The New South Wales Government has announced the strategic arm of the NSW Government Architect’s Office has been transferred to the Department of Planning and Environment. The Government Architect’s Office had been operating within the Department of Public Works.
ArchitectureAU has confirmed with the Department of Planning and Environment that only three staff members will be tranferred. The remaining staff are still currently with the Department of Public Works.
In 2015, the NSW Government Architect’s Office faced decimation in a proposed restructure of the Department of Public Works. Over a two-year transition period, the office’s staff numbers was to be cut 90 percent from 120 to just 12 and its role was to transition from one of design and construct to one of strategic design advice.
Speaking with ArchitectureAU in 2015, Shaun Carter, president of the Australian Institute of Architects NSW chapter said he was “greatly concerned” about the staff cuts.
“What the government should never lose is that strategic design-thinking capability that the Government Architect’s Office brings,” Carter continued. “We’d like to see that strategic division possibly taken out of Public Works and located more centrally in government.”
In making the announcement of the transfer Carolyn McNally, secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment, said, “An unprecedented program of renewal and planning for the future of NSW towns and cities is underway and the Government Architect’s Office will bring an enormous amount of expertise to the planning table.”
“This transfer will help make us a Department that leads in strategic planning, and provides best practice for planning and design for NSW.”
Government Architect Peter Poulet said, “It makes sense that my office’s expertise is used to help plan well-designed communities by working with the Department.”
The Australian Institute of Architects welcomed the announcement of the transfer. “The NSW Chapter pushed for the Government Architect’s Office to be moved under the Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, as part of the planning/built environment cluster,” Carter said. He and the chapter’s policy advisor Murray Brown met with the planning minister’s advisor and Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet (responsible minister for the the Department of Public Works) to recommend the transfer. “We are very please to see it has come to fruition.”
The NSW Government Architect’s Office celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2016. In its history, the office has been responsible for a host of award-winning buildings across the state. It holds 12 Sulman Medals for Public Architecture from the NSW chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects.