alfrescomania - Building Designers Association of Australia

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Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
contacts and contents
from the national chair
The management committee of Building Designers
Australia completed a final review of the Articles
of Association and operating procedures at its
meeting in Melbourne on November 12, 2010.
From January 1, 2011, BDA will operate as a
member-based and member-focused national
This model allows for building designers throughout
Australia, regardless of their location, to be
members of Building Designers Australia.
BDA will engage with its members via chapters in
each State and Territory to provide support and
encourage input into national policy and programs.
Building Designers Australia has based its
restructure on the organisation becoming a
well-recognised, highly-regarded brand and an
influential, professional industry leader.
BDA will have a more meaningful role in its
dealings with government, its marketing and
sponsorship arrangements, and in the setting of
universally-endorsed parameters to support and
develop progressive chapter operations.
The launch of the new structure will coincide with
the introduction of a new logo and a range of
innovative programs and services for members.
I encourage all building designers to take
advantage of the opportunity to celebrate a new
beginning by joining me at the 2011 National
Conference and Design Awards in the Barossa
Valley in April.
Significantly, this conference will also mark the 50

anniversary of the founding of our fraternity. It was
in South Australia all those years ago that the
first Australian building designers’ association was
More information about the national conference is
published elsewhere in this issue of the BRIEF.
There is no doubt that 2011 will be a year to
celebrate in more ways than one.
Monty East
Building Designers Australia
Building Designers Australia
T: 08 9228 0698
F: 08 9228 3236
A: PO Box 2188 Dangar NSW 2309
l ch

Monty East
T (03) 6223 6847
M: 0418 381 075
T: (08) 9228 0698
Front Cover:
Designed by Daniel Lomma in WA,
this stunning double-strorey alfresco
area provides great ventilation, light,
shelter and a great outlook to the
pool area.
inside brief


conference feature

the big picture with dick clarke

spirit of place with trevor king

product feature

product feature

Building Designers Brief Australia is published by Pond Publications,
Suite 6, 199 Bulwer Street, Perth WA 6000, printed by Quality Press,
9 Roberts Street West, Osborne Park WA 6007 and distributed by
Quickmail, 1714 Albany Highway, Kenwick WA 6107.
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
back in my day
inside brief
In this issue we explore our ongoing fascination and
evolvement with Australian alfresco living through today’s
designs, materials and technology which sustain a more
comfortable relationship with the outdoors.
We welcome Trevor King and introduce his new series
‘spirit of place’ which invites you to consider the heritage
of this great continent, not just by those that have
inhabited it and the structures that remain but also by
the land itself which offers its own special influence of
shapes and colours, and the depth of tones, textures and
dimensions. Without that connection, we are left with the
realisation that the fertility of our Australian imagination
and true cultural identity will remain barren.
In the pursuit of a sustainable universal wisdom, Dick
Clarke contemplates a Gaia approach to design which
considers the good of the planet in the first instance.
And our newly resident cartoonist Smithy adds his own
wry twist to the dialogue.
Our other sustainability guru, Chris Reardon is presently
committed to the good of his finances in order to
complete his eco ‘luurve’ shack, and has for the time
being put down pen and tools. Hopefully, he’ll be back in
his overalls and behind his beloved Mac computer in time
for the Autumn issue.
Time to fire up the barbie … wishing you all a wonderful
Christmas and a joyous and prosperous New Year.


Association Management

Event Management



Product Promotions

Public Relations
Managing Director:
Rochelle James
0402 853 989
Building Designers Brief Australia

