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Sustainability - Your laws do not apply to me see more

readings sale table
Readings sale table, 2011

The Fifth Estate reported in late August that the AIA Sustainability Awards were on their way out, having done their dash. A photo caption summed it up: “It’s over: green bling gongs all gone.” Unable to verify the article, and unable to tell whether it only applied to New South Wales, I didn’t post about it. The AIA was quick to clarify the changes.

The Institute issued a media release on August 31st, penned by CEO David Parken. A similar post by Parken appeared around the same time on The Fifth Estate and EDG websites. Awards criteria are now being amended to adopt the following recommendations:

  • That the Sustainable Architecture award should be elevated to a Named Award at a National, Chapter and, where relevant, regional level.
  • That the award should be discontinued as a separate entry category, and be selected by the jury from all awards entries (this may need to be by the chairs of juries for those Chapters with multiple juries).
  • That the award criteria should be open ended and recognise exemplary contribution to sustainable architecture through design.
  • That a preamble should be provided to guide entrants and the jury outlining the intent of the award.
  • That all award entries in all categories should be required to include a brief description of the value the project has generated in each of the environmental, social and economic domains. While no detailed performance data would be required the jury could call for additional information from entrants, if required.
  • That consideration should be given to changing the composition of juries to ensure one member has detailed understanding of or experience with sustainable design.

This is consistent with its Environmental Policy, which states that the AIA will, “maintain ESD and Energy awards as separate categories until sustainable criteria become a prerequisite of all awards” [ PDF ]. This policy has its roots in the UIA policy of 1993, and has as its main commitment that we, “place sustainability at the core of our practices and professional responsibilities.”

If the sustainability category was a stepping stone to achieving this aim, presumably there is some sort of milestone at which we can step on past it. Have we reached that point yet? The action to remove the category sounds more as if it was motivated by problems within the category, than with us reaching a point that we don’t need it any more.

The participants… were keen to ensure a shift from a preoccupation with technical performance “green bling” to one emphasising the value of creative and intelligent thinking to deliver enduring and meaningful environments through design. [ AIA press release ]

We appear to be losing the category because of its reliance on star ratings and applied “bling”, and to be replacing it with something a lot fuzzier and qualitative.

American architects KieranTimberlake admit to having coined the phrase “green bling” in an architectural context about five ago.

“KieranTimberlake coined the term “green bling” to describe the current trend of applying elements to a building just to meet LEED requirements. Instead KieranTimberlake is working on a comprehensive approach to meeting environmental
challenges: full system integration. This continued exploration allows for the connected process of design, technology, and research to coexist as a way of doing business for the firm.” James Timberlake 2006 [ PDF ]

green bling

KieranTimberlake reinvests 3% of its gross revenues back into research, with the help of tax incentives not commonly taken up by our discipline. Timberlake admitted in a 2009 interview that this integrated approach, connecting design, technology, and research, was not available to low-profit firms, especially during a recession. Still he was forceful about the need for research within other practices: “With only half a brain, they’ll go for low-cost, low-tech; if they’re smart, they’ll do the research.”

KieranTimberlake Cellophane house integrated approach
KieranTimberlake Cellophane house

Despite KieranTimberlake’s talk about setting off on their own tack via their research, they still see a role for institutionalised measuring sticks, in their case LEED. Richard Maimon told Metropolis after their work in New Orleans that, “LEED, for all its pros and cons, is widely recognised as a measure, which is important – having that credibility helped give the project mileage in terms of sustainability and replicability.”

At the same time as Parken issued his press release, Tone Wheeler’s article “Wither the Green Awards?” was published at ADR. Wheeler wrote that the changes picked up on a 2006 review, with some modifications…

…much of the emphasis on metrics and formulaic criteria has been replaced with an appeal to, “broader measures of long-term value, including adaptability, endurance and the significance of beauty … the need to ensure an understanding of sustainability more holistically, including environmental, social and cultural dimensions … the need to recognise the importance of integrated thinking not only at the individual building scale, but at the locality … and urban scale.”

