathe Architecture. Image: Andrew Wuttke.

the nightingale model

An interview with Bonnie Herring

A new model for delivering contemporary urban housing centering on affordability, sustainability and liveability.

To start… What is The Nightingale Model?

Nightingale is a housing delivery model intended to provide an alternative to speculative, commercially-focused development. It is a tool for deliberative, design-led outcomes that give equal weight to social, environmental and financial sustainability. While Nightingale is also the name of the apartments that the model delivers, the model itself is the enabler. It is shared and continually evolving knowledge, driven and overseen with a common vision for returning agency, community, quality and affordability back into the home buying equation.

In order to meet these objectives, Nightingale projects make the spreadsheet work hard. They find innovative ways to limit development costs and procure the site, reduce both construction cost and the cost of finance. Idea being, that development savings go back into the building to increase the build quality while importantly reducing the purchase price. Those buying in are future owner-occupiers, drawn from a wait list of people seeking quality affordable homes, trying to get into the market and genuinely interested in the objectives and intent of the model. Ongoing affordability is key not just for the original residents, but also for the community to follow. Nightingale 1.0 has a restrictive covenant on the title,

ensuring the savings delivered aren’t capitalised on in future sales.

How does this model of housing work? While it's not yet co-housing, Nightingale is informed by the intent of successful European models like Baugruppen in Germany. There are a few legal and financial hurdles at play in trying to deliver something like that here in Australia, but we, like most other challenges we have faced to date, are working at chipping that away too. It is remarkable the impact and inclusivity shown in models like Baugruppen can have on the end cost to the user.

Nightingale Housing is a not-for-profit, that has been set up as the keeper of the Nightingale intellectual property that was initially established by Breathe Architecture. The board is responsible for the distribution of licenses for that IP, provides development guidance, maintains and provides access to the purchaser wait list, and ensures each project upholds the objectives of the model.

As architects we want to design homes that people want to live and thrive in. To build buildings that are architecturally curated, well situated, contributory, efficient and more affordable to buy into. Nightingale enables us, and our colleagues, to take development of our

cities into our own hands – to design and deliver our own triple bottom line projects. It is challenging, yet profoundly empowering.

How did this initiative begin?

Breathe’s projects have always sought to contribute in ways that might inspire positive change to our built environment and the community living within it. However, after working in multi-residential development, we soon discovered that despite our aspirations, good design is only part of the solution to a much bigger problem. To truly have impact on the sustainability of our cities at scale, or to provide more affordable ways into the broken and skewed property system, we started looking at alternative means of delivering replicable triple bottom line development.

The Nightingale model was developed initially by Breathe Architecture, off the back of our first multi-residential project, The Commons. This project seemed to spur community interest in what our practice was doing and demonstrated a lack of well-designed, affordable apartments in the market place. While The Commons predated Nightingale, it demonstrates the environmental and social objectives of the model and has essentially become our display suite for Nightingale 1.0.

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The Commons by Breathe Architecture. Image: Andrew Wuttke. Nightingale 1.0 by Breathe Architecture. Render image credit: Breathe Architecture.
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The Commons by Breathe Architecture. Image: Andrew Wuttke. The Commons by Breathe Architecture. Image: Andrew Wuttke.

As The Commons was somewhat of a testing ground for your ideas, what key aspects from this project helped define the Nightingale Model?

Our design strategy for The Commons was essentially about achieving more with less. To reduce the use of high embodied energy materials and remove non-essential things like car parks, individual laundries, second bathrooms, and ceilings – and instead reinvest design savings back into the building.

Certainly this reductive strategy has informed Nightingale projects, but is furthered by actually engaging with the end users from the wait list to involve them in the design process and determine where their priorities lie.

Why choose the Nightingale model?

The property market favours a minority of property professionals and investors, at the expense of broader society. Our urban population is increasing dramatically and we need more housing to support this growth. Our society and environment suffers from poor quality investor stock, where instead we need more affordable, well designed, community promoting owner-occupier

housing opportunities. This is not ‘the’ solution to the housing affordability crisis, but it is ‘a’ solution where many are needed.

How many Nightingale projects are currently in progress?

The inaugural Nightingale project by Breathe Architecture in Brunswick, Victoria is currently under construction, due to be completed late 2017. Six Degrees Nightingale 2.0 in Fairfield, Victoria and Austin Maynard Architects 3.0 also in Brunswick, Victoria are both currently pending approvals. Claire Cousins Architects are heading Nightingale 4.0 and the Nightingale Housing Board has approved a further 11 Nightingale licenses to architects across Australia.

As Nightingale 1.0 by Breathe has just started construction, what was the greatest challenge in getting this project off the ground?

The biggest hurdle for Nightingale 1.0 was the approvals process. We were held up due to the non-provision of onsite car parking. We face these kinds of frustrations as architects all the time,

but when you are watching the legal fees, holding and construction costs build during such delays, you are also seeing your efforts to improve affordability and quality design outcomes seriously challenged.

I understand you are also a future resident of Nightingale 1.0. What is the Nightingale experience like from a future resident’s perspective?

It is quiet an unusual situation, and one that I feel lucky to be part of. I know all of my neighbours and we have only just struck ground. We have been surveyed and consulted in various design and cost outcomes, meeting at council meetings and celebrating milestones. Building community before the building itself is something that we rarely see outside Europe.

To end... When will we see a Nightingale project here in Perth?

There are currently a few Nightingale licenses for WA based architects, so hopefully it’s not too far away. Interested purchasers and landholders should register interest now! •

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The Commons by Breathe Architecture. Image: Andrew Wuttke. The Commons by Breathe Architecture. Image: Andrew Wuttke.
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Bennett Street by JCY Architects and Urban Designers. Image: Rob Ramsay.

foundation housing – bennett street

As clients, Foundation Housing presents their experience of a new community housing project.

Foundation Housing is a not-for-profit community housing provider delivering homes for those on low incomes in need of affordable, secure housing. We operate across Perth and regional WA, including the Kimberley and Pilbara. We are the State’s largest tenancy manager with over 2,000 homes in management, housing over 3,500 people.

Assisting people to secure and retain a home is why we exist - we understand that everyone needs a home and having this security forms the basis for people to move forward with hope. Ensuring those in society who may be homeless or vulnerable to homelessness can access safe and secure housing is a measure of a compassionate and equitable society. These are values that Foundation Housing places at the heart of its work. We live these values by ensuring that somebody or something is better as a result of what we do, with the ultimate objective of creating a more equitable society where everyone has access to secure and affordable housing.

Some of our tenants may not need subsidised housing for life but just until they are back on their feet and ready to re-enter the mainstream housing market. Others will need the home for life, as a permanent safety net.

Recognising the vastly different needs of our tenants – and those still on the

State Government waitlist – is why Foundation Housing works to both impact demand for affordable housing and also play a significant role in the supply of high quality, affordable housing. We understand that delivering new homes is not the whole solution. We also work with our not-for-profit partners to support tenants who simply need a temporary helping hand to positively exit community housing into independent private living, thereby enabling another family to use the residence.

Regarding our recent development activities, Foundation Housing has delivered almost 300 new affordable homes in the past five years. Our latest project in Bennett Street, East Perth – which opened in August 2016 - is the culmination of many years’ work redeveloping the site of an old lodging house. In its place is a 10 storey, $26 million, 70 unit complex which provides high quality, affordable and centrally located community housing in a mix of both studio and one-bed apartments.

Bennett Street was funded largely by Foundation Housing with an additional $1.7 million contribution from the State Government. It represents a new era of accommodation provision for Foundation Housing, with all apartments being fully self-contained

and all with access to natural light and spacious communal facilities. In addition to the apartments, the development includes landscaped gardens designed by well known Perth gardening consultant Sabrina Hahn of Hort with Heart, a caretaker’s residence, office areas, communal terraces with stunning views of the Perth skyline, and a large ground floor space for residents and community engagement projects.

Many of Foundation Housing’s older lodging houses include shared facilities such as communal bathrooms and kitchens. The new vision for Bennett Street was to deliver fully self-contained homes that are indistinguishable from homes that might be offered in the private market. The project includes wide, spacious walkways on each floor that have been designed to facilitate tenant interactions and with sufficient space for placemaking activities on each floor according to tenants’ wishes.

JCY Architects and Urban Designers were appointed as architects on the project with Foundation Housing’s brief that focused on maximising environmental sustainability, creating an environment that enhanced resident liveability, and a design that minimised ongoing costs for tenants and Foundation Housing. These targets were aimed at creating equity for those living in the homes, ensuring their housing did

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not further disadvantage them with increased living costs or social isolation. The resulting design delivers open spaces for resident interaction as well as various strategies and features such as passive ventilation through the use of cross-flow windows, negating the need for air conditioning and therefore limiting ongoing utility costs for the residents.

The project involved both challenges and triumphs. The site is a tight, inner city location with considerable access constraints, which provided many ongoing issues for the contractors. A serious challenge within the project was ensuring the project and homes are not only affordable initially but throughout the life of the project, without compromising design quality and liveability through the smart use of materials, planning and orientation. However, the most significant challenge was dealing with the death of two young men during construction. They have been remembered within the fabric of the building through the considered design of a ground floor garden that utilises many Irish plants in recognition of the men’s heritage.

The completion of Bennett Street marks a milestone for Foundation Housing as it shows that with a well-developed brief, a strong focus on liveability, sustainability and the quality of the spaces being provided, we are seeing a high quality product being delivered by the community housing sector. These

are homes that are indistinguishable from neighbouring properties that have been built for the private market.

Most satisfying of all is meeting the tenants who have moved into Bennett Street over the past few weeks and hearing their stories of how a new home is impacting their lives in positive and practical ways. Foundation Housing’s objective of building homes and building lives is genuinely taking effect at Bennett Street.

Importantly, developing Bennett Street means that tenants are connected to local infrastructure and the opportunities that this provides. Many tenants have moved from other Foundation Housing lodging accommodation and are thrilled with the difference a self-contained apartment has made. They report genuine connectedness and the ability to really make the rooms their own. One tenant explains that the move to central Perth means he can now walk to his TAFE College, which has impacted his attendance and enthusiasm for the course. Work experience has also been easier to come by as a result of his proximity to public transport. Another tenant has enrolled at the University of Western Australia and is cycling to his classes, as opposed to catching one bus and two trains. His travelling time has reduced by almost two hours, directly impacting his quality of life and the time he now has available for study and social activities.

Good quality, well designed architecture connects people to those living around them and their wider community. This was Foundation Housing’s intent with the design of Bennett Street and its communal spaces. This will continue to be achieved into the future as tenants and the wider community access and utilise the ground floor spaces. It is a project that has exceeded all expectations in terms of its design, the finished product and the immediate impact it has already had on people’s lives.

Bennett Street embodies all that is good about the community housing sector in WA. It represents collaboration, partnership and positive outcomes. It demonstrates how the provision of quality social and affordable housing can help deliver equity in society for those who would otherwise be disadvantaged or marginalised. As we attempt to enrich lives and communities by providing homes for those in need we are always mindful of how our business can assist people lead more meaningful lives, alongside their community neighbours, with a feeling of equality and dignity. This has been achieved at Bennett Street and will be a continual focus for all future Foundation Housing projects. •

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Bennett Street by JCY Architects and Urban Designers. Image: Rob Ramsay. Bennett Street by JCY Architects and Urban Designers. Image: Rob Ramsay.
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304 South Terrace by spaceagency. Image: Robert Frith. 304 South Terrace by spaceagency. Image: Robert Frith.

304 south terrace, fremantle

As architects, spaceagency presents their experience of a new community housing project.

The South Terrace property is owned by the Government of Western Australia Housing Authority and has been operated as a Supported Accommodation refuge for homeless men by UnitingCare West for the last 15 years. The existing building had many layers of ad hoc additions and alterations and was in a state of serious decline at the time we were engaged to design a proposed new purpose-built hostel for the site.

The Authority, aware that the nature of the use can arouse community sensitivities, was keen to minimise opposition to the redevelopment of the site. They felt that appointing a local Fremantle architect would help keep community relations on side.

We work across a wide variety of projects and although the hostel sits within the social housing sector which comes with its own prescribed set of guidelines and protocols, we approached the design process with the same methodology we would for any brief. Our initial research revealed some interesting historical information that formed an important part of our design response. The site,

originally a blacksmith’s, was bought by Dr AT White in 1897 and established as ‘Hornsby House’, the first private hospital in Fremantle. Dr White was very active in the medical and military arenas, attaining the high rank of Major General and Principal Medical Officer of the Commonwealth Forces in WA. He was a pioneer in the work of the St John Ambulance Association. The property became a lodging house in 1928 and eventually a single-family home prior to its current use as a Supported Accommodation hostel.

Following our investigations we identified three significant elements that we felt would anchor the project to its site: the remnant fabric of the original two-storey limestone hospital which from the initial site visit and the historic photos we could discern was still mostly intact beneath the 60’s ‘Italian concrete’ makeover; the well, an interesting and historically significant element, possibly convict dug, which was a source of fresh drinking water; and the olive tree which had been an important point of contact between the residents and the local community, especially at olive picking time.

The clients had originally intended that the site be cleared for a new facility, but once we had identified the historic value of the exiting fabric they were open to a site-specific proposal that would incorporate the existing features. This allowed us to work a bit outside of the standard Department of Housing guidelines, but still within a tight budget.

The hostel provides accommodation and support for ‘men at risk of homelessness’. There are eight private accommodation rooms with shared facilities including a communal kitchen where residents are assisted to plan and cook their own meals, a living room, games room and laundry, all arranged around a north-facing courtyard shaded by the olive tree. There are also facilities for approximately three to four staff.

The residents stay an average of two to three months and in that time receive counselling in a range of issues from drug and alcohol abuse to mental health support, and are assisted to gain confidence in domestic skills such as cooking, washing etc. In transitioning back into independent living in the

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community they are assisted with finding employment and housing. It is a supervised facility and there are strict rules regarding visitors, alcohol and curfews.

The design brief required us to be conscious of the need to minimise residents’ risk of self-harm and danger to the staff. Each counselling room had to have two doors as alternative means of escape and balconies could not be more than one storey above the ground.

UnitingCare West were keen for the place to feel like a ‘share house’ rather than an institution. It was important that the design allowed for informal interactions between the staff and residents and various degrees of social interaction between the residents, from incidental meetings on the veranda to organised group activities.

Occupying a corner site, the building addresses a commercial main street and a residential side street. Externally the building appears domestic in scale and materials. A simple pallette of whitepainted bricks, galvanised steel cladding

and timber screens sits comfortably with the restored limestone walls of the former hospital.

