Architecture is addictive. Ask anyone who experiences the high of going beyond the expected and discovering new answers,
with new opportunities. Pushed beyond your comfort zone, but armed with exciting knowledge, the adrenaline which is
good design, once tasted, is never forgotten. And like most addictions, we know it to be essential, and empowering.
And whilst this drug we call “design” energises us, it can leave those without its insightful effects, suspicious and
unenthusiastic about the change which innovative design inevitably introduces. If only they could understand. If only others
could see what we can see! Nobody told us this wonder-drug called design had a few loose ends which we need to fix if
we want to really make it work properly.
We need, for instance, to engage those for whom we directly or indirectly design the built environment. To give them an
opportunity to input into the process and to hear them talk about their concerns whilst also being able to share a little of
our “habit” with them. The RAIA is not structured specifically to facilitate this discourse and recent discussions at National
Council suggested it premature to broaden our membership as a way of encouraging this interaction.
So what is needed is another forum for the profession to engage the community in a two-way discourse about architecture
and the quality of our built environment. A sort of “national trust” for the built environment which seeks to recognise and
support quality in urban and individual building design? Open to all who are genuinely interested. Other countries have
created “Architecture Foundations” to bridge this gap between the profession, the community, industry and government.
Maybe we should do the same. A parallel organisation open to all. A forum for debate, opinions, criticism, research, and
importantly, fund raising, to support a broad based understanding and improvement of our living environment.
The National Council’s executive members recently spent two days discussing and formulating ideas for future directions
of the Institute. The theme of re-engagement emerged with a dual focus: An external focus on community, Industry
and Government; and an internal focus on the welfare of our members including their competence and confidence.
Externally it was about “architecture”, internally it was about “architects”. A foundation would be one way of achieving
Our profession must lead with such initiatives. After all we’re the ones with the wonder-drug! Cairns promises more of the
same, so make sure you’re there in October.
Graham Humphries FRAIA