This broader definition of sustainability is trying to cover an awful lot of ground. Incorporating triple bottom line economic and social aspects, it may be more than a single award can cope with. And it may be more than your typical architect, operating within tight client constraints, is able to address – at least without guidance.

Guidance is available all over the place. The AIA and RIBA both have literature freely available online, and The AIA has a subscriber only service (EDG), but these focus on environmental sustainability and rarely extend into economic and social aspects. And according to Wheeler, they are not getting read.

The 2007 ESD design guide of public buildings { PDF ] does touch on how social sustainability might be designed in, suggesting that its key attributes might be accessibility, usability, and street context. The justification for addressing social sustainability within the document is that without it the building will, “either be removed or significantly renovated, which is not sustainable.” So social sustainability is desirable in its own right, but more importantly it is an indirect way to address global warming.

Cameron Tonkinwise, writes in the current issue of Design Philosophy Papers (available for a wee while) that this switch in perception of sustainability is the way to go. Citing cognitive psychology, he says desirable things are more motivating than necessary things. Wants win out over needs. Sustainability needs to be made desirable and affirmative, rather than than negative and necessary.

“The way in which sustainability places strictures on what designers can do, limiting their sovereignty, seems repellant. Without wanting to concede to anachronistic reassertions of the free spirits of designer geniuses, it is worth noting that if sustainability is not a necessity, then sustainable design becomes an affirmation rather than a constraint on the designer’s liberty.” [DPP]

Sustainability – Your laws do not apply to me
Sustainability – Don’t threaten me with misery
[ with apologies to Billy Bragg ]

Whichever way we become more motivated, it sounds reasonable that an award-winning sustainable building be beautiful, but will it apply the other way – can the knock out building of the year win an award if it exhibits only tick box sustainability? Can it still be beautiful?

Ecological sustainability and award-winning design have been uncomfortable bedfellows for years. Officially merging the former into the latter sounds good but the tension will remain. Sometimes it may boil over… looks like ARM have designed an eco-desal plant [ PDF ].

Wheeler writes that the switch is a return to a more subjective view of architecture, an escape from the limitations of the star rating system, and might cause some people to say, “how very architectural”, a return to “internal values”. Or are we prematurely redefining sustainability into something so ‘holistic’ and integral to design that it will lose any distinct meaning for bulk of the profession, and its clients? As was evident from last year’s Sustainable Futures: New Modes of Practice forum, we are still some time from figuring out how our professional values and roles should adapt.

I hope that removing the category and the stars will force the issue rather than sideline it. Can’t wait for the jury presentations.

08.11.11 in sustainability awards


page listing related:   in  Australia  

ARM pay respect see more

ashton raggatt mcdougall - think brick awards

Ashton Raggatt McDougall won the About Face award this evening at the Think Brick awards in Myer’s Mural Hall. In a generous move, ARM director Ian McDougall immediately donated the $20,000 bounty to the trust fund set up for Nick Murcutt and Rachel Neeson’s children.

Nick Murcutt, who died in March at the age of 46, was an advisor to Think Brick and a video of tributes to him was played to the audience.

ARM won the About Face award, from an invited pool of six architects, for a brickish intervention into a suburban roundabout. The press release says that, “inspired by the idea that brick should somehow embody a civic quality, their winning submission sought to rediscover those forgotten spaces in suburbia and recreate them as a public place. Called “In a Roundabout way…”, the conceptual project design takes the humble suburban roundabout, often a blackhole of useless space, and converts it into a community centre.”

ARM in a roundabout way

Other award winners were:

  • Matthew Gribben
  • Mc Bride Charles Ryan
  • Richards and Spence

Award-winning entries will soon be published on the Think Brick website.

12.08.11 in awards brick


Admirable. I hope the profession also steps up to support the two young boys recently orphaned by the death of Greg McNamara and Lena Yali from Troppo.

by Mary on 17 August 11 ·#

page listing related:   in  Australia  

Black clad see more open website in same window

The faces of Melbourne architecture. Wonder what the buildings look like.