is published quarterly by
Pond Publications
Managing Editor
Rochelle James
PO Box 8439, Perth Business Centre
Western Australia 6849
Tel: (08) 9228 3235
Fax: (08) 9228 3236
Aleshia Bowes
0407 993 795
The great Aussie alfresco lifestyle that we now enjoy
seems to be far removed from what I remember about
backyard barbies when I was a girl. Mum tells me it all
started with a concrete pad laid between the bottom
of the back steps and the clothes line. This painted
concrete area proudly held our first outdoor setting.
Sitting there in the evenings, overlooking the huge
stretch of backyard buffalo grass, my parents started to
carve back a bit of nature’s flow into their quarter acre
‘entitlement’ by designing terraces and winding pathways.
A sunken garden with a rock-formed barbecue, supporting
a metal plate, was our first attempt at returning to the
primal fire with family and friends. However, those days
were numbered when colonial roots pushed forth the
birth of the oblong brick barbie with the chimney.
Then came the pergola loosely bolted to the house.
Painted mission brown and adorned with thin slats
that invariably melted with the weather and looped
between the beams, these shelters went on to become
protected by a canopy of green Sylon. That was, until
we discovered the product was deciduous and left its
feathered remains everywhere.
Although it has all become far more sophisticated now,
the purpose of any Aussie alfresco area remains the
same, albeit making it just that much easier to enjoy
more frequently.
Disclaimer, terms and conditions:
Any advice printed in this publication is produced in good faith but strictly on the understanding
that neither the BDAA Ltd, nor Pond Publications or persons contributing to the publication incur any legal liability whatsoever for
the correctness or accuracy (including liability for negligence). Should the information be incorrect or otherwise defective, all liability is
disclaimed. All advertisements are accepted on the following terms and conditions:
BDAA Ltd. and Pond Publications have the right to refuse to publish any advertisement or material.
o liability shall be incurred by the
BDAA Ltd. or Pond Publications by reason of any error, inaccuracy or amendment to, or the partial or total omission of any advertisement
or by reason of any delay, or default or from any other cause whatsoever.
either BDAA Ltd nor Pond Publications can be held responsible
for any errors in multiple insertion material after the first issue of publication.
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outside the square
(adv/adj); origin Italian 1745-55 (al-fres-co);
in the cool
in a cool place
; synonyms,
the open air
outside, in the fresh air.
t is hard to fathom how the urban alfresco
phenomenon took so long to catch on in a country
whose traditional inhabitants embraced the alfresco
lifestyle long before the word made it into the modern
With abundant sunshine, our love affair with the
outdoors has been synonymous with the Australian way
of life since before European settlement – but, with
the exception of some early rural trends incorporating
alfresco design elements in the likes of the iconic
‘Queenslander’ and early beach houses, the built
environment of our major cities and towns remained
locked in to the architectural influences of a European
heritage that paid little or no homage to the distinctly
different natural and cultural environment of the land
down under.
Ironically, despite their far more limited windows of
opportunity for alfresco dining in much cooler climates,
European city pavements and town squares have
been littered with bustling cafes for many years. The
commercial alfresco experience, while now spreading
rapidly, is relatively new to Australia.
Even newer has been the cultural shift towards alfresco
living at home. And it is here where Australian building
designers have been showing the way as they explore
a new world of creative design opportunities driven by
the demands of an increasingly alfresco-savvy market.
No longer are designers limited to segmenting the family
home according to traditional architectural boundaries
within four walls. Thanks to the alfresco phenomenon,
the entire plot is their oyster. And what an amazingly
versatile oyster it is proving to be, now that it has come
out of its shell.
The relentless alfresco momentum is changing the way
the urban Australian lives. Alfresco is the flavour of
the month with home owners and building designers,
whether planning new homes, renovations or additions.
The images of many such amazing projects in these
pages are testament to the creativity and sensitivity
to environmental and social priorities of this new-age
approach to outdoor living.
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010

