Australian Institute of Architects' Kathlyn Loseby discusses the importance of quality architectural design

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Australian Institute of Architects' Kathlyn Loseby discusses the importance of quality architectural design

Ahead of the NSW Architecture Awards this Friday, NSW Chapter President of the Australian Institute of Architects Kathlyn Loseby had a chat to Urban.com.au about the opportunities architects have to champion quality design within the built environment; the importance of advocating for policy updates at a state and national level, and designing homes which cater to the diverse needs of Australian communities. 

Urban.com.au: Which government policies do you believe should be implemented to meet the requirements of the 6 standards* the Australian Institute of Architects has identified, in order to uplift the quality of Australian architectural projects?

Kathlyn Loseby: In terms of fostering thriving cities and regions, we believe it is vital for the government to have access to independent, expert advice on urban design and infrastructure, and for them to collaborate across all tiers of government, the private sector, researchers, and the wider community. The City Deals program is a perfect tool for providing incentives and flexible financial arrangements for state governments that are linked to specific design and sustainability outcomes. We need new models to provide affordable and social housing. The Commonwealth government can leverage its position to encourage planning authorities to allow for different types of housing to cater for the diverse needs of our community. Improving building regulation has been on our agenda for some time, and we strongly recommend that all states and territories implement the 24 recommendations of the Building Confidence report in a nationally consistent manner. While we welcome the NSW Government’s discussion paper Building Stronger Foundations, we need the Commonwealth government to facilitate national change through the Building Minister’s forum, but the pace of change needs to speed up. Australia must enhance the resilience of our built environment to extreme weather events and predicted climate change impacts.

Growth in our cities means increasing pressures on our natural environment and the crucial ecosystem services they provide (e.g. clean air, cooler urban areas). We need policies and programs that create a sustainable built environment that fosters connectivity and integrates essential resources and functions to mitigate against adverse impacts from climate change. Improved energy performance of buildings reduces stress on the electricity network, offers bill savings, supports a least-cost pathway to a zero-carbon built environment, and improves health and resilience outcomes for households and businesses. Why can’t we establish a national plan towards zero carbon buildings by 2040? We need the government to ensure fair and open procurement practices that enable local architects an equitable opportunity to compete and to recognise the high calibre of Australian architects and involve them in competitive design processes for publicly funded projects.

*The 6 standards are:

1. Fostering Thriving Cities and Regions

2. Housing a Diverse and Inclusive Community

3. Improving Building Regulation

4. Addressing Climate Change

5. Capitalising on Creativity

6. Supporting Australian Skills and Trade

U: Do you believe architects share a similar view when it comes to designing projects that will benefit the environment and the surrounding community? Is there resistance to change?

KL: Our recent National Architecture Conference Collective Agency was an excellent example of the profession coming together to challenge the status quo. The overwhelming emphasis on creating more environmentally and socially conscious contributions to our communities through the built environment was inspiring. This included Louise Wright and Mauro Baracco reiterating the importance of ‘ground’ and respecting the earth, to Marcos Rosello from aLL Design in the UK sharing his practice’s philosophy of urban preservation, repurposing existing buildings to avoid further environmental damage. It has been encouraging to see this approach highly rewarded in the recent Architecture Awards held around the country. While there will always be those who are resistant to change, I believe the overwhelming majority of the profession embraces more sustainable and ethical work practices and are looking at ways to use their influence in the construction lifecycle to create positive outcomes for our future generations.

U: To what extent are Australian architect’s visions being realised? What kind of creative constraints are put in place by developers, councils and construction companies?

KL: Architects must work collaboratively to achieve their vision. This can be a fantastic process, where the architect, client and builder all share the same goal.  Procurement practices by the private sector, local, state and commonwealth governments and institutions can be a major barrier to good architectural outcomes.  We have seen recent instances where the architect’s role has been diminished through the design and construct contract procurement model, sometimes leading to reduced outcomes. The Institute has repeatedly called for better regulation and enforcement of Australia’s building and construction industry, and a major review of tendering and contract methods to ensure quality and creative outcomes.

U: What are some of the ways the architectural industry can advocate for higher quality developments in Australia?