Ah found the buildings – here they are as a PDF .

Update: Note on the comments below – most (but not all) are from the same I.P. address and likely to be by the same person. Comments have been closed.

28.06.11 in awards 

comments closed

The invitation send to dress in style?

by dug on 28 June 11 ·#

No jury for Bates Smart Award? So how is that an award?

by info on 28 June 11 ·#

I had a great night.

by GodknowsJackshite on 28 June 11 ·#

@dug It really said “dress in style”? I always wondered why architects don’t try a bit harder to dress. Maybe most have come straight from the office, putting on their one all-purpose suit… like I used to when I went… I guess black is better for spillages too.

by peter on 29 June 11 ·#

it said that.
Regarding spillages, view AIA Venice photos – SGA needs a black bib.
Not handing out named Heritage award was ballsy, other jury captains needed to take the socks out of their jocks?

by dug on 30 June 11 ·#

@ dug, re Jury captains – Was MCR school entered this year?

by info on 30 June 11 ·#


by dug on 30 June 11 ·#

style, those black shirts aint got none.
you wanted to see some of the fares after the show.
should’ve done before and after shots.
then they could’ve themed the night “the exegesis of the erudite man”
no pictures, buildings must be no good.

by cabbie on 30 June 11 ·#

@ dug.
Rerun of 2003. FS v Godless. Same hands at play.

by info on 30 June 11 ·#

at one remove.

by info on 30 June 11 ·#

@cabbie. no pictures because gollum is in china.

by greenhaus on 30 June 11 ·#

Triple Hahsters call was off the mark on MCR.

by GodknowsJackshite on 30 June 11 ·#

RMIT is the best school in Australia.

by leehon on 1 July 11 ·#

Sean Godsell will win all the awards next year.

by leehon on 1 July 11 ·#

^^what makes you think that ?
then again you probably are.

by dos on 2 July 11 ·#

On the surface there seems to have been some strained omissions.
1. Penleigh.
2. Simeoni.
To mention two.

by hack on 3 July 11 ·#

3. The Brain ?

by GodknowsJackshite on 4 July 11 ·#


by dug on 4 July 11 ·#

pitty the 2 fat archibores were wrong about mcr – no doubt it will gaet a run next year along with nmbws kerr st block.
the beached turd over simeoni stinks too.

by sod on 4 July 11 ·#

Habitart 21 is a mystery too – commendation if you were drunk and generous. The only positive is – answers former AA editor’s rhetorical question “what is beyond bespoke housing”. Nothing.

by dug on 4 July 11 ·#

^But can it win a HIA / MBA award

by hack on 5 July 11 ·#

page listing related:   in  Australia   Victoria  

Marcus White emerges see more

University of Melbourne lecturer Dr Marcus White has been named the inaugural National Emerging Architect of the Year at the Australian Achievement in Architecture Awards ceremony, run by the AIA.

“I am extremely grateful to receive this award, particularly at such an important event for the industry. It is also a tremendous honour to receive the award alongside such illustrious company as Dr Graeme Gunn,” he said. Dr Gunn won the 2011 Gold Medal for Architecture.

“It is a pretty tough climate for young architects today. If we think back to 1950s to projects like the Melbourne Olympic Swimming – a major public building – it was designed by McIntyre and Borland when they were about 25 years old. These kinds of opportunities don’t really exist much today.”

The jury identified Marcus’ demonstration of equal excellence in practice, research and education as a “point of difference”.

Dr White said working in education strongly informed his efforts in practice, and vice versa. “You learn quite a bit by teaching as well, and what you learn there feeds back into the work I do in practice and vice versa; what I do in practice informs how I teach. The same also goes for research.”