The program has the staff offices, staff room and two counselling rooms occupying the original twostorey hospital, which is preserved as a ‘remnant’, not a historical reconstruction. A screened first floor balcony overlooks the street where an original front verandah used to be. The rest of the program wraps around the limestone building and the courtyard as a new addition, with the accommodation rooms on the first floor and the living areas on the ground level.

As a result of the additions, the well, which was originally in the back garden of the old hospital, is now inside the new building. While it is historically interesting as an artefact, it has no on-going function, but we wanted to preserve and show it in some way as a connection to the site’s past, and so a ‘window’ lid has been set in the floor over the well to allow a view into the depths.

At the time of writing, UnitingCare West have not yet taken possession of the site but we hope that once they do the unique qualities of the space will enhance the daily experience of residents and staff alike. •

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304 South Terrace by spaceagency. Image: Robert Frith. 304 South Terrace by spaceagency. Image: Robert Frith.
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Image: Matthew Galligan.

academic access at uwa

Ensuring that there is equitable access for all academically capable students regardless of background and circumstances is the focus of The University of Western Australia's (UWA) equity strategy. UWA has a range of alternative entry pathways to undergraduate study which is the first step for those interested in the professional postgraduate degrees of Master of Architecture or Master of Landscape Architecture.

The university has extensive engagement with schools and communities where young people may not aspire to continue education post secondary school. Through its Aspire UWA program, UWA has long-term partnerships with 63 secondary schools in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Mid West, Gascoyne, and Peel regions, including 20 schools in Perth. Aspire UWA delivers activities for years 7-12 to inspire students and demystify university study. The program offers residential camps, in-school activities, on-campus events, WACE revision in regional areas, mentoring, and professional development for teachers. Each year more than 10,000 students are involved and the program receives strong support from partner schools. Aspire UWA has received three national awards, recognising the scope and quality of its equity outreach.

UWA recognises that those who have had limited opportunities to demonstrate their true academic potential should be given an opportunity. Standard admission to UWA's three-year Bachelor degrees is an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) of 80, but if students have studied at any regional school in WA or one of a large number of metropolitan schools on the Broadway UWA list and their ATAR is 75+, they will be eligible for an offer.

UWA also understands that some Year 12 students face really significant challenges, so the Fairway UWA program offers a high level of academic and personal support to these students. Eligible students can apply from any school in WA during Year 11. Fairway UWA begins with a residential summer school in January and offers academic support during the year through online tutoring, WACE revisions courses and English master classes. All activities are free and all reasonable travel costs are covered. Fairway students who complete the program are eligible for an offer with an ATAR of 70+. The greatest benefit of the program though is the wonderful friendships that develop during the year.

Indigenous students can access programs from Year 8 onwards through the School of Indigenous Studies, which provides a very supportive environment and offers residential camps, visits to schools, WACE revision courses and mentoring by UWA Indigenous students. An orientation course over a semester or a year is available to help those whose academic preparation is judged as not quite ready for direct entry to undergraduate studies.

It is never too late to return to study. UWA has options for older students (over 20), depending on their previous educational experience. The Matureage Access Program enables students who have not completed more than a semester of tertiary education a second chance to explore university study through a provisional entry program.

Scholarships for students studying architecture include the Ferguson Travel Scholarship ($10,000), the Taylor Robinson Pty Ltd scholarship ($5,000) and the Robert Tindale Scholarship ($2,500). UWA also has an extensive range of scholarships not tied to any field of study that supports students with financial disadvantage, as well as scholarships that reward academic merit. •

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Roebourne Children and Family Centre by iredale pedersen hook. Image: Peter Bennetts. Roebourne Children and Family Centre by iredale pedersen hook. Image: Peter Bennetts.

roebourne children and family centre

Bringing clients and design quality to the centre of a key community development.

Roebourne Children and Family Centre has been designed to provide licensed child care places to mainly Aboriginal Families in the region. Additionally the Family Centre component supports community groups and organisations by providing a multi-purpose activity space, kitchen, crèche, and a counselling room and medical examination suite focussing on child and youth issues.

Historically, childcare places are not taken up by Aboriginal families for a variety of reasons, but it is hoped that the involvement of the local families in the design and operation of this facility will change this. This project has been driven by local community consultation with the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi people and forms part of the strategies to rejuvenate Roebourne community by improving housing and infrastructure.

The facility is comprised of two simple rectangular forms, the Childcare Centre and the Family Centre, linked by an undulating verandah that lowers the scale of the simple forms and acts as a wayfinding and placemaking element to the main highway.

The interiors of the pavilions are articulated by varying the ceiling heights and colours through the spaces to create areas of focus and spaces scaled to all user groups. Windows change height to suit the children; colours and materials vary to provide stimulation and wayfinding. Tapering paint and pinup boards play with traditional perception of perspective creating areas of comfort and interest for the children.

Externally, the childcare areas have roofed sandpits with water play features of simple timer taps and shower heads, along with grass and local native landscape areas. It is intended that these areas will be used to support the philosophy of ‘nature-play’ which is founded on the understanding that unstructured play outdoors is fundamental to a full and healthy childhood.

The wider community is encouraged to use the facility after hours.

Community involvement from the beginning of the brief development stages through to the documentation

stage of the project provides for Culturally appropriate design which suits the needs and desires of the local Ngarluma Yindjibarndi community.

Licensed childcare facilities have strict programatic requirements to meet the conditions of their licence. These were augmented by the needs of the local community and by a pragmatic response to the severe conditions of the local micro-climate. External activity areas are extensively shaded and located to catch cooling breezes and to be sheltered from the strong winds in the dry season, and sand pits and water features are under cover.

The health and counselling components of the brief are located at the far end of the Family Centre so users can approach this area without feeling like they are on display, while the toilet areas are located to provide a high level of passive surveillance by the operators to prevent undesirable behaviour.

The separation of the pavilions allows for all functions to occur at the same time without disturbing the building

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users. Recent operator consultation confirms that the separation of the building into pavilions has allowed for different operators to run the pavilions without adverse impact on each other. The undulating verandah spaces allow for group meeting to occur in managed and ad-hoc manners - these spaces have proven to be flexible and respond to the different user group requirements.

Our benchmarks for sustainable design were based on the ‘triple-bottomline’ approach. That is, economic, environmental and social sustainability.

The ‘social sustainability’ outcomes for this project will only truly be evidenced after a period of operation, however we believe that the detailed community consultation with the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi families and organisations has led to a culturally responsive design that balances the requirements of code and licensing rules with the needs and desires of the local community. This will lead to a sense of local ownership and involvement in the centre during its operation.

We have responded to the social conditions of Roebourne with dignity: passive surveillance allows for ‘cultural surveillance’ and also discourages undesirable activates in the facility. The building is fenced and is robust but does not look institutional or unwelcoming. This facility replaces an old Aboriginal Hostel where many members of the community grew up. A trace of the old hostel building is outlined in the landscaping planting and locations of feature stones and trees on the site.

The environmental features include rehabilitation of the contaminated site by removing contaminated soil and the increase in biodiversity on site by reinstating local native plant species, minimising energy use via heat pump hot water system and energy efficient lighting.

We applied research gleaned from the West Kimberley Regional Prison project to minimise heat loads on windows and to allow for breeze paths through the building with ceiling sweep fans when the weather is mild to minimise energy use. The cooling systems are

operated by run-down timers to shut down systems after a period of operation (typically eight hours) to reduce energy consumption.

Economically the facility has been designed with a low life-cycle cost.   Materials have been selected for their durability and low maintenance requirements.

Our familiarity and experience with working in Roebourne and with Aboriginal families and organisations allowed for a high level of perceived community ownership. This seems to have translated into less damage to the building from vandalism during construction, and hopefully a long-term affection for the centre over the coming years of operation. •

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Roebourne Children and Family Centre by iredale pedersen hook. Image: Peter Bennetts. Roebourne Children and Family Centre by iredale pedersen hook. Image: Peter Bennetts.

design does matter, but

Design does matter, but a 'sensitive, humane and culturally appropriate' cage is still a cage.

In the September-October 2016 edition of Architecture Australia, Dr Elizabeth Grant penned an article entitled 'The Architecture of Detention: Why Design Matters'. In this article much-needed attention is drawn to the exceptionality of Australia's immigration detention camps where adults and children are incarcerated indefinitely without charge or trial. Grant highlights that 'the mandatory detention of this group should be of deep concern as their incarceration is an anomaly under the Australian rule of law.' The negative impacts of incarceration and the loss of personal control that detention engenders are noted, followed by speculation about how the 'innovative design' of detention centres has the capacity to 'impact positively on the outcomes of detainees'. This line of inquiry however seems to contradict concerns about mandatory detention itself. The question arises: to what extent does (or can) design play a role in the experience of people in immigration detention? What are the professional ethical responsibilities that we must consider?

Tension exists between whether it is better to prioritise what is potentially a

more immediate alleviation of human suffering through the design of ‘better prisons’ or whether there is more utility in trying to challenge and address the structural issues at the root of incarceration.

In the US, the not-for-profit group Architects Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) have led the call for architects to refuse to participate in the design of buildings that contravene or facilitate the denial of peoples' rights. Their Prison Alternatives Initiative campaign has focused on the architect’s role in the prison industrial complex. They have called for a boycott of prisons, advocating instead community-based alternatives and for a society that 'treats all its members with dignity, equality, and justice.’1 There is currently no equivalent in Australia despite the disproportionately high incarceration rates of Indigenous youth, men, and increasingly women, many of whom are survivors of physical or sexual abuse,2 in addition to our increasingly notorious immigration detention centres.

UWA graduate Daniel Grinceri's doctoral thesis addresses the idea of architecture

as a component of cultural and political discourse. He questions the role and responsibilities of the architect, suggesting that when an architectural brief demands the incorporation of particular inhumane activities that ‘it becomes incumbent upon anyone to query the necessity for such systems.’ He suggests that a lack of opposition to the procurement of such institutions contributes to its possible acceptance in the broader community. He posits that ‘their very involvement promotes the inevitable requisite that mandatory and indefinite detention is the best solution to the perceived and constructed problem of “illegal” immigration.’ 3

Political theorist Hannah Arendt refers to the 'banality of evil'; the subtle trajectory from accepting a morally questionable project to becoming familiar enough with a problematic client that one stops questioning their programmes altogether.4 The participation of architects in the design of detention camps helps to normalise and legitimise them as a valid architectural typology. Grant's contribution seems agreeable until the 'if'. She writes, ‘If the government insists that refugees be detained within

1 Architects Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility, 'Prison Alternatives Initiative,' 2015.

2 Australian Institute of Family Studies, 'Addressing women's victimisation histories in custodial settings,' 2012.

3 Daniel Grinceri, 2011 'The Architecture of Indefinite and Mandatory Detention,' in Architecture as Cultural and Political Discourse: Case Studies of Conceptual Norms and Aesthetic Practices. Doc. Phd.

4 Raphael Sperry, 2014 'Discipline and Punish,' in The Architectural Review 235: 22

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a detention centre, it is sensible to move beyond providing makeshift or repurposed camps and draw from recent Australian experiences in the design of international “best practice” custodial environments.’ Indeed it would be sensible not to force people to live in barely-habitable dongas; however resistance to the 'banality of evil' should not cease with government 'insistence'.

Over ten years ago, well before the release of the Nauru Files, well before the Forgotten Children Report, well before aspiring young architect Reza Barati was brutally murdered on Manus Island, Pritzker Prize-winning Australian architect Glenn Murcutt was interviewed by Elizabeth Farrelly. When questioned on the subject of ethics in architecture he responded, ‘I believe it’s very important we make a decision about the projects we do and don’t take on. I wouldn’t design huts for the detention of people in Australia, for example. To me that is unethical. I wouldn’t have a bar of that... even if I could make them better. Because once we accept the detention, that is a given. We shouldn’t accept it. We should say, “How can we clear people very quickly?” There is no need to hold these people for this long.’ 5

Today, detention camps are premised on the punitive regime of 'deterrence' which punishes one group of people in an attempt to dissuade others from trying to seek asylum. Resistance however has been persistent. Without documentation provided by people 'inside' we would know very little about the design of these black sites and the regimes of abuse that are intrinsically connected to them.6

Notably though, when people protest they do not ask for more privacy, more natural light, less mould on their tents or more spacious bedrooms: they ask for freedom. Recently I asked a Hazara man who had been detained for almost four years if he'd like me to bring anything when I visited him. He replied, ‘we have everything we need here, we just don't have freedom.’7 A Tamil man who was detained on Nauru for almost three years and subsequently detained in Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation for almost a year, held a similar view stating, ‘even if we live in the paradise without freedom, that's not a life.’ 8 When questioned about the adequacy of detention facilities people often respond with the statement: ‘even a gold cage is still a cage.’

On Manus and Nauru in particular the environmental conditions people have been subject to fall far below acceptable Australian standards. Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist and political prisoner held captive in the Manus camp has written extensively on the camp, including about the use of solitary confinement.9 The temporary structures repurposed to warehouse people are perhaps secondary to the abuses that their existence permits. Characterised by uncertainty and impermanence, they are symbolic of the liminal state that asylum seekers find themselves in. This limbo extends beyond the fences to life post-detention under the temporary visa regime.

Ultimately, better designed spaces won't ease peoples' anxiety about family who remain in dangerous circumstances nor will they change the psychological anguish produced by not knowing when they'll be released or if they can remain in Australia. If the denial of liberty and lack of security is the fundamental problem, any design solution encompassing 'detention' cannot meaningfully improve peoples' experiences. While the West Kimberly Regional Prison

5 Haig Beck, Jackie Cooper, Elizabeth Farrelly, Phil Harris, Adrian Welke, "Glenn Murcutt: Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate 2002," Architecture Australia 91 (2002). Accessed, http://architectureau. com/articles/glenn-murcuttpritzker-architecture-prize-laureate-2002/

6 Suvendrini Perera and Joseph Pugliese, "Offshore detention 'black sites' open door to torture,' August 2015,

7 Personal communication, 1 July 2016

8 Personal communication, 27 April 2015

9 Behrouz Boochani, 'What it's like in solitary confinement on Manus Island,' Huffington Post, 23 August 2016,

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is a good example of 'best practice custodial design', it does little to address the systemic discrimination and social disadvantage largely responsible for the disproportionately high incarceration rates of Indigenous people in Western Australia. Similarly 'best practice custodial design' applied to immigration detention would do nothing to overturn the normalisation of detaining people who have already survived arbitrary imprisonment, targeted killings, torture or worse.

The question thus arises: do we accept incarceration as a valid response to people who have been forcibly displaced? Do we cooperate and try build a 'better' prison? Do we remain complicit in the denial of freedom to those who fled their homelands in order to find it? Or do we use our collective voice to advocate for an end to immigration detention? Do we use our professional expertise to envision alternatives? Do we contribute to and seek to change what's become known as the 'asylum seeker discourse'?