he relentless alfresco momentum is changing

the way the urban Australian lives
With acres of land to use, Dane
ichardson thought right
outside the square by perching an alfresco area on top of
this amazing renovation of a world war two airforce pilot
training headquarters. Known as the “bomb shelter” it is
situated in the south-west of WA in Busselton.
eminiscent of
an air traffic tower with 360 degree views over the property,
which incorporates a vineyard, it provides a great place to
relax, especially in the cold winter months.
With an emphasis on housing that engages with the
landscape and works in harmony with the climate,
integration of indoor and outdoor spaces has become
paramount in the mindset of clients seeking creative
solutions to make it happen under the same roof –
or, in many cases, under separate roofs linked in
such a way as to provide a seamless transition from
inside to out.
In all cases, it is generally agreed that choice of
materials is crucial to achieving the right aesthetic result,
effectively blurring the borders between inside and out, as
well as creating a physical and cultural connection with
the local environment.
In Australia in the 1900s, the use of new materials and
technology coincided with a flood of utopian ideas about
what it meant to be modern. While physical function was
seen as important, it also needed to be balanced by an
emotional, spiritual and social sense, often influenced by
the ideals of the Australian arts and crafts movement to
reflect on something that was uniquely Australian.
As we became more highly urbanised, however, our
priorities changed and the suburban sprawl gave rise to
building design that was anything but sympathetic to the
Thankfully, we’re rediscovering our roots with the
emergence of the alfresco era. Those discrete climatic
elements of flora, fauna, intense sunlight and dappled
shadows are finding their way back to our lifestyle
psyche, punctuated by the social and family-friendly
needs of stylish and functional conveniences now readily
available as part of modern alfresco design briefs.
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
Situated in
agle Bay WA, another design by Dane
provides a generous alfresco area under a cantilevered
upstairs bedroomwing. A sunken pit with seating around a fire
provides a great night time area under the stars.
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
Situated in Fannie Bay in the
erritory, this striking
home designed by Dave Bennett projects forward with a tiered
roof line and a huge cantilevered alfresco area at the front.
Some people prefer to engage with their community and
local environment by having their alfresco area at the front.
Designed by Gary Keen, this stunning home in City Beach WA
easily connects through to the pool area at the side.
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
Designed by Adrian Fratelle, this renovation in Dianella WA
has a three-tiered response to alfresco living; eating, relaxing
and sunbathing. The free-standing alfresco area creates a
great outdoor lounge room.
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
Situated in the inner suburb of Dianella WA, this alfresco
transformation by Jason Saunders uses an exciting
combination of materials and forms to create warmth,
intimacy and outdoor engagement with the pool area.
Some outdoor spaces may have seemed well considered in
their day, however new materials and a better response to
our climatic conditions have brought about some amazing
makeovers, essentially creating outdoor rooms.
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
In his design of an alfresco area for a charming old home
in Shenton Park WA, Daniel Cassettai chose to maintain the
old world charm by repeating the front verandah and using
similar materials and detailing.
Situated in the historic suburb of Cottesloe WA, this heritage
listed home received a radical contemporary makeover at
the rear. Designed by Bill Clarke, the marrying of the jarrah
flooring ensures a great connection with the old home.
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building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
his Coffs Harbour home in
SW designed by
Malcolm embraces the family.
otally functional and engaging,
there is a great connection with the indoor and outdoor
living space, with a number of options for family interaction.
mbracing the view, this ocean-side home designed by Adrian
Fratelle makes the most of its ideal location in Waikiki WA.
Situated on a corner block, advantage is taken of a choice
of alfresco areas under the main roof.
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
From multi-burner, stainless steel inbuilt barbecues, sinks,
fridges and freezers, the outdoor range of modern cons is
mindboggling. However, Peter Fryer has nailed it with his
alfresco design in Shenton Park WA
Furnishability has become a key word in design.
ight spaces
can create a hazard, and with the advent of the outdoor
kitchen, designers such as Daniel Lomma (pictures above)
show the value of well-considered spatial designing.
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
Below is another Chris
andyke design which is situated in
Miallo Queensland.
he lofty roof space and engagement with
the surroundings reflects the hallmark of Chris’s designs – a
total connection with the environment.
We’ve looked at stunning alfresco areas, but there are some
that many of us can only ever dream about. Situated at
South Mission Beach Queensland and designed by Chris
andyke, this is a home with clients worth befriending.
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
Featured on the front cover, this striking double storey
alfresco area, designed by Daniel Lomma and situated in
Swanbourne WA, provides a well protected space with great
natural lighting for the upstairs and downstairs areas.
Another fabulous resort-style alfresco area is situated in
Yallingup WA. Designed by Dane
ichardson, there is a great
sense of warmth, comfort, scale and relationship between the
different interconnecting pavilions.

