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The rise and rise of government architects
Only six or seven years ago, the political landscape for design was moribund, with only the NSW government architect holding the torch (having done so for 190 years). Since then, Western Australia followed by Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and now South Australia, have all established equivalent positions appropriate to each political need and jurisdiction – a number of them reporting directly to the respective premier or cabinet. The value of this ‘project’ to the local and national architecture culture is inestimable; from small words in the right ears to front row seats to the big shows. Another 10 years of this ongoing project and the effect should be profound.
The construction sector’s adaptation to sustainability as an industry project, and architects’ leadership through design, has been nothing short of staggering – from sideshow to mainstream in less than a decade. The Green Star rating scheme didn’t even exist until 2002, and already no self-respecting developer or government agency can advocate for less than five stars without looking parsimonious or churlish. Whether it’s enough to save the world, or whether architecture can resist dissembling into mere environmental systems, is a key play space for the coming decade.
Nero fiddles in Sydney
The profession looks into Sydney’s architectural culture in the same way the national culture looks into NSW politics – with a mixture of respect for its traditions, abject fascination and horror. Yet this is at odds with the work of a number of significant architectural practices working in the city. So what makes for a successful architectural design culture as a form of cultural project? Perhaps the diagnosis is that the political culture is sufficiently contagious and the architectural culture cannot be immune, or that the patient needs to give consent to a treatment before it can be effective. Recent appointments to the local faculties and schools of architecture give hope for resuscitation.
Carey Lyon is the director of Lyons Architects.