A growing understanding and appreciation for community engagement has been established among the design profession in recent years. The 'nothing about us without us' doctrine, however appears absent when it comes to refugee and migrant

detention. RISE (Refugees Survivors and Ex-detainees), the first refugee and asylum seeker organisation in Australia to be run and governed by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees, opposes any form of detention and states clearly that in their view 'the only alternative to detention is no detention.'10 It can be argued that in order to pursue 'best practice' design, the first step would be to seek guidance from the communities who will be directly affected by the interventions we make. •

10 'Our Position,' RISE. Accessed September 10, 2016,

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Chapel of San Giovanni Battista by Mario Botta (1986) in Mogno, Switzerland. Source: Associazione Recostruzione Chiesa Di Migno.

emerging, emerged, established

‘The quality of the built environment we live in affects all of us and we engage with the built environment in almost every aspect of our lives… it is important that we acknowledge and celebrate the role of good design in contributing to an engaged, inspired and resilient community.’ 1

When architects and their practices are given equal opportunity in, and access to, the procurement process, an innovative and competitive culture is encouraged. Such a culture stamps excellence on the profession, which can be seen in the architecture and built environment it produces, and helps develop an aesthetic reflective of our location and communities.

Current State / Our State

Much like the city itself, Perth’s architecture, and the profession from which it has sprung, is still young and, in many ways, finding itself. Its ideals are green, its goals still being shaped, and the opportunities of its location are still being realised with energy and optimism. This can be both a ladder and a snake. The temptation can arise when playing catch-up with the older, more ringed states to our east or the storied, established cities in other countries, to focus on the short-term altering of perception rather than a long-term, sustainable culture of high quality design and architecture. When building and procurement decisions, for example, are made with an eye to managing shortterm costs and risks, huge opportunities can be missed - we forego the longterm benefits of a more competitive and equitable market, one that fosters quality and innovation in its design; a

ladder, if you will. Rather, we slide back a few spaces.

If Perth wants its architecture and urban environment to exhibit this quality and innovation, then we need to ensure that all architects find the opportunity to contribute within their reach.

Our History / Our City

Perth has a history of providing opportunity to emerging architects and practices to work on significant public buildings and infrastructure projects. Through State institutions such as the Public Housing Commission and The Public Works Department, as they were known, Perth saw the commissioning of a number of architecturally significant housing projects and public works – commissioned from a diversity of established, local and emerging architects. The legacy was a dappling of exceptionally designed and built public spaces throughout our state, many of which remain as icons in our built landscape, giving us a sense of civic pride and inspiration; inspiration for Perth to become a city of international architectural importance.

This legacy and other Australian initiatives, such as the Keating Government’s Creative Nation Policy and Building Better Cities Program,

have become the model for a number of international urban taskforces, including the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) in the UK. Leon van Schaik commented in ‘Procuring Innovative Architecture’ that ‘these germs from Australia – abandoned and forgotten in the antipodes thanks to a decade of reactionary, conservative government – have been taken far further through London than they would have been in Australia.’ 2 Another opportunity missed.

Great cities like London keep their mantle by investing in best practice design throughout the procurement of all public works. By doing so they foster a competitive, equitable, and innovative architectural culture, which helps elevate the City’s global status.

Best practice design opens up multiple tiers of procurement and provides transparency in the process, ensuring the City’s focus on design quality is met. By doing so, the City attracts inward investment as well as international capital, entices and retains quality architects and practices, encourages the growth and development of emerging practices, and supports the tourism trade with visitors who come to experience a built environment of renowned quality. The positive effects are felt by the whole community.3

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– Urban
as Constructed
in Nordic City Regions. Nordic Innovation Centre. •
1 Hon Simon O’Brien MLA, Minister for Finance; Commerce; Small Business, 2013.
Van Schaik, Leon and Geoffrey London with Beth George, 2010. Procuring Innovative
Architecture. Routledge.
Janson and Power, 2006. The Image of


A healthy, competitive culture is beneficial to any industry in that it contributes to the collective social and political conscience by engaging the public’s imagination, and engenders a feeling of inclusiveness. In architecture, having multiple tiers of public procurement reinforces this healthy, competitive culture, and in turn lays the foundation for future avenues of work. Competition promotes development in new and local markets, and ensures a diversity in the practices competing for and procuring work. This leads to a varied and, by definition, enhanced built environment which takes the place of the often ‘tedious, monotonous, cookie-cut’ result. Within this culture emerging firms find themselves within touching distance of larger scale projects and projects of a type they haven’t encountered before; more established firms find the opportunity to shrink their economies of scale and take on more bespoke projects. Such a shake-up helps firms avoid complacency, discourages corruption and ensures the most suitable selection for each job based on the quality of the design, no matter what the project.

Switzerland, seen through the oeuvre of such architectural luminaries as Peter Zumthor, Mario Botta and the late Aldo Rossi, provides us with a perfect example of how such practice can be ingrained into a region’s culture and its procurement process. A hierarchical culture of competition defines this

country’s architectural procurement, with even the most unremarkable of projects receiving the same level of thought, attention and quality of architecture.


When procurement frameworks are too heavily geared towards minimising cost and risk, it is to the detriment of quality in the architectural outcome. By providing an equitable, transparent framework, we ensure the procurement of best practice design and the quality of the outcomes. Transparency and openness also stoke public debate about the built environment through a number of channels, be it direct societal engagement or passive conversation.

Examples of high quality architecture being publically procured through best practice design frameworks can be seen readily in the efforts of CABE and the Royal Institute of British Architects with projects such as Southwark’s Regeneration Strategy led by Fred Nanson which was responsible for the procurement of the most visited museum of modern art in the world: Herzog and De Meuron’s Tate Modern 2000.

‘Despite the blindsided internationalism of the metropolitans, these London projects steered into being by people with strong beliefs in the power of good architecture to improve the wellbeing of everyone … they extend our understanding of Englishness or of London-ness.’ 4

Procurement frameworks often favour larger architectural practices that can demonstrate extensive recent experience with a specific building type and significant financial establishment, creating a finer sieve through which the best outcome does not always pass. Whilst it is acknowledged that it would be inefficient to open up all projects to all practices, the process as it stands often leads to the exclusion of smaller, locally based or specialised practices. The end result is yet another missed opportunity, shouldered by the local economy, and to the detriment of the overall built environment.

Best practice design, on the other hand, invites collaboration, encourages community involvement, achieves high quality design through merit-based procurement, is restorative of public faith through its transparency, and is self-sustaining through its fostering of emerging talent.

Professional Sustainability

Best practice design opens the door for all talent to compete across all procurement frameworks. The sustainability of our built environment depends upon the opportunities granted by these frameworks, especially where smaller, emerging practices are involved. Nurtured properly, these practices will grow to be mature and established. Providing such practices with early opportunities is critical to their progress, and ensures a ground-up development of the skillset for the entire profession.

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4 Van Schaik, Leon and Geoffrey London with Beth George, 2010. Procuring Innovative Architecture. Routledge.

This development will be ongoing. By championing the continuance of practices in Western Australia—from emerging, to emerged, to established— we spur the growth of our smaller firms into ones that can compete locally, nationally and abroad.

Internationally, we see such development in motion in Kumamoto, a region located in southern Japan, where high quality and progressive architecture has revitalised the region’s cultural heritage. The Kumamoto Artpolis is an internationally acclaimed and innovative urban planning and architecture project that was created to counteract the antiquated planning and procurement frameworks found in the region. Within this project, the most common form of procurement and commissioning of public works has been to procure architects or practices based on talent and promise. This project has, over the years, procured work from now established architects such as Arata Isozaki, Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando and Ryue Nishizawa (co-founder of SANAA). Among those who were given a start by such procurement methods is Toyo Ito, who, in 1991, had his first large institutional commission, the Yatsushiro Municipal Museum. Ito was

awarded the job based on the talent he had shown in small, domestic projects and local competitions. Two years later, on the back of his work with this project, the Shimosuwa Municipal Museum was constructed, and after another two years, the Fire Station in Yatsushiro. These three projects, seemingly of a scale outside Ito’s experience, went on to launch his world-renowned career.

Our Future

Small practice businesses are those that employ fewer than 20 people, and currently make up almost 98% of the construction sector in Western Australia. By cultivating these smaller practices, and ensuring opportunities are made available to them, we can retain talent and knowledge locally, countering the need to look elsewhere for specialised skillsets, and feeding back into the local profession.

With a built environment that has always echoed Europe and the United Kingdom, and that can seem in parts like a shrunken refraction of the eastern states, it is in our best interest that we develop a strong, local aesthetic, upheld by a competitive, diverse architectural profession. To this end, small businesses are inherently innovative and are often

more embedded in their local context. They are highly networked, versed in collaborative platforms, are the fabric of their communities, and draw upon local complementary skills and resources to achieve quality in their projects. We should not see these practices as inherently risky: they work tirelessly to do the right thing, seek advice and collaborate freely as they cannot, due to their size, become complacent. It is in their best interest to be truly excellent.

By harbouring a diversity of architects and practices, and encouraging healthy competition across all procurement frameworks, we take steps towards guarding our built environment against monotony. We provide a divergent set of opportunities, available to those who, regardless of size or story, show creativity and vision, a commitment to quality design, and a willingness to look beyond convention in their approach. By doing so, we give emerging firms a leg-up, we steady ladders for practices that would consider themselves emerged to climb, and our built environment reflects the best work of a confident, established and bold profession.

When design wins, we all win. •

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Yatsushiro Municipal Museum by Toyo Ito (1991) in Yatsushiro, Japan. Image: Tuomas Kivinen.
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Sprout Hub by Sprout Ventures. Source: Sprout Ventures. Sprout Hub by Sprout Ventures. Source: Sprout Ventures.

sprout hub: a bootstrap social enterprise

Sprout Ventures is a WA based social enterprise founded by architect Kate Fitzgerald and social entrepreneurs Lachy and Bridie Ritchie. Sprout Hub is a pilot project for a temporary community activation hub at Alkimos Beach, a 6 star Green Star master planned community in Perth’s northern coastal corridor. The concept originated from the project partners Lendlease and LandCorp’s shared desire to deliver amenity to the emerging community from the very beginning.

Sprout Hub is a temporary community space designed to bridge the gap between the arrival of residents at Alkimos Beach and the construction of community facilities by Local Government. The increasing demand for services in growth areas like Perth’s northern coastal corridor has contributed to delays of up to ten years in the funding and construction of community facilities. Many new communities are left without facilities when they need them most. Sprout’s project partners wanted a temporary facility that would seed a community from the arrival of the first resident. This was achieved when Sprout Hub opened its doors in mid 2014, at which time Alkimos Beach had a population of just 16.

The physical hub is two recycled shipping containers and a deck which contain a small café and co-working space adjacent to a grassy bank for events and sunny days. It’s the architecture of a pilot project, a test and a model – both inexpensive and humble. The timberclad containers surround a jarrah deck

and serve up inner-city standard coffee. Sprout Hub feels like the kind of place where you can settle in for hours.

This is the true architecture of a bootstrap social enterprise: it’s lean on luxury but big on everyday delight. Sprout prioritised steel-framed glass doors that open the containers to the deck to avoid the often commercial feel of café bifolds. Sliding aluminium windows and other common portable building materials would have evoked a ‘donga’ feel and were quickly eliminated as a design response despite the constraints of a lean budget. Modifications to the containers were deliberately nostalgic: recycled timber windows and recycled WA timbers. Sprout believed that designing the hub with a ‘wabi-sabi’, locally made and friendly aesthetic could help break down the social barriers between new residents. Trends in the data from the first 12 months support this theory, with 57% of survey respondents stating they met or had made a new friend at Sprout Hub.

Unlike traditional community buildings, Sprout Hub has a small social enterprise café that partly funds the hub operations and is staffed by smiling local baristas five days a week, including weekends. As they brew coffees the staff connect new residents with existing groups and events, and support locals to start new ones. In its first year, the Sprout Hub received 10,290 visits from members of the community and residents from surrounding areas in the Northern Coastal Corridor.

Sprout contributes 10c in every dollar made to a seedling fund, which raised $10,269 for community groups in its first year of community investment. Project partners Lendlease and LandCorp also contribute to this fund, establishing a pattern of reciprocal value and contribution in the local community. Each round of grants connects new residents to local community groups as they engage in the voting platform to distribute the money to finalists; 894 voters engaged in the first year of grants.

Community engagement during voting provides an opportunity for local businesses to offer contributions and become involved, strengthening the emerging local economy. As a pilot for early community activation the Seedling Fund model illustrates a direct and transparent way for residents to participate in building a new community by funding what matters to them. The fund simultaneously helps clubs and groups to establish themselves in the area, while supporting community growth in the long term.

Supported programming is another way that the Sprout model provides the community with autonomy to develop in its own way. Locals are free to book and use the space as they like, with Sprout providing the tools, marketing and platform for other residents to engage with each activity, and have been running a variety of events from fitness classes on the lawn to mother’s groups and small business meet-ups. The local primary school ran its first round of enrolments from Sprout as the

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school was being built, and kid’s coding club, Coder Dojo, is a regular event at Sprout. Project partners Lendlease and LandCorp also use the space to hold welcome events for new residents and workshops on living sustainably.

Giving control of social programming to the community is an essential step toward social equity as it encourages grassroots involvement and helps build authentic engagement and contribution that is difficult to achieve with top-down events. It also prevents the expenditure of public funds on unpopular programs and encourages community members to step up in the absence of facilitated programming. In the first twelve months 63% of total activities at Sprout were community-led, which highlights strong emerging engagement in public life within the Alkimos Beach community.

Sprout Hub’s heart of connection and contribution is the result of a considered and deliberate series of actions and investment by Sprout Ventures and project partners Lendlease and LandCorp. All of the Sprout directors are young (under 30); Sprout Ventures was only two months old and the idea had never been tested. Despite the start-up status, the Alkimos Beach partnership welcomed the ideas with respect and equality, and shared with Sprout Ventures the commitment to ‘creating the best places’.

The project partners worked with Sprout Ventures to build longevity into the model so the social and economic

benefits would continue long after the physical hub was gone. The Alkimos Beach team worked tirelessly with the City of Wanneroo at development approval stage to ensure the hub could be placed in the preferred location, within a public park. This decision by the City of Wanneroo was unprecedented in the area at the time, but has had significant impact on the Hub’s ability to encourage connections between families with young children. Parents can hold space for new friends and neighbours as their children play together in the park. After 12 months of operation, data collected by Sprout shows that 78% of survey respondents reported that Sprout provided them with more or much more opportunity for social connection.