Come and join us
Conference Speakers

Elron Burrell

He has particular expertise in ecological design, timber
construction, and complex projects.

Tone Wheeler

Tone Wheeler is an architect, author, educator and
consultant with an abiding interest in environmentally
sustainable design

Lynn Allen

Lynn Allen, Cadalyst columnist and Autodesk Technical
Evangelist, speaks to more than 30,000 users worldwide
each year.

Chris Reardon

Chris Reardon is a building designer of some twenty
years experience specialising in sustainable design and

The Panel

Question and answer session to wrap your head around.
The Guru’s of sustainability as your sounding board.

Program Overview

Thursday 7th April
Golf (9 holes)
Welcome Drinks

Friday 8th April
Conference day 1

Keynote Speakers
Conference speakers
Corporate presentations
ABCB reviews
Food and friendship

th Birthday celebrations

Saturday 9th April
Conference day 2

Keynote Speakers
Conference speakers
Corporate presentations
More food and more friendship

National Design Excellence
Awards presentation
At Maggie Beer’s “THE FARM”.
call of nature
uilding designers have been getting ever closer
to nature as each year passes with a growing
emphasis on the importance of forging more
intimate environmental relationships.
Our latent love affair with the fragile planet that has
patiently nurtured our evolution as creators of the built
environment will be offered another timely aphrodisiac
when building designers from throughout the country are
seduced by South Australia’s alluring Barossa Valley at
the 2011 BDA National Conference from April 7-9.
The conference theme, Building With Nature, reinforces
the bonds of a new commitment to natural and cultural
heritage being embraced by building designers.
Nature will be at the forefront of a program featuring
some of Australia’s most prominent eco-design experts
in an environment custom-designed for experiential
conferencing. On the same bill, international keynote
speakers will update delegates on the latest innovations
in award-winning design projects, the future of CAD
programs as we know them, and advances in electronic
systems management.
The 2011 National Design Awards will provide a climactic
highlight when the best of the best Australian building
design projects will be recognised and celebrated on the
national stage.
The national conference will also be a celebration of
conference host BDASA’s 50
anniversary as an industry
Nature’s influence on the conference will not be lost
between business sessions and social events. The
iconic winegrowing region boasts a pristine and tranquil
landscape dotted with picturesque vineyards among
acres of natural bushland and a host of heritage-listed
buildings. Delegates will have an ideal opportunity
before, during and after the conference to indulge in the
fruits of the region’s natural gifts by exploring its many
environmental and man-made attractions.
Generous accommodation packages have been negotiated
at the conference venue, the Novotel Barossa Valley
Resort, perched high in the heart of the Barossa,
overlooking the rolling hills of the valley. The National
Design Awards presentation dinner will be hosted nearby
at The Farm – home kitchen of international celebrity
chef Maggie Beer.

