The end of 2007 was marked by a number of very different architectural events – the RAIA National Awards, followed by the conference Which Way? Directions in Indigenous Housing, and, particularly exciting for us, the announcement of the winners of the AA Prize for Unbuilt Work. Together, these three events encompassed a very wide spread of architectural activity. The National Awards were fully covered in the last issue of Architecture Australia, and the debate will continue in the March issue, which will include at least two letters on the subject – something to look forward to.
This issue of the magazine covers the other two events. Detailed coverage of the winners of the AA Prize for Unbuilt Work reveals a rich mix of work – the premiated projects explore and exploit the potential of the unbuilt in quite different ways, both speculative and “real”. Architecture Australia is delighted to bring this work to the attention of our readers, and to thereby kick-start an interest in the opportunities of unbuilt work. We were also thrilled by the number of entries for the first year of the competition. The entries were judged blind in a detailed day of assessment. There were some surprises when names of entrants were revealed once judging had been completed, but we were pleased to find that this year’s awards have recognized a series of inventive smaller practices, practices which we believe will go on to have significant impact on architecture in this country. The AA Prize for Unbuilt Work provides an excellent complement to the RAIA’s National Awards programme, with its recognition of outstanding built work, and we trust that some of today’s unbuilt winners will also step up to the stage in the Institute’s state and national award programmes. Conversely, we hope that in the future the AA Prize for Unbuilt Work will also recognize work by very established practices. We hope to see speculative, research-driven work by practices known for their excellent built work. The prize is an excellent meeting place for big and small, established and new, theoretical and real.
On a very different topic, this issue of the magazine also presents an edited transcript of What Now?, the final session of Which Way? Directions in Indigenous Housing, along with a review of the event by Shaneen Fantin. The conference was a great success. It was particularly inspiring to attend an RAIA event that drew a large number of participants from very different sections of the Australian architectural community, and other interested groups. This was an audience quite different from that at many other RAIA national events, and this seems a very productive development. The edited transcript gives a sense of the issues discussed over the two days of incisive and at times alarming presentations and debate. But it is also a call to action. As many speakers pointed out, in the field of Indigenous housing, another talkfest is simply not enough. Things need to improve drastically, both on the ground and in terms of policy, and the architectural profession can help make those changes. From fixing existing houses to busting myths about why so many houses are so unsound and unsafe, there is much to be done. As the profession heads into what is shaping up to be another prosperous year, the RAIA’s Indigenous Housing Taskforce can also guide us in how to make a significant contribution to ameliorating this desperate situation.
Justine Clar, editor Architecture Australia.