Anthony Rowbottom, Lendlease’s General Manager, Communities WA noted how important these partnerships between large corporate entities, government departments and small social enterprises are for social innovation: ‘at Lendlease, we are constantly looking to innovate, pilot, test and trial new ideas and opportunities to create the best places for our customers. The energy, enthusiasm and the perspective the Sprout Hub brings to our community at Alkimos Beach is also brought to our business and partnership with LandCorp. Ideas ignite ideas and inspire others.’

LandCorp Chief Operations Officer

Dean Mudford said part of the vision of the development partners was to deliver a more sustainable community

at Alkimos Beach and that included social sustainability. ‘Alkimos Beach has focused on delivering infrastructure early, and in many cases, prior to people moving in. We appreciate that parks and community spaces are required by residents, not just as a place to recreate, they create community by providing shared places for people to meet, encourage an active lifestyle and enhance community connectedness by getting people out and about’, Mr Mudford said.

Last year Sprout Ventures was awarded the National Social Innovation Award at the 2015 Social Enterprise Awards for Sprout Hub - an incredible achievement after only 12 months of operation. While the award was a fantastic moment for Sprout Ventures, it represents a much bigger achievement than innovation alone. This is a project that has seen the collaboration of big innovators (Lendlease and LandCorp) and little innovators (Sprout Ventures) doing business in a way that improves lives and leaves the legacy of a thriving and resilient community.

The real achievement is not the hub itself, because it is an unfinished model and prototype for future versions to improve and refine. It is the partnerships that make Sprout Hub so uniquely authentic, and for three young cofounders who were supported to develop a disruptive and innovative idea, the word ‘equity’ is one that fits. •

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Sprout Hub by Sprout Ventures. Source: Sprout Ventures. Sprout Hub by Sprout Ventures. Source: Sprout Ventures.
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Claisebrook Design Community by CODA Studio. Image: Peter Bennetts.

studio, shared

Co-working, co-habitation and collaboration.


Who we are

Claisebrook Design Community (CBDC) is a co-working space for everyone and anyone. We believe good design is at the heart of every successful business. Our space is designed to accommodate and support people with ideas and energy. We are a community for thinkers and tinkerers, creators and makers. We provide everything you need to walk in, sit down and run your business from day one, whether this is an office, a studio, a workshop or simply a desk.

Our location provides a great spot where we are close enough to the City for meetings and handshakes, and just far enough from the suits and the ‘but that’s how we’ve always done it’ attitude that can often stifle innovation and ideas. We also have an onsite café, Dr Clause, which ensures a flow of coffee to our users and a constant new flow of people coming into the space. The café provides a real connection to the local community and a great atmosphere for business and client meetings.

At present we have a wide range of people using the space with more coming through the door every day. Currently we are housing an interior architect, an events company, a global food delivery company, a graphic designer, a small PR firm, a kids sports program coach, trade specialist consultants and a bunch of freelancers working in the tech and design industry. We also host a lot of events in our space, which is great for encouraging connections between users and the outside community and showcasing new talent and ideas. We have showcased everything from documentary and short film screenings through to product launches, training seminars, information nights, coffee tastings and good old-fashioned parties.

How we work

We keep it simple! Our members sign up on a month-by-month basis; no bonds, no leases, a convenient and reasonably risk-free environment for people to simply get their work done. We have one Community Manager (me!) on site during work hours but members have 24/7 access to the building with our security systems. The building

has also been designed to lock down separate compartments to allow people to walk through freely and use the space without compromising any of the other members’ workspaces. Perth is fairly new to the co-working idea and we find people are always looking for ‘the catch’ to the arrangement we offer. There is no asterisk to our arrangement; we simply provide the space for you to work, connections to be made and ideas to grow.

It is important for us to make sure we are constantly encouraging a sense of community in our space, and ensuring that the public and those involved understand what co-working is all about. I never get tired of the look on people’s face as they walk into the building for the first time - everyone gets so excited about the possibility of how they could use the space and see themselves fitting in. It can often sound clichéd, but in a space like this, watching a community form is the best part; seeing two different people, who otherwise would have never met, come together and work on something great. This is a constant reminder of what we are trying to achieve.

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Claisebrook Design Community by CODA Studio. Image: Peter Bennetts. Claisebrook Design Community by CODA Studio. Image: Peter Bennetts.

What I Hear

I often hear a similar story from our members, about why they chose to try co-working and why it’s working for them here at CBDC. What once was the ideal job - to work from home in your PJs on the couch - is being discovered by more and more people as not a particularly conducive environment to actually getting work done. Getting up, getting dressed and going somewhere really helps people get into the right frame of mind to achieve things, and being around activity and the buzz of others motivates you with your own work.

What I See

Many small businesses start at the kitchen table and although it may seem a huge leap to move out into something bigger, we are here to provide that stepping stone. The assistance and benefits for early-stage businesses comes not just from the facilities CBDC provides, but the faces that surround you every day. If you are looking for a designer to help with your website or app, someone to host or cater your first event, or someone simply to help

promote your business, chances are there is someone right here whose skills and knowledge you can tap into over a cup of coffee. I really see nothing but benefits.


This is a love letter to the King St Studio. It’s dear to me. It was the space I took when I’d returned to Perth and was looking for somewhere to grow roots. That was six years ago. The longest shortest time.

It’s where I spend the majority of my hours and it’s where I go when I feel off-centre. It’s my place of production and refuge.

It’s had many lives over those six years. Initially we camped in a small room at the front and had yoga sessions, band jams, photoshoots and bad parties in the larger space next door. Over time, and through serendipitous meetings, it became a big room full of artists.

These six to ten guys would keep strange hours, make weird smells and litter the place with all sorts of jetsam. Every six months, the place would decamp and exhibit works as a group. There were some future stars around in those days: Lauren Boyle, Dale Buckley, Amy Moffat, Alister Yiap, Ray Cook, Thom Perry.

Subsequently our business grew and we needed to get out of our front room. We made arrangements for the artists: new studios at the Moana Chambers, and invited a few close architectural friends to join us in the main space. For 12 months the place ran like an undergrad uni studio. A delight. Slowly, sadly, and mainly through circumstance, each of the tenants moved on. The last of these, Rob Cameron, left us last month.

24 months ago, we extended our lease to take over the whole upper floor. For the first year we had a mix of the Uncle Joe’s crew from downstairs, the Posit team (our research office), two video editors, and Lyn Book, a fashion wholesaler and the previous tenant, all sharing the surplus area. That changed again recently to accommodate our new

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King Street Studio by Post- Architecture. Image: Dave Sharp.

friends, Xynteo, a global business that consults on sustainable practice to large corporates like Woodside. Good guys and good stuff.

As much as the people, it’s the culture of this space that makes it. We’ve never had a problem with security, disrespect, noise, congruence; any of the stuff that comes with open space and non-distinct boundaries.

We do however screen for character. One of the ways this happens is with our shared lunch roster. Every fortnight, two of us cook lunch for the rest of us. This can sometimes be for as many as 15 people. If you’re not someone with a spirit of gregariousness or generosity, then this isn’t going to be for you. An instant filter.

One of our tenants down at MANY 6160 made the comment that ‘it takes one dickhead to ruin a space.’ Wise words. More difficult in practice. Most people come vetted as a friend-of-a-friend. We don’t ever advertise further than a facebook shout-out or the ripples

from a tactical word to the wise. This pre-validation is brilliant for a number of reasons: the preservation of spatial culture, the efficiency of vacancy filling, and the expansion of a social circle.

And it’s the connections that are the most important thing. I’d previously run my practice from a home office in inner-city Melbourne and a pool house in suburban Perth. Both productive and psychological death.

Perth, and I would assume most cities, feels vacant when you’re isolated from the epicentres of your practice and colleagues. I’m not convinced that the digital sphere solves this. We’re tactile animals. We need physical presence. There are studies that show that there is an equivalence of happiness between an extra $10,000 per year on your salary and one hour per month spent in the company of a community of likeminded people. It’s not hard to see what happens to general mental health when you annualise that figure.

It’s no big jump to say that humans crave connection. Seeing strange faces and passing bodies on the street in the midst of their grind lends me calmness and a sense of scale. Perth really isn’t so small. Every day a new face. Every day a new story.

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King Street Studio by Post- Architecture. Image: Dave Sharp.
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King Street Studio by Post- Architecture. Image: Dave Sharp.

Becoming an architect is not an easy feat. Aside from the academic demands and requisite work experience, the job of obtaining registration can be particularly onerous. We sought out a variety of experiences and views on this process.


Chair Architects Board of WA

Director Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA)

Principal John Taylor Architect

Reflecting on your own experiences, what is the greatest challenge in becoming a registered architect?

Obtaining contract administration experience is often a very difficult aspect for graduates who are intending to enter into the three-part Architectural Practice Examination (APE) process. I was extremely fortunate to initially work in mid-size practices that needed me to undertake contract administration. Thus I not only had the complete APE part 1 (Logbook and Statement of Practical Experience) requirements, but also rapidly gained the background and confidence to readily approach part 2 (National Examination Paper) and part 3 (Examination by Interview). Some of my contemporaries were not so fortunate.

Are the current registration requirements relevant to contemporary practice?

The AACA National Standard of Competency for Architects (NSCA) sets out the benchmark standards of competence against which an applicant for registration as an architect in

on registration

Australia is measured. This Standard describes what is reasonably expected of a person who can demonstrate the standard of skill, care and diligence widely accepted in Australia as a competent professional architectural practitioner. Having worked with AACA for some years on the NSCA and other parallel issues, I can only say the whole procedure is fantastic. Australian architects can be justifiably proud of our well-developed registration requirements and processes – research suggests we are amongst the best in the world.

Are there any alternative or additional processes or assessments you think would make the registration process more accessible or beneficial?

AACA has been dealing with Overseas Qualifications Assessments for many years, and a newer initiative is one to assist and encourage senior practitioners who for various reasons have never managed to register to undertake the process. Becoming registered encourages greater learning and affirmation of skills!

Do you think the titles ‘Graduate of Architecture’ and ‘Architect’ offer enough scope for practitioners? What is your view on a tiered or intermediary registration process?

The titles are perfectly adequate, and there is definitely no room for a tiered process. Registration is totally about consumer protection. One is either an architect – or not. The public must be sure that with the design of the

built environment, the highest quality services are provided by architects.

What tip/s would you give to an aspiring architect concerned about going through the registration process?

Having acted as an APE part 3 examiner for many years, I can emphasise the value of attending preparatory meetings with other potential registrants. Good preparation makes the whole process so much more relaxing and satisfying. Also, if a graduate knows of an examiner who they could approach, bail them up and ask for a mock exam! The mock examiner could soon discover any inadequacies and suggest remedies.


Coordinator EmAGN WA Regi(fru)stration

Principal Andrew T Boyne Architect

Reflecting on your own experiences, what is the greatest challenge in becoming a registered architect?

The greatest challenge in becoming a registered architect is obtaining knowledge in all areas of practice. When working for a firm it is easy to become pigeonholed in a certain task or area that makes the broad experience required difficult to obtain. Graduates need to be proactive in asking their employers for experience in areas they are not exposed to in their regular roles, and in filling gaps in their knowledge through study.

Are the current registration requirements relevant to contemporary practice? Yes. After more than two years of

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continuous professional practice, the opportunity to take stock of what has been learnt, and to review and fill gaps in knowledge is invaluable. The knowledge required to get through the examination process is obtained through general practice, through dealing with difficult situations, and by learning from senior practitioners. Reading through study materials in preparation for the examination process allows a comparison between the correct way to do things, and the way that those things have actually been dealt with in practice. It allows an opportunity to reflect and refine the way an aspiring architect approaches contemporary practice.

Are there any alternative or additional processes or assessments you think would make the registration process more accessible or beneficial?

I think the process is generally accessible and after at least two years in the profession the opportunity to review the way an architect practices architecture is beneficial. In some ways the process has become more accessible through recognition of work experience as a sole practitioner or under the supervision of a builder only.

Do you think the titles ‘Graduate of Architecture’ and ‘Architect’ offer enough scope for practitioners? What is your view on a tiered or intermediary registration process?

As a graduate I found the term ‘Graduate of Architecture’ to be awkward. After a number of years of registration, I

recognise the value in the distinction that the ‘Architect’ title provides. Much of the knowledge required to be a competent architect is acquired after university and the change in title reflects this. The requirement for two years of practice before eligibility to use the title seems fair. Perhaps there is a less awkward title that could be awarded to graduates. Using ‘Graduate of Architecture’ feels like nobody has given the issue a second thought, and that is disrespectful to the graduates who are entering our profession.

What tip/s would you give to an aspiring architect concerned about going through the registration process?

The registration process is fun. Two years after graduating, all friends, family and workmates are pretty much over hearing about architecture. The registration process allows an opportunity to discuss it again, and explore all the corners of this profession that we love. An architect emerges from the process a more rounded professional. My tip would be to use the experience to make yourself a more informed architect, and enjoy it!

Reflecting on your own experiences, what is the greatest challenge in becoming a registered architect?

A lack of workplace support in gaining the varied experience required to register. This was experienced by

some select peers of mine. The support offered to me at work to follow projects from start to finish and the encouragement from superiors made the process much less daunting.

Are the current registration requirements relevant to contemporary practice?

I felt the registration process, and especially the study, provided me with the tools and information to better practice architecture and perhaps more importantly understand the implications and responsibility of my actions at work.

Are there any alternative or additional processes or assessments you think would make the registration process more accessible or beneficial?

A combination of experience and study seems to work.

Do you think the titles ‘Graduate of Architecture’ and ‘Architect’ offer enough scope for practitioners? What is your view on a tiered or intermediary registration process?

I think that there is a lot of confusion regarding these official titles in the public sphere which I feel is more concerning than the scope (ie lack of scope) it affords.

What tip/s would you give to an aspiring architect concerned about going through the registration process?

Make sure to track your areas of inexperience/weakness and request some level of involvement in these areas from your employer. Be involved in as

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many help activities that you can be, eg PALS (Practice of Learning Architecture Series), study sessions, informal mentoring.


Architect (UK)

Graduate Architect Parry and Rosenthal Architects

Reflecting on your own experiences, what is the greatest challenge in becoming a registered architect in WA?

As a European registered architect I have to convert my qualifications first with a portfolio of my student and professional work and then take all parts of the APE. This is a considerable amount of work to undertake and where the function of an architect is not protected it is hard to understand the benefits of becoming locally registered.

Are the current registration requirements relevant to contemporary practice?