ature’s influence on the conference will not be lost
between business sessions and social events
For more information and conference registration
details, visit or call 1800 423 272
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
conference feature
If you are about to build a home, you
have a lot of things to think about.
And none more important than the
material you build your home from.
Brick insulates in a way most
materials do not. It keeps you warm in
winter and cool in summer. It saves on
energy bills and makes your home a
more comfortable place to be.
The longer a brick home stands, the
more energy efficient it becomes
across its life.
So if you even think about building –
Think Brick!
the getting of wisdom
DICK CLARKE’S relentless journey to the centre of
the Earth in search of the lantern that will light
the way for building designers in their own quest
for sustainability has taken many twists and turns
in a colourful and, at times, controversial career
as the industry’s eco explorer. His latest voyage of
discovery has taken him as close to the core as
his philosophical limits will allow. It is here that he
unearthed the Gaia Hypothesis in a bid to explain
how ancient history may hold the key to unlocking
the sustainable future of modern design practice. We
can’t turn back time, but with Dick’s help we can
look forward to an era of environmental reparation
equipped with the realisation that it’s never too late
to learn from the mistakes of the past.
goddess Medea tells of how she exacted revenge on her
estranged husband Jason (yes, he of the Argonauts, who
ran off with some Mediterranean floosey) by killing both
of their children. This ‘Medean tendency’ is a streak of
human nature that seeks advantage (of which revenge is
a part) by wreaking destruction on competitors, even if
they are potential collaborators. Biologists describe nature
as being “red in tooth and claw” in this way, which fits
neatly with the most common understanding of Darwinian
evolution by survival of the fittest, as promoted by
Richard Dawkins. But is it that simple? And what lessons
lurk in this Greek myth for building designers?
Going back further in time, genomics now show the
human journey as being truly ‘out of Africa’ about 60,000
years ago. Since then humankind has spread to inhabit
almost every part of the planet, presiding over entire
ecosystems in the process, including the oceans. Genisis’
instruction to “go forth and multiply” has certainly been
fulfilled, but I wonder why the King James Bible used the
words “...and subdue the Earth”, when the original Hebrew
says “...and be a [caring] husband to the earth”?
never did history at school (but neither did Gaia).
When it came time to choose subjects, I thought those
staples of 1960s schooling – history and geography –
would be boring.
Stupid boy. Had I known then what I know now – that
human genius has generally been without wisdom, and
that those who do not learn from the mistakes of the
past are bound to repeat them
– I would not have
struggled so long and hard to appreciate the gift of life
on Earth. The Leaning Tower of Pisa has taught us to
look below the surface, giving rise to the geotechnical
sciences. The Great Fire of London taught us about fire
separation, and eradication of the plague, all in one go.
And of course, history teaches that if you stick your neck
out, it had better be pretty tough.
But what can we learn about design if we go back a
little further?
One of the many ancient Greek myths surrounding the
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
History teaches that if you stick your neck out,

it had better be pretty tough
the big picture with dick clarke
The damage allowed by this mistranslation is incalculable.
Tim Flannery recently described it thus: We’ve eaten our
way through one resource after the other... and only
after long experience in one place have we acquired
the wisdom of managing the land. As a result, it is
our misfortune to be only now, perhaps, tentatively
emerging from a world in which human genius was
so without wisdom that it fractured and disfigured
nature’s coevolutionary bonds to the point of our own
. Not a good report card on progress
so far, but a hopeful one, like so many of my own
school reports (“Is capable of much more than he is
currently achieving”). What, then, can the whole sweep
of human history tell building designers, who are right
now responsible for 40 per cent of that “eating” of
Interestingly, his observation about cultures
that have stayed in one place long enough to understand
the land sits perfectly with our own Trevor King’s work on
Localness and Deep Time Analysis.
James Lovelock, apart from discovering the presence of
CFCs in the atmosphere in 1972, is most famous for
constructing the Gaia Hypothesis. Instead of trying to
build a super-model of life on Earth by fitting together
all of the biological systems and ecosystems, Gaia posits
that Earth as a planetary system can be considered as a
whole, with each of the parts co-operatively jostling with
each other, enabling life itself to exist. The theory does
not, as some detractors wrongly assert, posit any kind
of sentience or central command and control intelligence.
Geological study of continental rock formations can be
used to support Gaia, in that it appears micro-organisms
living in the primordial oceans combined CO2 and
dissolved metals into living structures, which sank to the
depths when they died. Aeons of these processes formed
the very rocks of which the continents are made. This
was the beginning of the carbon cycle, now in full swing,
which we ride like the wave of life.
More important here than a discussion of the scientific
merits of Gaia, is its potential benefit to our approach
to design. Some may think I’m drawing a long bow
here, but I believe people and animals, corporations and
governments, are led by the head – your world view will
define what you do. If you believe the world is crap, and
most people in it are crap too, you will make choices
that reflect that – crap choices. However, if you believe in
the sanctity of life, you will be making choices that are
the most co-operative and beneficial for fellow humans
and creatures alike. That is a Gaia kind of approach
(although, like me, you may explain it very differently).
It reminds me of a bumper sticker I want to see: Don’t
throw it away; there is no away. Everything is connected,
not by any mystic or shamanistic force, but by very
tangible physical and biological bonds: if you frack a coal
seam for gas, you will get toxic leaching into the water
table, and stock watered from that aquifer will die. Simple
cause and effect within the biosphere.
I suggest a Gaia approach to design would look to the
good of the planet in the first instance, asking what is
needed to minimise negative impacts on others now and
in the future. This is fundamental to a co-operative global
approach. Then it would look to its surroundings and ask
what local learning can be applied to enable the building
to mesh in to the natural surroundings, the micro-climate,
and the honest culture (meaning not taking account of
shallow trends and imitation). Finally, it would ask what is
needed to provide for its occupants, its neighbours, and
its owners – including provision of a responsible level of
financial investment.
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
the big picture with dick clarke
I suggest a Gaia approach to design would look