[edited from a University of Melbourne press release]

Harrison and White

25.03.11 in architects awards

Architect / protaganist: HAW Harrison & White


Dr White, you are spot on the fact that the opportunity does not exit any more. Thanks to the inaction of RAIA years back that the whole industry was de-regulated and any tom dick mary can design a building in Australia without being a qualified architect. We are the one to be blame. Even as simple as a few hundreds plumbing job required a plumbing certificate.

by Vincent Choi on 28 March 11 ·#

page listing related:   in  Australia   Victoria   Melbourne  

Convention dictates see more

NH ‘carted’ away four tubes of paper tonight – various awards for their convention centre on Melbourne’s Yarra. It looks like a fine piece of work, but I’ve never stepped over the threshold – not a great convention attendee. Looking at the Convention Centre website , they only have two conferences booked in the next three months. Must be the off season.

The convention centre was built as part of a bloated PPP development made profitable by containing a large Direct Factory Outlet. Perhaps they should have had to enter them together. If it all seems a bit familiar, you’re remembering Southern Cross Station. Is PPP now code for building an unprofitable and pricey building joined at the hip to a highly profitable DFO big box?

That’s probably a bit mean to the fine building that won. But it did come within a dodgy package that supported its level of refinement, and that surely can’t be ignored…?

Other winners are Wood Marsh (Port Phillip Winery, Eastlink Freeway) and Lyons (LyonsHouseMuseum). McBride Charles Ryan deservedly won for their stunning Fitzroy High School. And Hassell won for that monster of a building at Docklands – the ANZ. Not too loveable on the outside – it looks like it fell out of Potsdamer Platz – but apparently inside it is a wonder.

It was also a night for lesser known small practices. Breathe Architecture , Multiplicity , March Studio , Andrew Maynard , and Justin Mallia all won awards – sometimes two.

MC Virginia Trioli seems to enjoy telling people off. She had a go at architects collecting awards – why did architects saunter up to collect them while in other industries people practically ran? But her biggest salvo was aimed at the Architecture and Design website, who published the embargoed media release about six hours before the awards. Apparently they didn’t attend. The article has been removed.

Pics soon.

[ Seem to be back blogging, was unavoidably detained for a while there ]

25.06.10 in awards 


congrats to the winners. But you seem to be somewhat unhappy with the convention. Is there any reason?

by tomas edward on 26 June 10 ·#

As a piece of architecture it’s fine. But it does sit on prime public land, and came part as part of a contentious PPP parcel which didn’t obey the brief.


We could just look at the building in isolation, as given, or look at its wider urban context too.

by peter on 26 June 10 ·#

You sound just like norman day on the night mate.

by info on 30 June 10 ·#

I agree with the Professor.

by Mark on 6 July 10 ·#

page listing related:   in  Australia   Victoria   Melbourne  

Architecture for an uncreative race see more

BMA Sydney
[ Artist: Simon Fieldhouse ]

I have stumbled upon a curious article from 1935 expaining to Sydneysiders why the B.M.A. building should be awarded a medal by the RIBA – the first in New South Wales to receive one.

From the SMH, 20 May 1935 (next to an article reporting the death of Lawrence of Arabia in a car crash). Expect some typos.

“.. the civic aspect of architecture is one that should interest not only the architect, but every citizen who takes pride in the city of Sydney and wishes to make its appearance as attractive as possible. In this connection it is stimulating to find that the movement in England for the betterment of civic architecture has reached Australia, since next Thursday the Lord Mayor of Sydney will unveil at B.M.A. House a plaque designating the award by the Royal Institute of British Architects for a building of exceptional merit erected in this State during the period of three years up to 1933, whilst a medal is also awarded to the architects concerned, Messrs. Joseph C. Fowell and Kenneth H. McConnel, whose design was placed first out of the 60 submitted in the competition held for this building in 1928, and under whose supervision the work was carried out. This practice of awarding a medal and plaque was first established by the R.I.B.A. in London in 1922, and seven similar medals are now awarded triennially in various parts of England, and one each in Scotland, Wales, Ulster, Western Australia, New Zealand and New South Wales, but this is the first award in the State. It is stated that the medals and plaques have aroused public and professional interest overseas, especially in street architecture, the primary concern for the awards, and the plaques of honour have been affixed in London to the headquarters of the Underground Comany, to a small two-story residence in Clarendon Place, to two famous banks, a modern church, and to several office blocks.