The competencies follow the timeline of a building project, so we may presume the pillars of 'good' architecture are covered. However, the more philosophical aspects –historical context and architectural theory – are not included in the NSCA. These could be argued as 'non-essential' in delivering a building design, yet having an understanding of these is what separates Architects from project managers or BCA certifiers. Without this intangible aspect what more can an architect offer than a project manager? And without the artistry of architecture being essential to registering this is a

sure way to limit our role in the future. Are there any alternative or additional processes or assessments you think would make the registration process more accessible or beneficial?

Recognising European architects would be beneficial to me! I am concerned at the low number of registered female architects (census data 2011), which is a paltry 20% despite a graduation rate of 50%. There is excellent research on why people do not register by SJ Shannon et al (2014). One of the reasons is a worry of failing the written exams, which is multiple choice and penalises wrong answers. According to BenShakhar and Sinai (1991) this biased results: the study showed women did not risk a negative point and therefore did less well than men. There are many other astute recommendations in the 2014 report.

Do you think the titles ‘Graduate of Architecture’ and ‘Architect’ offer enough scope for practitioners? What is your view on a tiered or intermediary registration process?

Intermediary registration would make it more confusing, especially to lay people, thereby devaluing the title of 'Architect'. However that being said, more structure through the process would be valuable to those who struggle for support from their office and perhaps a route that follows directly from graduation would enable more candidates to register.

What tip/s would you give to an aspiring architect concerned about going through the registration process?

Start your log book as soon as possible! Take it to your employer and together establish a plan of how you will achieve the hours you need under the competencies. Get and give support to your fellow registrants by creating or joining a study group: hearing different modes of practice gives understanding of the industry as a whole, and collaboration is the nature of our business.


Graduate of Architecture

Principal Jill Birt DESIGN

Reflecting on your own experiences, what is the greatest challenge in becoming a registered architect?

Convincing people who think they can’t afford an architect of the immense benefits in engaging an architect has been a huge challenge in the small to medium scale residential work I am involved with. I feel that a lack of understanding of what an architect offers combined with notions that architecture is a luxury indulgence, or not cost effective, affects people’s engagement. I am frequently engaged to carry out partial service only, as clients explore their options. Where projects proceed to construction, many owners choose to take control of the project themselves and my reduced service is perceived as a cost saving. My ability to fulfill registration requisite work experience is clearly restricted,

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but perhaps of greater significance, the service I do carry out often becomes stretched, where I may work many hours unpaid as I struggle to keep the built work, the visible record that good architecture is accessible to all, on track.

Are the current registration requirements relevant to contemporary practice?

The alternative pathway to registration recently made available by the AACA, the National Program of Assessment for Locally Experienced Practitioners, has closer relevance to my practice with its flexibility towards work experiences and performance criteria. Replacing the log book with a project portfolio structure of assessment will enable me to present my professional experience in a way that mostly meets eligibility for registration, but I feel there is still an expectation that the built works assessed (and hence budget), be of medium scale or larger. Since new ways of applying higher density in our inner suburban areas are being explored and encouraged through initiatives such as the small house movement, and while architects continue to explore innovative ways of providing affordable housing, there is room for registration requirements to reflect the application of these in contemporary practice.

Are there any alternative or additional processes or assessments you think would make the registration process more accessible or beneficial?

Working as a sole practitioner is hard work and labour intensive. It can

be very rewarding but it can also be quite isolating. Possibilities exist for an organised mentoring system or platform upon which graduate architects working outside office based work structures can receive support, advice or critique of their work in relation to registration. Graduates could use this platform, perhaps together with tutorials, towards preparation of their project portfolio assessment. With the existing system some offices offer tutorials for registration applicants but these are for applicants who have already fulfilled their log book requirements, in preparation of registration examinations, rather than for those who are coming from a less conventional path and wish to fulfill requirements.

Do you think the titles ‘Graduate of Architecture’ and ‘Architect’ offer enough scope for practitioners? What is your view on a tiered or intermediary registration process?

While my work experience lacks the requisite contract administration required for registration I have significant years' experience of working on a number of small projects at any one time. I have perhaps gained a wider variety of experience in practice than some registered architects. The title ‘Graduate of Architecture’ does not represent my professional capacity but, that said, I feel the emphasis should be on enabling graduate architects the best opportunity to carry out the

requirements for registration across a broad spectrum, rather than a tiered process that may make the registration process even more onerous for some applicants.

What tip/s would you give to an aspiring architect concerned about going through the registration process?

I would encourage aspiring architects to get as wide a variety of experience as possible, and don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. •

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'3 over 4 under' 2016equity in diversity

Since 2003, the Perth architecture community has engaged in a discourse which has been enhanced by diversity. You might describe it as a celebration of diversity within architectural practice - of all form and scale. The wise and the effervescent, the micro and the macro, the poetic and the pragmatic; all have shared the stage at some point over the past 14 years of ‘3

Over 4 Under’, an annual architecture forum presented by EmAGN WA (the Institute’s Emerging Architects and Graduates Network committee). In the tradition of the forum, speakers from architectural practices - 3 established (over) and 4 emerging (under) - present their work on a theme set each year by EmAGN WA. This creates one common discussion point for each speaker to respond to from their unique position within architectural practice.

This year’s theme ‘On Beginnings’, in particular, attracted a range of responses reflecting the diversity of practices around Perth at this point in time. Through a mixture of public and invited expressions of interest EmAGN WA asked this year’s speakers:

‘What was your first project? Maybe this project was not the first you were ever involved with; but instead the project that became the beginning, the critical

point that changed your direction or catapulted your practice onto its current path. This project may be built or unbuilt, big or small, residential or commercial, local or international. It is a landmark project for you, perhaps it won an award, created a long standing love affair with a material or an ongoing experimentation in construction, lifelong friendships or affiliations. This project could have been many different things as newly completed or on reflection now; imperfect but promising, challenging but rewarding... What do you consider as your beginning?’

#1 (Over)

Patrick Kosky

Kerry Hill Architects

Patrick started his career at KHA’s Singapore studio and has remained with the practice to become a Director at the Perth studio based in Fremantle. During his time at KHA, Patrick has certainly been involved in many project beginnings, which he describes as a time of both anticipation and trepidation. At KHA, design competitions are used to synthesise and compress the early stages of a project through a rapid process of exploration. The Kings Square Design Competition in particular provoked a range of diverse responses within the practice, ultimately leading to a successful design proposal.

#2 (Over)

Dimmity Walker and Michael Patroni spaceagency

In the beginning there was Michael Patroni Architects (established 1984)... Dimmity joined the practice in 1995, which marked another beginning as partners in work and life. A siteresponsive, holistic approach across architecture and interiors has solidified spaceagency’s reputation as a good local practice that has diversified from small existing hospitality and residential projects to large-scale new commercial and urban projects. Michael and Dimmity have shared a number of ‘beginnings’ over the course of 30+ years together, with many more to come in some form or another.

#3 (Under)

Fernando Jerez

SMAR Architecture Studio

As an internationally registered architect and urban planner, a Professor of the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts at the University of Western Australia, and Director of SMAR Architecture Studio (established 2009) operating in Australia and Spain, Fernando certainly doesn't sound like an 'Under'. Fernando’s work addresses the new industrial revolution. In this era of open source / sharing

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economy, ideas have become the principal currency. But architecture is still offering the same products: buildings are heavy and slow, while an app is as real as a building. Architecture needs to adapt.

#4 (Under)

Mitch Hill

TRIAD Studio / Assemble WA

Mitch has trained as an architect, builder and carpenter. He hasn’t had a holiday in three years. He's worked in traditional architectural practice but experienced envy towards those on the tools that he couldn’t resist diving into the trades himself. Although he doesn’t like being defined by any of the roles he works in on a daily basis. He feels ‘it’s more than that, with each profession contributing to the tapestry of that final destination. At this moment, 'maker' seems most appropriate, but I am only at the beginning of discovering what that actually means.’

#5 (Under)

Kate Fitzgerald

Whispering Smith

Kate grew up on a farm and learnt to drive at the age of six when her legs reached the pedals. ‘I’ve always found architecture’s obsession with slowness to be strange.’ In 2011 Kate established

Whispering Smith, a firm that operates on the fringe of commercial and residential architecture in Perth. Her niche is unique projects with an entrepreneurial or social focus. She is currently looking at ways of using architecture to disrupt the system, and hopefully to help others become more entrepreneurial. Kate believes architects should play a bigger role in the built environment and procure our own projects wherever possible.

#6 (Over)

Ian Scott

SPH Architecture and Interiors

Prior to founding SPH, Ian contracted at over 30 firms in a diverse range of locations including Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye, London, Muscat, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth. Consequently, he has worked on numerous projects ranging from the bizarre to the mundane, but one project stands out. The project in question did not reflect in any way the Council-approved planning submission: it was constructed from a mixture of dimensioned sketches, loose hand drawings a lot of pointing, doodling on walls and discussions over pies and tea. The remains of a medieval bridge were found whilst excavating the site and preserved; the River Thames flows into

the lower floor. It was opened by the Queen, won several major awards and only when finished was the builder presented with a drawing of the front elevation.

#7 (Under)

April Pine Artist

You may have already come across April’s work, at some scale or other. She works in a large-scale architecture practice (HASSELL) which inspires her smaller scale personal art practice, and vice versa. Three years ago April entered her first independent art competition. She has since committed her emerging years to using competitions and artist expression of interest call-outs as catalysts to explore new work, new techniques and new ideas and thus broaden her design palette. April’s art practice has subsequently evolved organically each year, venturing into new territories of object, sculpture or installation. She interplays elements of both architecture and sculpture within spaces, considering how sculpture and installation works can react, exaggerate and celebrate their context.

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AIA vs ACA… not in wa

The Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) may be unknown to many in the profession. Its focus is on ‘the business of architecture’, but what exactly does that mean, and why are there two professional bodies representing architects?

Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) WA President, Philip Griffiths posed a few questions to ACA State President, Kieran Wong to find out more about the ACA and how the two organisations might work more cooperatively and collaboratively.

What is the ACA and what does it do?

The ACA was born in 1987 out of a growing demand from practice owners and directors for greater representation on industrial relations and employment issues, particularly following the introduction of the Architects Award. These areas have always been a challenge for architects because of the nature of their work and the diversity of their workplaces. Employment matters such as pay and conditions, contracts, and general HR support are as important today as they were then. In 2012 the ACA developed a new strategic plan which saw the organisation expand to encompass the business of architecture more widely.

We firmly believe that architects need good business skills if the profession is

to prosper and contribute meaningfully to the built environment. ACA Members are supported with practical tools such as the Architects’ Time/Cost Calculation Guide, Model Employment Agreements and the soon-to-be-launched Salary Calculator. All are related to contemporary practice and are available on our super-useful website au. We also provide tailored advice to members in business and employment matters.

There are branches in each state that work together at a national level, but also understand the different regulatory issues in the various jurisdictions and operate according to members’ concerns and interests.

How is ACA different from the Institute? Many people are involved with both organisations, but ACA members are the practices themselves, not individual architects. This means that those active in the ACA are the leaders of practices – the people making the decisions and dealing with the business of architecture. That’s a very important distinction because it enables us to focus on practice management and employment issues. Our advocacy is concentrated on things like improving procurement environments, consulting

with Government and encouraging good business practices within the profession. The Institute has a much broader scope of activity including its own advocacy work about the value of architects, delivering the awards program and participating in events like the Venice Biennale.

The ACA model is working very successfully. Concentrating on the business dimension means we have a very clear role in the industry. It also enables us to keep our overheads low –we don’t have offices and the only paid staff are part-time administrators and a web editor. This allows us to channel our resources into practical projects that directly benefit members like the salary calculator.

How do you engage with your members? In WA we run a series of events to keep members enthused and participating, and they enjoy the networking opportunities. What I find really helpful is that the events enable me to talk to people who are in the same professional situation as me. We are all owners and directors talking about common issues, whereas the Institute events have a much wider audience, which reflects your membership.

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The ACA also runs some Continuing Professional Development (CPD), mainly online. CPD has become a very competitive space but our material is always consistent with our focus on practice.

How can both of our organisations help each other and our members?

I am very keen to work more closely with the Institute. Historically the relationship may have been seen as competitive, but each organisation has a very clear mandate and these are complementary. The ACA looks after business issues and the Institute concentrates on advocating the benefits of architects to Government and the community. We do share a common purpose in advancing the interests of the architecture profession, as we believe that a solid business foundation underpins the ability for our members to do great work in the built environment.

Joint events might be a good way to make progress on this and I’m sure we can find opportunities like our recent panel discussion on Design Advisory Panels (DAPs) and Design Advisory Committees (DACs) to connect members. I also think that jointly

advocating for issues that affect both our constituencies will also be useful.

ACA met recently with the Minister for Planning to advocate strongly for our members’ position on DAPs and DACs and teaming up on this sort of thing could be very useful for all our members.

What issues are going to be most important to the profession in the next 10-20 years?

This is where a more productive relationship between our organisations will benefit architecture in Australia. Practice is undoubtedly changing and the biggest challenge faces small to medium-sized practices and how they will be able to successfully compete for appropriate projects. In WA we seem to be less keen on joint ventures than in other states and that is to our detriment. There has been a bit of a hiatus in the growth of medium-sized practices and those emerging tend to be small operations with two or three people. For me, this is a worrying trend. Smaller practices often don’t have the in-house resources such as HR staff or contracts experts to assist in the potentially treacherous areas of employment contracts, award conditions, client agreements and insurances. This is really where the ACA can assist most

directly, providing both tools and support for our members to support good business practice.

The ACA is committed to gaining a better understanding of the shape of the profession, and to generating productive debate and discussion about its future. One of the problems is a dearth of data: it is hard to strategise for the future when you don’t know where you are. ACA South Australia recently conducted a research project to understand more about the profession there. We hope to expand this nationally and have started with some excellent reports on data from the last three censuses. Following on from this research we have published a number of reflections by a wide range of practitioners on the future of the profession under the banner ‘Where to From Here’. We’d love to have some WA voices contribute to that discussion.

There is great opportunity to ensure our two organisations maintain dialogue. The Institute will lead the way in the marketing of architects and architecture and ACA will continue to assist practice leaders to stay viable in a very uncertain profession. That will be very unifying. •

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more virgins please

There is an exhibition I’ve been itching to curate for years, and it’s called ‘Virgin Architects: a History of First Times’. Amongst its protagonists would be the British gothic revivalist Charles Barry, the Chicago émigrés Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, and the high-octane Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind. What binds these unlikely bedfellows to such a salacious title?