to the good of the planet in the first instance
Dick Clarke
Building Designer NSW
Master of Sustainable Futures (ISF)
Dick welcomes your comments to the editor.
1. Originally by George Santayana (1863-1952), in The Life of
Reason, Vol 1, Reason in Common Sense: “Progress, far
from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When
change is absolute there remains no being to improve and
no direction is set for possible improvement: and when
experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy
is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are
condemned to repeat it.”

Here on Earth – an argument for hope – Tim Flannery,
2010; p.72.

Buildings, in their construction and operation, account for
about 40 per cent of all materials consumption, energy
and water consumption, greenhouse emissions, and waste
generation. Globally, this varies by building type and
location, but is an accepted rule of thumb for all buildings
considered together.

Feng shui is based upon an ancient Chinese horoscope,
thus being inappropriate on the first count. In its purest
form it is tailored to the birth dates of each individual
occupant of the house, present and future, thus being
impossible on the second count. It takes no account of
science in the orientation and layout of the building in
relation to site and climate, thus being struck out on the
third count. It is founded upon superstitious faith in a
4000-year-old celestial calendar which is out of date, out
of place, and was originally used to lure townsfolk into
forming coherently planned villages. I could write more, but
really, life is too short to waste any more time on it. Bo’ol
Zheet is a better design philosophy.

Bo’ol Zheet is a superstition-based design philosophy
founded by an ancient order of monkeys who had been
thrown out of feng shui school because their bananas were
all curved the wrong way.
Standard disclaimer:
he views expressed in this article
are entirely those of the author.
These questions are my first attempt at theorising this
approach, and maybe they are not quite right yet. The
science of Gaia design is embryonic, with few rational
science-based writers and practitioners. There are quite a
few cosmically inclined websites, and some of these mix
the science of Gaia with irrational design confusion such
as feng shui
. But the quest to understand what benefit
may be found in a Gaia approach is worth pursuing. It
seems to fit the evidence of need, and also to provide
the outcome of a site-and-client-responsive building. In
short, I do not think it is just so much Bo’ol Zheet
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
brief directions
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The more we see and hear about some of the
remarkable achievements, noble pursuits and interesting
adventures undertaken by building designers throughout
Australia, the more we are eager to share these
noteworthy experiences with the broader building design
community through the pages of the BRIEF.
In the coming year, it is our intention to expand the
scope of our coverage to provide more and more
designers the opportunity to engage their colleagues
in the industry with news of their achievements and
observations drawn from a wider range of experiences
than those simply founded at the drawing board.
Readers will be aware that we have recently engaged
the services of multi award-winning cartoonist Greg Smith
(aka Smithy) to add a satirical dimension to our regular
columnists’ commentaries on issues of dire relevance to
all building designers.
While Smithy provides one means of diversifying our
content, the way is open for designers to further that
process by contributing to new features such as travel
and book reviews, through which to share observations
and critiques of the design world outside the norm.
On the subject of travel, the BRIEF will also keep readers
up to date with news of upcoming design tours to
fascinating and exotic destinations rich in architectural
heritage. Think Barcelona 2012.
And of course we continue to welcome contributions
for consideration as design features in upcoming issues,
with a focus on innovation, form and function. Many
are award-winning designs. Many others fall through
the cracks of the awards process but embody such
outstanding design attributes to merit peer recognition
as part of our national showcase of building design
The scope of our coverage is universal, which opens the
way for designers in all corners of the continent to gain
national recognition and exposure for their exceptional
Building Designers BRIEF Australia is published quarterly
on a seasonal basis, at the onset of spring, summer,
autumn and winter. To find out more, or to nominate
a project for publication, call The Media Pond on
(08) 9228 3235 or email
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drawing on culture
Cultural vitality is as essential to a healthy and
sustainable society as social equity, environmental
responsibility and economic viability
(Jon Hawkes,
While most building designers are quick to run the
ESD flag up the pole when challenged to pronounce
their commitment to the principles of environmentally
sustainable design, it is highly unlikely that many
subscribe beyond the popular concepts of energy
efficiency and carbon neutrality.
The industry has come a long way in recent years as
a leading light in the quest for community acceptance
of more sustainable building practices – but the built
environment still has a way to go before it can claim
to be at one with the universe.
Design in sympathy with natural heritage is a noble
goal; achieving cultural heritage sympathy is the icing
on the ESD cake.
Heritage consultant TREVOR KING has spent more than
20 years researching and implementing the principles
of heritage integration in Australian building design
practice. His own practice has a dedicated focus on
strategic planning issues with an emphasis on ‘sense
of place’ and its connection with the development
and expression of community identity.