KL: As an Institute, we are strong advocates for the best and most innovative projects through our popular and prestigious awards. With a strong media following, we showcase and champion our leading developments. We are also strongly engaged in developing and advocating for strong policy at a state and national level and delivered a strong position ahead of the federal election. We will continue to advocate for better planning and the installation of an Australian Government Architect for expert oversight, and a national architecture policy. Our members can also be powerful advocates at an individual level by challenging negative behaviour in the construction industry with each commission they engage with. Many voices can spread a collective message.

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Check out the shortlist for the NSW Architecture Awards

(Featuring mixed residential, public and educational architecture projects)

Australian Institute of Architects' Kathlyn Loseby discusses the importance of quality architectural design
Maitland Riverlink, CHROFI with McGregor Coxall, photography by Simon Wood

Australian Institute of Architects' Kathlyn Loseby discusses the importance of quality architectural design
Maitland Riverlink, CHROFI with McGregor Coxall, photography by Simon Wood
Australian Institute of Architects' Kathlyn Loseby discusses the importance of quality architectural design
Green Square Library and Plaza, Studio Hollenstein in association with Stewart Architecture, photography by Tom Roe
Australian Institute of Architects' Kathlyn Loseby discusses the importance of quality architectural design
Green Square Library and Plaza, Studio Hollenstein in association with Stewart Architecture, photography by Tom Roe

Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing

32 entries / 13 shortlisted projects
Polaris | Allen Jack + Cottier Architects
The Burcham | Allen Jack+Cottier
Iglu Redfern | Bates Smart
OneA | Breakspear Architects and Kann Finch Group
Emblem | BVN
North Rocks | Candalepas Associates
Mezzo | CHROFI and KANNFINCH
100 Balmain | Custance Architects
Omnia | Durbach Block Jaggers Architects with SJB Architects
Arlington Grove | Smart Design Studio
Imperial | Stanisic Architects
Illume | Tony Caro Architecture, MAKO Architecture | Tony Caro Architecture (concept and DA) and MAKO Architecture (Design, Development and Documentation)
537 Elizabeth Street | Woods Bagot

Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing Jury
Conrad Johnston (Chair) | Fox Johnston
Ines Benavente-Molina | HDR
Paulo Macchia | Government Architect NSW

Public Architecture

14 entries / 8 shortlisted projects
Royal Far West Centre for Country Kids | Architectus
Newcastle Interchange | CCG Architects
Maitland Riverlink | CHROFI with McGregor Coxall (pictured above)
Shellharbour Civic Centre | DesignInc in association with Lacoste+Stevenson
State Library of New South Wales | HASSELL
Cabarita Park Conservatory | Sam Crawford Architects
Forensic Medicine & Coroners Court Complex | Silver Thomas Hanley and COX Architecture
Green Square Library and Plaza | Studio Hollenstein with Stewart Architecture (pictured above)

Public Architecture Jury
Jonathan Evans (Chair) | Tzannes
Jamileh Jahangiri | Cox Architecture
Jasmin Williamson | John Wardle Architects

Small Project Architecture

11 entries / 3 shortlisted projects
Kangaroo Valley Outhouse | Madeleine Blanchfield Architects
Punch Park Amenities | Carter Williamson Architects
Bungarribee Parklands Shelters | Stanic Harding Architects with Paramatta Park & Western Sydney Parklands Trusts

Small Project Architecture Jury
Elisha Long (Chair) | Long Blackledge Architects
Ava Shirley | Peter Stutchbury Architecture
Luigi Rosselli | Luigi Rosselli Architects

Educational Architecture

18 entries / 10 shortlisted projects
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney | Architectus
Field Studies Centre | Building Studio Architects
Penrith Anglican College Performing Arts Centre | TERROIR
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School | BVN  
University of Sydney F23 Administration Building | Grimshaw Architects
The University of Sydney Life, Earth & Environmental Services Building | HDR
Taronga Institute of Science and Learning | NBRS ARCHITECTURE
St Pius X High School, Library | SHAC
Balgowlah Zone Substation Adaptive Reuse - Giraffe Early Learning Centre | Supercontext Penrith Anglican College Performing Arts
Centre | TERROIR
UNSW Roundhouse | Tonkin Zulaikha Greer

Educational Architecture Jury
Jonathan Evans (Chair) | Tzannes
Jamileh Jahangiri | Cox Architecture
Jasmin Williamson | John Wardle Architects

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