It is true that they have all designed something extraordinary as a result of a design competition. But that’s not all. For each it was, in a sense, their very first time. Barry had never designed a parliament building before designing the Palace of Westminster, the Griffins had never designed a city before laying out their designs for Canberra, and Libeskind had never designed a major civic building before designing the extraordinary Jewish Museum in Berlin. At the point of their respective competition wins, Barry was 40 years old (and his collaborator Pugin was 23), the Griffins were 35 and 40, and while Libeskind was a more sagacious 53 he had, rather spectacularly, not built a single building by then. He had spent the previous decades teaching, painting and playing the piano.

The world is full of such stories, of Saarinen who had never designed an

airport before Dulles, of Corb who had never designed a church before Ronchamp and of course Utzon who had never designed an opera house before Sydney. Everyone has to start somewhere, and some start at the top. Almost always it is the design competition that facilitates this opportunity. It’s a kind of dating service, bringing intriguing projects and giddy architects together, with a roll of butterpaper in the middle.

Perhaps the role of the design competition is therefore quite simple: to create the opportunity for architecture to reinvent itself through new talent and to project boldly into the future.

Same, but different

Some aspects of the design competition have remained remarkably unchanged. Controversy has followed in their wake for centuries. Being predicated on delivering something unique and different makes competitions inherently riskier than the tried and tested. They are also the preferred procurement method for major civic buildings (read ‘tax-payer’s money’). That combination of risk-taking and other people’s money will always get front page.

This question of who underwrites the risk of a design competition can often bleed into a more complex interplay

between the public purse and the social fabric of a city or a people. Competitions have for centuries been catalysts for wider public debate about the role of culture, territorial spats between public and private interests, and the staging of national pride, which invariably induces both belonging and alienation as the flipsides of the same coin.

When talking about the public purse, the elephant in the particular room is the Guggenheim. It’s almost two decades since the Guggenheim Bilbao opened after years of local dissent and, of course, an international design competition. Now is not the place for a full exploration of that particularly late colonial export (American museum brand, American architect and largely trumpeting American late modern art) except to say that while the crude cost-benefit analysis may have served Bilbao’s exchequer pretty well, a number of other high profile Guggenheims have ended in commercial and cultural failure.

The Guggenheim Helsinki looks set to join that less than illustrious club. Finland’s modest economy, global financial jitters, and the idea of paying hundreds of millions of dollars for a culture magnet of uncertain attraction, meant that the warning sirens were raging from before day one. Undaunted,

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the proponents threw their full worldwide marketing machinery behind a competition process that garnered a gargantuan response.

Pier Vittorio Aureli has since disparaged the competition as a cynical ruse, delivering consensus and a good story while drowning out the project’s more controversial issues. Aaron Betsky titled his review of the competition ‘Guggenheim Finalist: Meh’. And with 1,715 submissions, six finalists and one winner, Jeremy Till described it as being a ‘process that is 0.058% energy efficient.’

As I write this, the Finnish government has just announced it will not fund the museum, making it possibly one of the greatest wastes of energy, imagination and unbillable hours of all time.

Or was it? Not all competitions that fail to proceed to construction are pointless, though perhaps it is the scale of Helsinki’s redundancy that marks it apart. Many competition winners over the ages have been left unbuilt, and that’s ok too, up to a point. From Mies van der Rohe’s famous Friedrichstrasse glass skyscraper of 1921 to Zaha Hadid’s Peak submission of 1991 or OMA’s Jussieu Library a year later, each went bravely to where no office, club or library had gone before. They have been duly celebrated for breaking the mould while simultaneously being

consigned to the too hard basket. However it is clear from these examples that architecture resides as much in ideas on the page as in their translation into building. We owe a debt to such experiments as they each initiated a rich new chapter in architecture’s language, from the revolution of glass facades to the rediscovery of Suprematist space, to the curious case of the void in the library.

Up until very recently, most competitions were held anonymously. All three virgin architects noted above were selected by a jury that had no knowledge of who the architect was, nor any knowledge of their capability beyond that which was inscribed within their design proposal. Anonymity however is no longer the norm, and this single fact is without doubt a canary in the coal mine. It signals a shift in architecture’s perceived value, the implications of which cannot be overestimated.

Although perhaps this shift in competition culture to one of known entities, demonstrated capabilities and an obsession with building type, should not be so surprising. The changing technologies of construction and servicing have transformed many buildings into highly specialised machines in which the accommodating

patients and passengers, workers and musicians requires very distinct knowledge and expertise.

But if we leave the argument of specialist expertise aside, which can after all be mitigated through appropriate contractual and joint venture provisions, the change in mood towards a less open competition environment points to a profession that is shadowed by the twin neuroses of fear and control: a neurosis that prevails across all scales, from the competition-winning museum to that of the family home.

Fear and control

Consider the home. My parents didn’t insure my family home. Not many of our neighbours did either. In fact I’m not sure if my father held insurance for anything, beyond perhaps, reluctantly under threat of legal action, his car. Spool forward a generation and my home and car, computers and phones, books and artworks, healthcare and work are all insured. An industry that was born barely two centuries ago at a time of candles and cities crammed ever tighter with timber houses, which grew exponentially in the 70s thanks to litigious American consumers, now touches everything in our lives, from heart surgery to paper cuts.

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Why this detour into insurance and loss adjustment? Because this global shift towards minimising risk and thereby insurance costs has had a major net effect on design professions and in equal measure, competitions. It is now the case that the default settings on most decisions on most projects, from the macro to the micro, favours the normative, the proven and the risk-free. There are exceptions of course, but by and large, project managers, client liaisons and competition proponents now look at design innovation, despite all the heroic and air-brushed rhetoric, through the negative lens of risk. In short, fear-driven decision making.

At the control end of the equation, the profession is equally benighted by an ever-increasing growth in regulation, principally expressed through planning codes. Developed nations can now claim the dubious honor of having cities that are more controlled by planning than ever before in history.

Gone are the days when reasonable planning provisions were limited to controlling height, sun, wind and general safety. Now a different normative impulse seeks to control material choice, envelope articulation, the pitch of a roof, the position of a window, the species of tree and the size of a mailbox. When it’s not

spelled out there’s the catchall familiar requirement to ‘…recognise and protect the distinctive characteristics and environmental features of…’

This blanket requirement to predicate a new building on the forms and qualities of the old is antithetical to the spirit and indeed purpose of good design competitions. Of course, an architect should consider and respond to a site and its surroundings, but that is quite different from being bound to reproduce them.

Under this regime of fear and control, there is a growing disconnect between how competitions might best serve the city and what the city will now accept. Or perhaps better, an asymmetry between an architectural culture hard-wired to produce bespoke design solutions and an urban condition that aspires to the standard, the regulated and the known.

It should be remembered that competitions emerged and came into their own at the precise moment when the commissioning and patronising of architecture moved away from the Church and the Crown to the less autocratic and more consensual democratic and civic institutions of the 19th century. That century in England alone produced more than 2,500 design

competitions during a great expansion of its cities. Again, this was a time when very little about the city was standard, regulated or known. It was before we thought we knew how to make cities. Cities were a great experiment in which architecture competitions played their own experimental part.

We still think of competitions in this light, as if thriving amidst the search for something new, something we haven’t seen before. And yet the two dominant forces of fear and control actively seek to lock down any semblance of change. The city is no longer an experiment. It is a management exercise. In the cybernetic fantasies of engineers and planners, the city is little more than an array of components that can be tweaked up or down, slower or faster, a little bit to the left, add some more people, sprinkle some transport nodes over there. If we could just get all the parts into their correct place, it would all be fine. This version of the future is actively hostile to the unknown and the emerging.

So for competitions to have a productive role in the future, accommodations need to be made on both sides.

So what’s to be done? Firstly, there are comfort blankets that we must surrender. That means recognising

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that there are things we don’t like, that won’t change. Large projects with a complex brief are unlikely to return to open, anonymous competitions based on design merit alone any time soon. There may be the occasional risky showpony (usually when a Premier has a safe majority) but perceptions of risk, and its aversion, are now thoroughly embedded in our society, and we can’t pretend otherwise.

Nor will we solve the problem of failed competitions. If we accept that competitions often get their very lifeblood from being experimental and explorative, we must accept that experiments often fail and explorations sometimes trickle out to a dusty waterless desert. Unrealised competitions should not be framed as pointless if in their response they help recast the brief and move architecture forward, even if that means beyond the possible.

We must also surrender, or at least rethink, some of the ethical and social assumptions that have underwritten competitions for generations. There is a whole other essay, that cannot be written here, about the changing face of intellectual property within our rather disingenuously framed ‘sharing economy’. Authorship and ownership, creating and enabling, collaboration

and production are all ideas whose definitions are blurring. If an idea can be owned, where does it reside? Is it in the drawing, in the 3D model, or the coding behind the model, or the final building, or the image of the building? Who owns it and why? Is it right that a person at the apex, at the top of the tree, owns an idea made by dozens of hands, or multiple collaborative teams? As revenue from content in the world of media now shifts from producers to platforms, what makes architects think they will be left untouched while ‘all that is solid melts into air’. I don’t have the answers, but I know these questions inevitably complicate the principles of ownership within competitions.

There is also, not so much an essay that could be written, as a shelf of PhD theses that could be read, on the transformation of what was once the binary territories of the public and private domain into an ill-defined but sometimes not-so-bad mongrel of the two. This too carries significant implications for the culture of competitions, remade as Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs).

Suffice to say that any wishful thinking that architecture might somehow be sheltered from the ongoing global spread of neo-liberal market ideologies needs to be revised. What good is there

in making a special claim to protection based on ethical standards that are now comprehensively in retreat? This of course is not just a matter for competitions, or for the general cut and thrust of practice, but demands a debate on how urban ideals engage with what Michael Sandel called ‘the moral limits of markets’.

The start of a wish list…

There are however some things that we might, and indeed could change – part of a much longer wish list.

Firstly, we could incentivise the use of properly structured design competitions through the promise of reduced friction in planning and other little bonuses, such as additional floor space ratio.

This already drives Sydney’s Design Excellence processes, helping to bridge the gap between civic and commercial benefit. It’s not perfect but there is no reason why such incentives could not be improved and refined, and used to help push for increased use of design competitions across the country.

Secondly, whether we like it or not, private participation in large capital works projects will not recede and will likely increase. Neither major political party has an appetite for long term capital investments, except those with immediate wedge benefits. So while

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PPPs are not design competitions in the traditional sense, they are worth investing in, to the extent that they are competitions that have design criteria within them. Being optimistic, they may even represent an opportunity to insert design thinking into the structure of more major public procurements at a very early stage.

I said potentially. Today, they are still too much like the Wild West. Sometimes they get a good design result, based largely on whether the proponent cares about design (with a little help from the right evaluative criteria). Often they don’t, and that’s a problem. But there are definite upsides to PPPs. One of the great limitations of competitions is that they are often explicitly structured to quarantine the design process from everything else. Except to the modest extent that the brief can accommodate an understanding of the client’s wishes, they mandate the removal of the client and the building’s users from a more interrogative role in the early development of the design. If PPPs could be improved it is possible the classic design competition that we all know and love could indeed learn something from them: how to create an interface and engagement between the client, users, architects and the whole combined team, right from the

start, while maintaining the necessary probity protocols.

Thirdly, the Institute likes to think that there are design competitions and there is Quality Based Selection, and never the twain shall meet. They do, every day. Design competitions and other design-focused competitive tenders are not black and white, and overlap in a grey procurement area regularly. To pretend otherwise is fanciful and does not serve the profession. Hybrid beasts, which are part design competition with some element of track record or capability criteria, are another inevitable consequence of the risk-averse environment we all live in. However the use of track record as part of evaluation seriously needs to be reviewed. We need to look at what is being tracked.

I recently learned of a competition where one of the largest and most established and award-winning practices in Melbourne did not get shortlisted because of indemnities and insurances. The Institute, Government Architects, and State Government departments involved in the built environment need to look at the procurement processes being undertaken at state and local level (where state coffers are involved), ensuring that procurement clearly differentiates and understands

the enormous distinction between a business profile and design profile.

However, if a client wants a competitive process based largely on a supplied design proposition but with some version of industry recognition as a minor component so that a practice that has won many awards can be premiated over a practice that has won none, is that so really unconscionable? What, you might ask, is the point of the Australian Institute of Architects annual awards if not to provide a reasonable indication, over time, as to whether a practice has a history of designing great architecture or not?

I know this is potentially controversial and could easily be misrepresented. This is a question of proportionality, so I’ll state this carefully. Track record should continue to play no part in modest scaled projects where the risks of failure are controlled. Where a project is larger, more complicated, high profile, and importantly, where the client may have a job on their hands wrangling a mixed, diverse and opinionated stakeholder group, it may not be unreasonable for an architect’s past successes to underwrite and help bolster consensus from a community, provided this factor plays a minor role within a design competition and it only relates to design criteria. In Andrew’s perfect world of

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how things should be, I’d go anonymous every time. In the world of 2016, we either adapt or get sidelined.

Because of how the above could advantage established practices over new ones, my fourth item on the wish list identifies a counter-point: which is to say, there is a real risk that the issue of size is leading to monopolistic tendencies within the profession. Small and young practices are consistently and methodically disadvantaged in competitions, up and down the country, through the shoddy application of inappropriate capacity and capability profiling. Taken as a whole it is a systematic and endemic problem which the Australian Institute of Architects needs to play a more active and interventionist role in addressing. Otherwise the centre of the profession will continue to be slowly and relentlessly hollowed out. We are moving toward a situation where small practices design small projects, while a handful of very large practices design everything else.

If the Institute doesn’t address this, it would represent in my opinion an evacuation of a primary role of such a member-based organisation – to promote the interests of all its members. The fact that members are so docile about this growing and stark division

of opportunity is extraordinary. The Institute needs to find ways to get out there and build a narrative around a broader field of participation in competitions. Maybe it could even broker joint ventures between the documentation machines and young creative talent. I don't doubt it’s fraught with difficulties, but there are many good, talented and energetic practices that are trying desperately to engage in competitions and competitive tenders, to move up the ladder of opportunity, who are systematically denied the opportunity on the basis of entirely irrelevant business criteria and back-ofthe-envelope longlisting processes.

To conclude, competitions can still, on a good day, help bring a challenging project and a good architect together. But we need to stop pretending that competitions can be a panacea, or a preserved bastion, of how things used to be. They cannot be simply protected from the rapidly changing and often hostile conditions of professional practice just because we want them to be. If anything, competitions may well amplify those very challenges. The best way to let them go the way of the dinosaur is to give them special needs status.

Competitions need to respond to the fact that the whole procurement

environment is changing, indeed the whole profession is changing. We cannot expect to use the same competitive tools that generated the Palace of Westminster while everything else is utterly transformed. Competitions too need to evolve, and no amount of handwringing, wishful, head-in-the-sand attitudes will change that fact.

