Nicky Drobis is a partner at the multi-disciplinary international design firm Fender Katsalidis. Today, she reflects on the big ideas shaping the architecture industry in 2023.
Fresh from attending the World Architecture Festival (WAF) in Lisbon last month, the practice partner Nicky Drobis returned to Australia with some unique insights into the ideas set to shape the design industries in Australia and around the globe in 2023.
With sustainability establishing itself as a top talking point at WAF, discussion continues to surround our inner-city built environment and whether vertical living can be conducive to environmental and social well-being.
While there is consensus around the need to stop urban sprawl to limit the clearing of the natural environment to support housing developments, one challenge that inner-city projects face is that the newer success stories remain unproven. Large projects can take a decade to complete, so there aren’t a lot of built examples that can demonstrate the positive impact of contemporary design in our CBD towers.
However, small moves in a big building can have enormous repercussions. An architect may only need to change skirting board specs or the glazing ratio on a facade to make a significant difference in a building’s carbon emissions, so the difference between these decisions is impactful. And, as technology evolves rapidly, innovation in design and materiality innovation will continue to revolutionise the industry and society more broadly.
Socially responsible buildings, community and sustainability aren’t traditionally associated with high-rise buildings, but it would be foolish to ignore the realities of modern life. To discredit these towers is to ignore half of our homes, offices and urban communities, and I believe that in 2023 there will be plenty of debate and transformation in this space.
WAF brought together architects and industry leaders from around the world for candid discussions around the biggest issues shaping the industry, and there was plenty of open dialogue, tough questions asked and complex topics debated, which sometimes surprised me.
In a sense, these candid conversations are reflective of the direction the entire industry is headed, as relationships around the table change. Designers now engage with clients in a collaborative way, and in many cases, the two stakeholders may be equal in design footing.
Stakeholder management operates on a round table, with clients becoming one of the team. This is often a positive thing and enables designers to deliver comprehensive design outcomes with a balance of commercial and environmental success.
Locally, this round table approach to stakeholder management is also starting to extend to the general public. Australia is absolutely undergoing a design awakening. As a society, there is increasing passion for architectural outcomes — seen in the proliferation of home renovations — as people realise the positive impact good design can bring to enhancing their lifestyles and the correlation between their environment, wellness and wellbeing.
As designers, we are dealing with a far more educated and impassioned client group than we ever have before, and in 2023 I believe that will only continue to grow.