A decade in review: Karl Fender

January 27, 2011

Reviewing a decade of Australian architecture, Karl Fender discusses new residential typologies, the importance of government architects, and a reconciliation action plan for indigenous architects.

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Eureka Tower – Fender Katsalidis Architects

Within Australia, and during this period of community soul-searching with respect to our sustainable future, the exploration of new residential typologies has become increasingly relevant.

In this environment, Eureka Tower in Melbourne’s Southbank Precinct stands as testimony to a broad section of the community embracing higher density, high-rise apartment living, once so maligned. The potential to reduce our individual carbon footprints, and indeed our physical footprints on the planet, is benchmarked by this project, which provides 580 apartment homes on only a half-hectare within the inner-city precinct.

The project was marketed in 1999, when apartment living was in its relative infancy within Melbourne. However, despite being extreme at 92 storeys high, its offer of elegant lifestyle, safety, vertical community, minimisation of vehicle dependence and maximisation of amenity was readily committed to. This highly awarded building has become a Melbourne landmark, and is well regarded internationally. It has helped enrich Australia’s reputation as a nation concerned with the built environment, sustainability and design excellence.

State Government Architects

The propagation of sustainable cities is underpinned by the need for excellence in urban and architectural design. Much of the necessary facilitation in this regard lies squarely within the province of state and territory governments, and any assistance they can garner is compelling. Accordingly, the recent achievement of a full suite of state government architect positions throughout Australia is a great step forward in the advancement of our built environment.

The government architects and their teams provide strategic in-house advice to their governments about matters of architecture, urban design and heritage protection. The relevance of their advocacy work relating to the importance of good design to make and maintain excellence in living places and urban design cannot be underestimated.

The state government architects exchange ideas and experiences through the GANA alliance (Government Architects Network Australia), which also, like the Australian Institute of Architects, supports the creation of the next step: a commonwealth government architect position.


‘We cannot imagine that the descendants of people whose genius and resilience maintained a culture here through 50,000 years or more, through cataclysmic changes to the climate and environment, and who then survived two centuries of dispossession and abuse, will be denied their place in the modern Australian nation.’ – Prime Minister Paul Keating, Redfern Address, 1992.

The Victorian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects has acknowledged the need for implementing a process towards reconciliation, parity and healing, by piloting a Reconciliation Action Plan for the profession, including its educational facilities.

Currently, there exists only 10, albeit extremely talented, indigenous architects throughout Australia. The Institute seeks to change this, by improving opportunities and understanding. Accordingly, this initiative will facilitate new pathways for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to integrate their history, knowledge and skills within both the architectural profession and throughout the construction industry generally.

Karl Fender is the National President of the Australian Institute of Architects, and Director of Fender Katsalidis Architects.

  • Geoffrey Fulton January 27th, 2011 3:22 pm

    Much of the problem of talented architects not being able to create better “accommodation” for the populous lies in the frustrating general negative attitude of council plannners who support their growing importance by creating more and more often ridiculous regulations which in Victoria are often supported by unqualified VCAT members making final judgements. E.g. Local government planners taking applicants to VCAT over the requirement for a number of canopy trees to be planted on a site, when on receiving a certificate of occupancy, the trees can and should be removed because of fire hazzard. Result: Tens of thousands of dollars in legal and other consultant costs and months of wasted cost incurring time for the aplicant and architects involved. We invite you to send us details of any bad planning application matters you have experienced to thearchitect@internode.on.net Our aim is to reduce out-of-control bad planning processes and decisions to the minimum.

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