This article also appears in the Spring 2016 edition of Architect Victoria (the official journal of the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Chapter). •

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ten from ten

Ten practitioners, thinkers, public figures and commentators answer ten questions on ‘EQUITY’.

How do you define equity?

Equity is sometimes referred to as ‘substantive equality’, where you might have to treat some people differently, according to their specific needs, in order to treat them equally to other people.

Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they the greatest?

As Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, it’s my role to investigate complaints of discrimination. On a daily basis I see inequities in employment, education, the provision of services, and access to places. The greatest numbers of discrimination complaints the Equal Opportunity Commission receives are on the grounds of impairment, race, and sex (including sexual harassment).

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

The WA Equal Opportunity Act and the Federal Sex Discrimination Act

were both enacted in 1984. Before then, employers could discriminate against women as they pleased, without legal sanction. It’s now hard to imagine a time when sex discrimination wasn’t against the law. When it comes to discrimination, Australia today is not the same country as it was in 1984. I would call that progress.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

I’m a fan of quotas because if something isn’t working, then you have to try something different. It’s a big taboo for many employers but I don’t see a problem with it. If there aren’t enough women in senior positions in business and the professions, then a quota is one way of dealing with it. The Equal Opportunity Act and the Sex Discrimination Act allow employers to implement special measures to achieve equality, including quotas.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

Usually the power of the individual is not enough to change society. Achieving equity needs to be addressed through policy, and even legislation. Much progress has been made in achieving formal equality between men and women, at universities, in government, and in business, and that is because most employers and institutions want equality. It’s not the same when it comes to leadership and decision-making positions: men still occupy most of the

top jobs in business, politics, and the professions, and we are still trying to find out how to change that.

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be?

The Equal Opportunity Commission is involved in a number of projects to promote gender equity in the workplace. But education is the key – once people know the facts and understand the law, change follows.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one’s own home?

Cost, obviously. A person or couple on average weekly earnings should be able to buy a house and pay it off. But buying a house seems increasingly to be something that fewer people can afford, particularly if it is an investment property, which has tax advantages for the wealthier buyers. That’s not very equitable.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

As Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, I see inequities all the time. People lodge complaints and enquiries with the Equal Opportunity Commission about discrimination and harassment every day.

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage? In 2009, Triple J ran a poll of the ‘Hottest 100 of all Time’ with 500,000 listeners surveyed. Only two female singers made the cut – seriously?

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Achieving equity – your greatest delight?

More employers are using special measures to achieve equality in the workplace by advertising job vacancies that are for women only. The law allows it and it should be encouraged.

How do you define equity?

The chance for all of us, irrespective of gender, or race, or religion, or sexual orientation, or whether we are judged able or less than able-bodied, to have the same opportunity to make a contribution and to reach our potential.

Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they the greatest?

I see inequities, based on some really questionable criteria used to determine someone’s ‘merit’, in almost every professional occupation in Australia. But they can be corrected.

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

Changing the criteria used to judge merit. Once that occurs it is surprising how many more people get a chance to contribute in a way they weren’t able to before.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

I think affirmative action works but quotas can be difficult to introduce and do have the potential to create hostility towards those groups who are the target of the quotas. That said, if you want to make change, you at least have to set targets for those changes and they need to be made public.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

It’s a leadership issue, first and foremost.

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be? Look at your organisation’s culture. Is it inclusive or exclusive? If it’s exclusive you will seldom attract and retain the talent that you need to answer the challenges of the future.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one’s own home?

Not sure what this has to do with equality and I don't feel qualified to answer.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

No, but I am a middle aged, AngloSaxon male.

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage?

I don’t get outraged. There are challenges galore and we just need to keep finding the best way to answer them.

Achieving equity – your greatest delight? There is headway being made everywhere. We just need to see it and celebrate the victories. That’s what really disrupts the status quo.

National Committee for Gender Equity

Director Dunn & Hillam Architects

How do you define equity?

Equity is all people having the opportunity to progress in their careers based on merit and on their own personal choice and to be valued and paid equally for that work.

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Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they the greatest?

At the moment we are all judged on factors that do not have an influence on our ability to do the work we are paid to do. Factors such as our gender, ethnicity, availability to work full-time or have time to engage with lengthy networking activities such as golf or road cycling. For example, working part-time, or even working full-time but not engaging with the long-hours culture of architecture can be damaging to your career. At this moment in time this affects women more than men, but it is not tied to either gender and in fact men who choose to work in this way are often more penalised by the stigma of ‘not taking work seriously.’

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

Progress is slow, but through the work of the Institute's National Committee for Gender Equity, the Architects Registration Board initiatives and through the wonderful and important work of Parlour there has been an increase in the registration of women as architects. This is working towards a perceived barrier for women in progressing to more responsible jobs within the profession. It builds the confidence of those women and confirms their commitment to their career. We also now have an equitable board for the Institute (three women, three men, with one position yet to be filled), a full year before the quota we lobbied for and got was to have been enforced.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

Affirmative action and quotas are necessary at this stage. We are all hoping for a future when they are not. But right now, despite the acknowledgment of the general population that men and women are both to able contribute equally to architecture, the evidence shows they are not being given equal opportunities to do so. Change is difficult and slow and needs a multipronged approach, and affirmative action and quotas are one of the ways we can move towards equity.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

It needs both. It cannot be left to the individual to push for fairness alone and nor can policy succeed if it doesn’t first have the in-principle support of individuals. The policy provides the support for the change, so that every individual is not pushing for change on a personal level. When you consider that moving towards equity is something that will benefit everyone, including the economy, men, families and businesses, it is appropriate that there is policy, legislation and compulsory reporting to advance that change.

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be?

Introduce compulsory ‘use it or lose it’ paid parental leave for both parents, for equal amounts of time, but flexible over a five year period for each child. Make

it compulsory that all job interview, promotion and performance review panels have an equal number of senior men and women. Yes, that’s two things - but there were about 25 others I left off the list.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one’s own home?

Money. It’s simple right? The barrier to owning your own home is that you do not have enough money. Why? Either you don’t earn enough, so we can look at pay equity and education for some solutions, or the price is too high. The further we creep towards an inequitable world where the top 20% own more and more of the wealth, the more we will see that wealthy part of the population consume a disproportionate amount of the property capital and push up the prices as they search for more places to store their money.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

I personally have designed my life around having control of my work and career so I do not have to face it regularly. The fact that from very early on I understood that to stay in architecture and to have a family, I was going to need to have that control is an indication of the lack of choice that does exist for parents in architecture. (NoteI said ‘parents’ not women, because this can fall either way, depending on the balance of child-care)

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage? John Howard’s recent comments about

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women’s capacity to engage with a political career. But then, it created a bit of heat around the issue and the more it gets discussed the better.

Achieving equity – your greatest delight?

Hearing recently that the Chief Financial Officer of Transport NSW (who is a man) works a flexible part-time week.

Diversity Specialist

How do you define equity?

Equity is achieved when our stakeholders sit around the table, challenge us, don’t look or think like us, but are motivated by the common goal. Equity gives all of us the dignity we deserve, professionally and interpersonally.

Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they the greatest?

Operating across business, government and community fields I see a deep

ignorance toward difference. I understand the appeal of similarity, yet it does not give us the best results. We can change this but it takes will.

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

I worked with an organisation where I asked the CEO why they still had an obvious gender pay gap. He called his HR and finance managers to see what could be done. The next morning women who were being paid less than their male equal were given pay rises to rectify this. It was a powerful statement to not accept inequality where we can change it.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

Anyone who thinks that we are getting the best talent through our current systems is wilfully ignorant. Overlooking the business and economic arguments for diversity is partly laughable and partly idiotic. I advise every manager to set a target, set a deadline and achieve it.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

Neither. I’m bored with reading wellintentioned policies that go nowhere. Inclusion and inequality are linked with performance and strategy; these are not side issues. While the individual has a role to play, it is a massive leap without an inclusive culture.

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be?

These issues are often driven by women, naturally through personal experience. I’d like to have more men contact me and take the initial steps to realising real inclusion.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one’s own home?

Options. Australia still operates on the assumption that a home is a 4x2 when it should be so much more than that. With greater density and options for living we can create better, more inclusive communities which will solve some of the social issues we see on the fringes of metro areas.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

As soon as I enter an office. Most receptionists or assistants are female; she orders coffee and organises the meeting specifics. This sets a tone that women naturally do the so-called ‘office housework’ - meeting notes, kitchen cleaning etc. Expectations need to shift that men do these things too.

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage?

That we think we are doing something remarkable. In most cases we are just fixing the mistakes of those who went before us. There is a lot at stake and we need to get it done.

Achieving equity – your greatest delight?

I know we are building a better Australia. It sounds so corny, but it’s true. Organisations who realise the •

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opportunity before them with diversity reap massive rewards and give their staff real opportunity.

How do you define equity?

I define equity in many ways: fairness, social justice, even-handedness and more. Of particular interest to me is gender equity in the workplace and financial equity for women.

Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they the greatest?

I see inequities across a number of areas in the property industry and I imagine it flows through to the profession. It can be difficult for women to achieve senior roles if they take time out of the work force to be the ‘at home parent’ (I recognise that men may also be carers however the vast majority are women).

A recent ANZ gender report identified that full time working Australian

women earn on average $295 per week less than men – extended over a working career of 45 years, this equates to approximately $700,000! I also see social inequities in housing, education and health and I worry that the gap is widening. Since being appointed as CEO of the Institute, I have been advocating to Government that architects are problem solvers: I strongly believe that the profession should have a seat at the table early in discussions around planning so that the community is delivered a more desirable and equitable outcome.

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

With regards to housing, I don’t think we’ve made very much progress at all - in fact I think we’ve gone backwards over the past decade. In terms of gender equity we’ve seen progress in the number of women on boards, and Government has now achieved the target of 40% women on government boards.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

I wasn’t a supporter of quotas in the past, believing that appointments should be made on merit - and if that was indeed happening we wouldn’t need quotas. So yes, I am a convert and believe that we must have quotas and affirmative action to bring about change.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

Equity should be a policy issue. If left to an individual progress will be too slow. Organisations need to be accountable and the only way to do this is to have policies in place and mechanisms for reporting.

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be?

In terms of pay equity I believe that women returning from maternity leave should return at the same level of remuneration as their peers. Currently women returning to work after 12 months are, on average, 7% worse off.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one’s own home?

There isn’t one single barrier; young people and downsizers will tell you that stamp duty is a huge barrier. For a retired couple they will weigh up selling to downsize and handing the government tens of thousands of dollars or simply staying in the family home.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

In my personal life I can’t say I do encounter issues of inequity however in the broader business world I think I’ve already highlighted the issues!

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage? Outrage is a strong word. The inequity in superannuation for older women is of a real concern to me.

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Achieving equity – your greatest delight?

In a former role I was delighted to be part of developing a mentoring program that had 50% female mentees. The program delivered some amazing results for both the young women and men involved.

How do you define equity?

Being fair and impartial, and providing the same opportunities so that everyone is able to realise their potential, contribute and be valued in their area of expertise, and achieve a healthy work-life balance. Equity brings value to the diversity of people, regardless of age, gender, race, belief or culture. Equity is being assessed on contribution, efficiency, engagement and quality of work.

Do you see inequalities in your field, if so where are they greatest?

Yes, one example is in gender tendency. Historically architecture has been

predominantly a male profession. However, times are changing as more women are attracted to this career. Inequalities arise when people have differing responsibilities limiting their ability to work the long hours that are expected and to partake in the professional development and networking that is required to advance in the practice and the profession. Gender diversity provides a different perspective for decision making Another example of inequality is the under-estimation of life experience. It is widely understood that mature age students often encounter more difficulties in entering the workforce as a graduate, or into an entry-level position in some companies. Often mature professionals are overlooked or not considered because of their age, regardless of their background or qualifications for the role. Mature professionals have a world of experience and often bring valuable insights to the company.

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequality in your field? It is refreshing to see more female architects entering the profession as we are experiencing a shift in the paradigm of management and leadership. Now more than ever, companies value diverse perspectives in the creative process and culture of the practice of architecture. For the past two years we at Hames Sharley have undertaken an initiative called ‘Flourish Together’. The objective of this program has been to enable talent to thrive and to create

opportunities for all. This has helped us recognise the work of our employees and invest resources in our staff. Individuals’ ideas are celebrated and challenged, and in doing so, we create a platform for everyone to achieve excellence.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

Application of quotas can cause resentment and inequality in other cohorts. I believe in employment and promotion based on skills and merit. Experience, regardless of age, gender, health or culture (ie on merit) is more equitable. The ability to recognise the value a person brings to the organisation is the most equitable approach.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

Equity of opportunity should be a fundamental premise. Policy may be necessary to protect equity but should not cause unintentional bias and should be sensitive to individual circumstance. It is the responsibility of the individual to have the necessary insight to strive for equity, but it is the collective practice that should harness their power to actually achieve equitable outcomes and set an example for equality.

If you could do one thing to promote equity in your profession what would it be?

Foster a broader understanding of the value that diverse perspectives bring •

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to the creative process and to the profession as a whole. Furthermore, diversity should be celebrated and promoted through positive marketing and communications.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning your own home?

Availability of diverse and affordable housing types and sizes in a range of locations to suit differing life stages and styles. And the myth that we require the largest houses in the western world to be happy; that green title is always the best tenure option. These factors lead to a reluctance to explore spatial and cost efficiencies such as shared facilities including laundries, drying areas, workshops, gardens etc. Also, a lack of funding and tenure structures to enable co-operative housing models that address some of these inefficiencies.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter inequality?

Inequality is present in our industry both in corporate boardrooms as well as on building sites. While traditional gender and cultural bias is shifting, there may be an increase in other areas like age, experience and professional background. Inequality will always be present and cannot be avoided as human nature will favour some over others. However, as we come to a greater recognition that diversity adds value to our profession and the culture of our practice, I believe equality will triumph.

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage?

Politically correct demands for gender equality without demonstration of equality in skill and contribution, and a lack of humour and tolerance dealing with equity in the workplace.

Achieving equity – your greatest delight? Sharing, creative and light hearted moments in our studio and practice which is richly diverse in gender, age and culture, and sensing that we all give each other space and grace to be ourselves rather than judging and conforming. Such an atmosphere stirs innovation and new ways of doing things and creates an exciting future.

How do you define equity? Equity occurs when people have an equal chance to live a full life. And that is something to cherish and fight for. That doesn’t mean we must see equal outcomes for there to be equity.

