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A new year

Brian Zulaikha's introduction to the January 2012 issue of Architecture Australia.

A new year and a chance for some reflection. The year 2011 – a year that saw communities face extreme, even catastrophic, natural events with floods, cyclones and bushfires, and further afield earthquakes and tsunamis. The importance and urgency of good building design was thrust to the forefront as never before.

Brian Zulaikha – 2011–2012 National President of the Australian Institute of Architects.

Brian Zulaikha – 2011–2012 National President of the Australian Institute of Architects.

In fact, there has never been more focus on the built environment, with governments at all levels seeking to encourage sustainability in design. This puts architects in the unique position of being change agents for the benefit of communities, now and in the future.

Through the course of the past twelve months, the Australian Institute of Architects has continued to be the effective champion of the profession to governments, industry and, of course, the wider community.

To this end, we have some well-established programs. In June 2011, the Institute opened the Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP) event, which advocates the value of good city planning and design to parliamentarians and decision makers across the nation, with a timely discussion on resilience, how to reduce future losses from natural disasters, and how to help communities to recover.

On a similar theme, as part of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council’s (ASBEC) Climate Change Task Group (CCTG), the Institute turned its attention to the important area of climate change adaptation, regarded as the next major challenge for the nation and the profession.

To date (December 2011), the CCTG has focused on climate change mitigation in the built environment and is now turning its focus to climate change adaptation and the steps necessary to facilitate a built environment that is more resilient to changes in weather, and extreme weather events arising from climate change.

The policy framework will enable the council to make informed decisions, and to undertake a multi-pronged strategy of advocacy, promotion, communication and education on the practical measures that can be taken to enable the built environment to be more resilient to changes in climate. It is also anticipated that the framework will form the basis for joint action by industry and government.

It is hoped that work on the policy framework for climate change adaptation will be complete by the time January 2012 issue of Architecture Australia hits the stands – it will be approximately a year since communities in Queensland, northern New South Wales and Victoria were left devastated by floodwaters.

The Australian Government has recently announced an inquiry by the Productivity Commission into the regulation and policy settings that would enable effective climate change adaptation. The inquiry will review regulations and policies that may present barriers to effectively adapting to the impacts of climate change. It will also examine the costs and benefits of options to remove those barriers.

The Institute looks forward to ASBEC sharing its findings with the Productivity Commission, in relation to the built environment, as it moves to address issues associated with adaptation throughout the Australian economy.

In 2011, the Institute continued to promote Australian architects and architecture on the international stage: at the World Expo in Shanghai, the exhibition NOW and WHEN in Seoul, and through the international ideas competition CAPITheticAL. And in September, I travelled to Tokyo with Australian Institute of Architects CEO David Parken to attend the International Union of Architects’ (UIA) 24th World Congress of Architecture.

Themed Design 2050, UIA 2011 aimed to divine architecture towards 2050 and beyond. We explored the future of architecture and cities through the various programs, which included keynote speeches, technical sessions, international competitions, workshops, exhibitions and tours.

This congress saw the end of Louise Cox’s three-year tenure as the union’s president. Louise, an Australian architect and former institute president, placed sustainable professional practices at the heart of her presidential program and energetically supported the international continuing education system. She has been committed to making UIA an inclusive, respectful, tolerant and visionary organization. I congratulate Louise on what has been a very successful presidency.

The end of the year saw the 2011 National Architecture Awards, as covered extensively in the November 2011 issue of Architecture Australia, which brought together outstanding designs from around the country and demonstrated the far-reaching scope of our profession. In fact, the geographical breadth of both the submissions and the winners was noteworthy. The jury travelled to every state and territory in its search for the most inspiring designs of the year – from Port Augusta in South Australia to Hamilton Island in Queensland, from Marion Bay in Tasmania to Bingie Bingie in New South Wales.

Regional architects, too, were well represented among the winners, with some of the most compelling designs being commissioned not just in our cities but also in our regional areas. Packed with great images and telling the stories behind all the award-winning projects, the Institute’s beautifully produced book Inspire 2011 documents this movement of architectural excellence beyond the cities and into communities.

So, as we head into 2012, in the cities, the suburbs and the regions, there is growing recognition of the role of the built environment in delivering quality of life and, accordingly, greater recognition of the profession of architecture in shaping a future for Australians.

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Published online: 3 Feb 2012
Words: Brian Zulaikha

Issue

Architecture Australia, January 2012

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