New materials of construction have produced an evolution of new styles of architecture in modern times, since obviously a building of steel or iron will demand a different treatment from one whose materials are wood, brick, or stone. A steel structure, for instance, unlike a stone one, gives not a wall, but holes. Wood or stone or brick give in themselves a surface, which the steel does not. The B.M.A. building consists of fourteen stories, including the basement, and is of steel construction, with reinforced concrete floors. The problem of giving a surface has been met by the principal facade being faced with architectural terra-cotta. A stern critic may object that the ornamentation is a trifle too rococo, but the design of the building is distinguished be the recessing of piers behind the building line, the bays projecting in between, in order to gain that effect of verticality which is a special feature of the modern skyscraper, with its suggestion of “aspiration” reminiscent of the Gothic style. The recession of the piers is original in Australia, and helps to make the building successful in a departure from traditional styles to one more suitable for modern steel structures.

The presentation of the R.I.B.A. medal and plaque also draws attention to the Sir John Sulman medal, which will shortly be awarded for an ecclesiastical building. These medals should help to stress the importance of architecture in this country. Probably no other community needs the reminder more, since the appreciation of architecture in Australia is almost negligiblbe. On this point Mr. Hardy Wilson has written, “Englishmen visiting Australia have expressed amazement at the ugly condition of its architecture, and yet have not recognised that it is he uncreativeness of the race, seperated from creativeness, that is the cause.” He suggests that the enervating climate of Sydney is another reason why its people are indifferent to the ugliness among which they move every day. Whatever the cause, there is little doubt that Australia needs every assistance in making its people aware not only of their ignorance of and indifference to architectural matters, but of the common lack of interest in their own city. In this respect our cities and towns are very backward as compared to the strong civic spirit so noticeable in America. For architecture is only one aspect of the broader problem of town planning, and it is to be hoped that the R.I.B.A. award will succeed in all three of its objectives: “to envourage excellence in design, to stimulate public interest in and appreciation of architecture, and to foster a spirit of civic pride.”

BMA House photo gallery
BMA House map: 135 Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

19.02.10 in heritage awards


Interesting post Peter. I love this building. It is a good example of how modern and decorative achieve an aesthetic balance. Interesting opinions on Australian attitudes toward civic pride. Not much has changed in 75 years ….

by Sean on 24 February 10 ·#

page listing related:   in  Australia   New South Wales   Sydney  

ARM get gonged see more open website in same window

Not unpredictably, Ashton Raggatt McDougall grabbed the Gold Logie at the Victorian Architecture Awards for the Melbourne Recital Centre. A good rundown of last night can be found, oddly enough, on the American Bustler website.

Also, the South Australian award winners .

11.07.09 in awards 

Architect / protaganist: Ashton Raggatt McDougall


page listing related:   in  Australia   Victoria  

NSW awards see more open website in same window

The New South Wales ®AIA award ceremony was held on Thursday at the Hilton.

The full list is here .

The SMH review, by Elizabeth Farrelly, is here . She wasn’t keen on the choices, but leaves the dagger for John Wardle Architects + Wilson + GHD’s Jane Foss Russell building, second equal in the Public Buildings category. The jury citation for this building describes it glowingly as responding,

“dynamically to the pedestrian flows, level changes and urban scale around the site in a chameleon-like, sculptural response.”

Farrelly has a different take…

“… John Wardle’s egregious Jane Foss Russell, with its unshaded offices already covered in taped-up butcher’s paper, its meretricious gestures and its dumb, unusable spaces.”

Sounds like it’s worth a visit. In case you can’t, check out the JWA project page .

JWA jane foss russell

jane foss russell interior

20.06.09 in awards 


page listing related:   in  Australia   New South Wales  
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