People may, through the choices they make, end up with markedly different outcomes. And it doesn’t mean you should provide an equal level of support to all people. In fact, quite the contrary: no help and unequal levels of help to people in different situations and with different capabilities is precisely what you want if you are going to provide people with an equal chance in life.

Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they the greatest? If equity is about equal chances rather than equal outcomes, the mere existence of different outcomes is not, by itself, a proof of inequity. But clearly, poverty, homelessness and high levels of non-employment are symptomatic of underlying inequities, as are high and rising levels of income, health and educational inequality.

In practice its going to be incredibly difficult to determine the extent of inequity, but what we can do is start with cases of direct injustice and call them out and then move from there, getting closer and closer to a state of the world where we do see equal chances for all. So end discrimination everywhere, ensure that all have equal access to healthcare particularly all mothers, babies and young infants, and the frail. Ensure that prior to day one, and from day one, every child has access to as good an education as a country like Australia can provide. Give everyone a chance to work and earn a fair days pay. Ensure that we always provide the

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support needed to all those living with disabilities. Give people a fair go. Show compassion.

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

In Australia I think we have seen the greatest progress in removing significant levels of discrimination, providing access to education and health services and giving all adults the right to vote. Where we have fallen down is not going far enough. We are not all equal in terms of rights to marriage. Educational resources and opportunities aren’t spread in such a way as to ensure an equal chance for all kids. We do not fully recognise and respect Indigenous peoples’ prior occupation of Australia and their culture, values, beliefs and knowledge. Human rights among those seeking asylum have been violated and more so now than ever before. In the labour market, we have gone backwards with such high levels of non-employment. And we have seen significant intergenerational entrenched disadvantage and welfare dependency.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

Affirmative action and quotas are important measures to help end gross injustices, discrimination and a lack of recognition of people’s capabilities. They act to say ‘wake up to what you have around you’. However, long-term adherence to strict quotas may lead to inequities and so you want to keep

an eye out for that and not create unintended injustices.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

Of course it’s a policy issue. It should always be a responsibility of governments to take action to remove inequities. And of course it’s personal too. Each person who sees equities has the choice to act or not to act. By acting to reduce inequities where they see them they will not only be doing good, but they will recognise that they have just done something they were always meant to do. Not to act is to become that bit less true to oneself.

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be?

I would support each and every person without a home, food and without a job, those experiencing trauma and pain and without love, or the victim of violence and bullying, those without adequate access to education, housing and health, those seeking to right their wrongs to overcome, heal and gain access to things to which they have a human right.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one’s own home?

Home ownership is part of the Australian dream. We want to see very high rates of home ownership in Australia. There are some important qualifiers to this statement, such as for communally-oriented cultures, individual homeownership is

something of an anathema. Also, for some individuals in some circumstances such as in periods of high mobility or falling house values, it can make no sense to transition to home ownership. Home ownership rates in Australia are nothing really to write home about in spite of the myth that we are top of the tree internationally. We have not seen a rise in home ownership for a very long time. What is the barrier? Simply the overhang between price and household income. The solution is to raise incomes and remove barriers to more accessible prices.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

In daily life where you can feel it and see it directly in people, but also in my case as a researcher, in the evidence you gather directly from people and in what you read in terms of evidence.

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage?

The gaps in life opportunities for many Indigenous people, those who are homeless and those brought up in homes affected by violence and trauma.

Achieving equity – your greatest delight? Those who overcome and those who show true compassion in their actions to help.

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How do you define equity?

Equity is the inculcation of collegiality, unselfishness and the respect for considering people’s differences in a given situation. Equity is also giving credence to people equipped with expertise and proper managerial skills to equally distribute tasks to eliminate sloth and wastefulness.

Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they the greatest?

Yes, all the time. I think they are the greatest in academia more so than in the corporate world. It becomes complicated when the corporate world allows for inequality to slip into academia. I think this is where the greatest problem resides today.

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

When an alert leader acts on things promptly and can see and understand, on a broader scale, the problems that

exist because of inequality. When a leader cares and is passionate about what they do, then it is evident that this is the first step in grappling towards progress.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

I think affirmative action promotes equality so long as it doesn’t undermine the intended party or give preferences to others.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

It should be a policy issue. Some individuals are morally inept, while others don’t have the capacity to think of others in the same light as someone else, so how can they make any moral judgements of others based on equity?

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be? Make it transparent so that other people can view the equally-distributed situation. Culturally speaking though, I think this is a more difficult thing to promote because there are many differences and some people’s inhibitions interfere with what they might think equity should be.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one’s own home?

I don’t think of this as a barrier as such. I think owning one’s home is the greatest freedom, so long as it doesn’t have three layers of barbed-wire or electric fence

around the place where people inside or out are reluctant to be social.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

In the workplace. And in public places, shopping centres, fast-food outlets, waiting rooms, hospitals, airports, post office and public transport.

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage? No.

Achieving equity – your greatest delight? Yes. To strive for equal representation, but I don’t think it is a gender issue anymore. You only have to look at architects like Jean Gang and Toshiko Mori, and others who already strive for social equity and accomplish their goals.

How do you define equity?

Equity is difficult for me to define because it can mean very different things to different people. Where I

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live the most confronting example of inequity is the disparity between the living conditions of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. While there are many people from all walks of life working together to improve equity in this region, there is a long way to go before we as a society begin to ‘close the gap’.

In responding to these questions I feel compelled to write about the appalling living conditions that I sometimes see in remote Aboriginal communities to give outsiders an understanding of the depth of inequity that exists in the Kimberley. However, Aboriginal people have vastly different experiences with inequity, and for me to describe these situations would unfairly generalise and add to the sense of shame and prejudice that some people in the Aboriginal community feel, and fuel an ongoing process of voyeurism between ‘us’ and ‘them’. By even talking about this issue in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal terms, I am conscious that I may be perpetuating inequity by reinforcing the racial divide. But we as a society need to keep talking respectfully about improving equity because it is an important priority in the national conversation. To do nothing is not an option.

Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they greatest?

Having the opportunity to work with Kimberley Indigenous families to help design housing solutions, the intensity of the inequity that we as architects

try to address can be very confronting. Some equity issues, like the acute overcrowding that some families face, is both confronting in terms of the reality of this life but also the sense of impotence to substantially address the problem.

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

It has only been a couple of generations (about 50 years) since Aboriginal people were given the rights that we as a society take for granted, including the right to equal wages and to vote. In recent times I have seen the Aboriginal community go from being extremely marginalised to having a powerful social and political voice in the region. There is a long way to go to achieve something approaching equity for the Aboriginal community in housing, social, employment, health and education outcomes, however sometimes it helps me to reflect that progress is being made.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

It is a common policy to provide social housing opportunities sprinkled throughout new land releases. I have been supportive of this approach because it reduces the likelihood of a social housing ‘slum’ forming and diminishes the stigma of social housing for the occupants - both positive steps toward equity. However in Kununurra, where there is a large proportion of social housing, this approach can mean that there might

be one social housing lot between every three privately owned sites.

High levels of social dysfunction (including unemployment, domestic violence and alcohol abuse) within the social housing population mean that their lifestyle can be disruptive to those of the houses around them. The uncertainty created by such a high rate of social housing means that people are less likely to invest in the town and more likely to be transient as a result. Innovation in planning and policy is critical to work towards communities that are stable and sustainable in this region.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

Equity is too complex to be left to the individual and I strongly believe in the concept that history will judge a society on how they treat their underprivileged. The government has often engaged architects to procure housing in remote Aboriginal communities. It seems visionary that architectural design services are valued in delivering housing to a marginalised sector of the community in order to develop an appropriate design approach and sense of ownership for the occupants. I think that this highlights the effectiveness of good policy in improving equity.

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be?

With a construction cost nearly double that of Perth, addressing equity in the •

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Kimberley is often about the little moves in a design project: making places for people to sit outside as an alternative to an air-conditioned waiting room, and allowing these places to have separation and multiple access points to facilitate the cultural avoidance relationships which still influence the way Aboriginal people use and move through spaces. For me, equity starts with working together towards a design solution, and if I can maintain a sense of humility and respect through careful listening, I can design buildings to be more inclusive.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one's own home?

In Aboriginal culture in the Kimberley there is a strong obligation to share wealth and possessions with extended family, and it is interesting that this forms one of the many barriers to home ownership. In the past, survival may have once depended on this sharing of resources, but these cultural obligations make it much more difficult to save for a home or restrict family members from sharing that home. It is an unfortunate paradox that future ‘progress’ to a time when home ownership becomes a reality for most Aboriginal people in the Kimberley will coincide with a much greater dislocation from traditional culture.

On a day to day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

When I started working with Aboriginal people to design new houses in remote communities I was surprised to find that it was a high priority for people

to have a house that looks like the standard project homes in town, even though the design was not appropriate for their lifestyle and environment. It is interesting that the most important outcome from the architectural process is the perception of ‘equal status’ in society by occupying a familiar house type. I had to accept that there were different design aspirations at play, and different perspectives on equity to mine.

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage? The issues of inequity within the Kimberley region are visible and confronting, however I suspect that we have not yet begun to confront the biggest challenge before our society - that of sharing the planet's finite resources with future generations. We are understandably fixated on climate change, but really that is just a sideshow to our insatiable consumption of resources (and therefore opportunities) that will be denied to our children's children. Designers are at the forefront of feeding this hunger for ‘new’ and my role in this is too entrenched for me to contemplate action - I remain firmly and guiltily in denial.

Achieving equity – your greatest delight?

A few years ago I had the pleasure of working in collaboration with CODA Studio to design and build a new two-storey office building for the Miriuwung-Gajerrong Corporation and the Gelganyem Trust in Kununurra. This award-winning building is a symbol of the emerging political and financial power of the Aboriginal community. It

provided a rewarding opportunity to apply my unusual experience in this remote, extreme, culturally complex and rich environment out here on the fringes of architectural practice, and to continue learning about myself and my community in the process.

How do you define equity?

Equity is a concept of general fairness, achieved by creating the necessary avenues for any party to achieve their chosen outcome. It’s about creating the tools and the opportunities, but not necessarily handing over a fully realised solution.

Do you see inequities in your field? If so, where are they the greatest?

I’d probably consider the greatest inequity in my field to be the access and opportunity for creating better built work and enhancing the built

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environment, both for architects and the public. The priority and privilege that is granted to junk developers who roll out the lowest standard of building at the expense of the environment and a sustainable future is debilitating for both the public who aren’t aware of alternatives, and to the professions which could actually lead change.

Where have you seen the greatest progress in addressing inequity in your field?

There is definitely a very visible and positive presence for the promotion of women in architecture, and discussing the ways we might achieve gender equity in the profession. I have been educated and mentored by, worked with and employed such great women of all ages through every stage of my career so I’ll blatantly admit that I didn’t even recognise the issue existed, but the affirmative steps of late by Parlour and others has been exciting to watch.

Do you think approaches such as affirmative action or quotas promote or undermine equity?

I think achieving equity in any circumstance requires a period of discomfort and reformation, especially for those who have enjoyed the status quo up until that time. The problem occurs when hasty implementation prioritises equity over quality.

Do you believe addressing equity should be a policy issue or purely left to the individual?

I suspect that policy issues are required to drive towards a point where the individual has enough awareness, and maybe even some social pressure, to be

open to applying the concept in their own life.

If you could do one thing in your field to promote equity, what would it be?

My opinion is that it always comes down to strong, accessible examples and awareness of them – you find the proof for your argument, you shout it from the rooftops and you create pathways for others to reach the same conclusion.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to owning one’s own home? Mortgage repayments.

On a day-to-day basis, where do you encounter issues of inequity?

As a white male who works for himself and lives in one of the richest and safest countries in the world, I’m probably sheltered enough that I can’t say I encounter day-to-day inequity. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t exist, obviously.

Achieving equity – your greatest outrage? The current discussions and arguments surrounding densification, infill and affordable housing are frustrating to watch, and to be involved in. The deck is stacked in favour of unsustainable development, the opposition to change is intrinsic to the very problem and the uninventive construction industry and planning regimes stifle innovation. I’m keenly watching the successes and failures of the Nightingale projects which are pioneering alternative models.

Achieving equity – your greatest delight?

I’m a fan of the work of Orange Sky Laundry. The work this crew carries out – showering and cleaning the clothes of folks out on the street – is a simple but powerful move to get people back on an even footing. •

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From the Long Tan Memorial in Vietnam, August 2016

The fight for equity of access for People with Disablities (PWD) in WA is an ongoing one.  It is true however, that awareness has improved immensely over the years and so too has access.

For example, the recently installed ramp at the Gap in Albany is fully wheelchair accessible - what a wonderful breakthrough. For some reason however, the architects put a set of stairs in where there was no need for such cost. Visitors  could have just followed the ramp around with no need to cut through stairs.

However, an ongoing bug bear for me is the fact that a number of federal MPs have electorate offices which are not wheelchair friendly. I give the example of the member for Curtin whose office is in a famous old restaurant in West Perth. Another MP's office I was made aware of had a set of stairs to negotiate and when one wheelchair user I know sought a meeting with his local member he was told a staff member would come down to meet with him at the bottom of the stairs.

equal access

Every MP's office, state or federal, should be wheelchair accessible as a matter of tenure and if not so, that MP should not be approved to set up an office in that building.

Access is crucial to PWD to enable us to pursue life to the fullest, be it recreation, employment or leisure such as a night at a restaurant.  Often where restaurants are accessible you find the wheelchair toilet is used as a store room. The excuse is still used in the workplace that we would love to employ you but we have stairs.

Unfortunately too some local authorities in my experience hide behind the code.  Sometimes if the code cannot be met in full then local authorities will do nothing.  In my view a ramp steeper that the code recommends is better than stairs even if a wheelchair user requires assistance.  Assisted access is better than none.

The other issue for many wheelchair users is that of parking bays.  Wheelchair bays used to be wider to enable a person with a wheelchair, or someone with a walking frame who needs to alight or enter a vehicle with the door fully

extended, the ability to do so. ACROD bays now seem to be a right of passage for anyone with the ability to convince a doctor of their need.

This system is abused and so too are the bays. I am aware of a veteran who drives a big four-wheel-drive vehicle.  He plays 18 holes of golf twice a week and walks the course.  On asking him why he has an ACROD sticker he replied, ‘so my car does not get scratched in the bigger bays and my doctor assessed me as being eligible.’

People who have a genuine need of close  parking because they cannot walk too far do not necessarily need wider bays.  They need ‘close proximity parking’. I now drive a station wagon.   I access the vehicle from the back because I can rarely find an ACROD bay, particularly when there is an event or at busy shopping times.

The fight for PWD will never be over.  The fight for fair and equitable access is as constant as the cries of economic hardship or ‘we will put it in the budget next year’.

Never give up. •

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