Humankind has just fifty years in which to determine how to live sustainably on Earth or be doomed. That’s the message delivered recently by internationally recognized architect Edward Mazria, widely known for his sustainable architecture. Ed’s keynote address to the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada’s Festival of Architecture in Edmonton, which I was lucky enough to attend, served as a nasty wake-up call, both personally and professionally. While the onus is clearly on each of us as individuals to dramatically change our way of living, as architects we must also shoulder an enormous load professionally to be responsive and responsible in our designs.We must be conscious always of our available and often limited resources and the most appropriate ways in which to harness or use them.We must be vocal about the growth and spread of our cities, and the need for government at all levels to reconsider all major urban areas.We are far too often still a party to future problems, rather than providing solutions. This is a critical issue, and one that I would like the profession and the RAIA to focus on over the coming twelve months.
Ed’s address was just one of many I was fortunate enough to enjoy during my flying visit to Canada for the festival, Las Vegas for the AIA’s National Convention and Design Exposition, and Auckland for the NZIA Conference 2005. The journey was fast, furious and informative. Most importantly, it met our main objective, which was to continue to grow and extend the fruitful dialogue we now have with a number of offshore bodies such as the AIA, NZIA and RAIC. The valuable exchange of ideas, and the debate and discussion that these relationships engender, is of growing benefit to members across Australia. The rewards of this engagement and dialogue are especially obvious in developments such as the Free Trade Agreements being negotiated with close allies and neighbours, including the United States, China, Thailand and Malaysia – all countries in which many RAIA members are now working on a regular basis.
Just as we are working to build these overseas relationships, we are also dedicated to fostering productive relationships in Australia. During the Year of the Built Environment, we were able to develop a strong network of major organizations, some of them appearing outwardly to be unlikely alliances, but all of them proving to be strategically spot-on. These include the Planning Institute of Australia, the Property Council of Australia, the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Engineers Australia and a number of other players, particularly in the built environment. Our initial focus was to discuss the future of Australian cities and towns, and to develop a sustainable communities programme to ensure the best outcome for all Australians in decades to come.We worked together with many of these groups following the Boxing Day tsunami, and we will continue to forge stronger bonds where appropriate over the coming year.
Meanwhile, many members have expressed dissatisfaction with our architecture awards programme over the years. The system never can, or will, satisfy everyone. However, I am keen for the RAIA to review all awards categories to ensure we can celebrate the most responsible outcome. I will be pushing for the reintroduction of an international award category, which will capture for the first time in many years those fantastic projects now being conducted by Australian firms across the world – from Stonehenge to Shanghai. On top of this, I am especially keen to foster a shift in focus, resulting in significantly less celebration of style in favour of substance.We have a very real responsibility to lean this way from now on.
Many thanks to all those who have offered feedback and ideas. These have served to reassure me that the RAIA is on the path that you want and that will be of most benefit to us all.
BOB NATION FRAIA
NATIONAL PRESIDENT RAIA