Recent work
has concentrated on developing conceptual linkages
between Australia’s natural heritage and the ongoing
development of our cultural heritage.
Here, in the first of a series of challenging articles,
he begins to champion the development of a strategic
framework for culturally sustainable design in Australia,
sailing previously unchartered waters in search of an
environmental fusion between our natural and cultural
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
It is now becoming clear that we need to find out which areas

of our inherited cultural traditions are serving us well
n statements relating to the Australian way of
life, social commentators have pointed out how
the inheritance of a largely European cultural and
intellectual heritage that sought to dominate the
environment and make it conform to imposed wants and
needs has led to many of our current dilemmas.
It is now becoming clear that we need to review this
approach, and to find out which areas of our inherited
cultural traditions are serving us well – and to determine
those that are not.
This includes reviewing those aspects of our imaginative
world, with its base in European origins that do not
achieve an appropriate ‘fit’ within the Australian setting.
Since 2006, when I was commissioned by strategic
planners in the Eurobodalla Shire on the far south coast
of NSW to prepare a discussion paper on the subject, my
understanding has evolved rapidly.
spirit of place with trevor king
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia
while ensuring that the places we create make a genuine
and appropriate aesthetic contribution to the wider
environmental contexts in which they are set.
Through an enriched engagement with ‘place’, an
enhanced cultural sensibility will give support to
our current approaches to ecologically sustainable
development (ESD).

he key to a sustainable future lies with the integration of
Australia’s natural heritage within our developing culture
spirit of place with trevor king
The council

had been prompted by a formal survey
of local citizens’ attitudes and concerns about future
planning strategies. This found that ‘a visionary approach
to planning and development should be adopted’ and that
‘building guidelines which integrate sustainable housing
features and which are sensitive to the character of the
area’ should be developed.
This ‘Style Guide for the Nature Coast’ became part of
Greater Batemans Bay Structure Plan
, but in reality
it was part of a continuous exploration of themes with
which I was already preoccupied. An abiding passion for
the natural world and a fascination with newly emerging
forms of knowledge have held sway over my mind since
childhood. But I am not alone in this. It is a very normal
affliction; a common form of imaginative possession.
An exposition of the role of culture needs to be at the
forefront of any inquiry about what we envisage as a
sustainable future. My research over the past five years
has led me to believe that the pointers to a successful
and sustainable future are already present … if we
know how to look within our natural and environmental
A culture that is incapable of forming an identity inspired
by its unique environmental contexts is bound to lack
an underlying ethos that is based on the land. It risks
becoming second rate and is likely to prove unsustainable
in the longer term.
The wiser course is unquestionably the reverse of the
urge to dominate. It is the capacity to respect what is
here, to adapt to its contingencies, and to learn how to
live with it.
The key to a sustainable future lies with the integration
of Australia’s natural heritage within our developing
culture. We need to recognise that the western traditions
of science and art will continue to provide the most
authentic and viable cultural responses to living here
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010
A deeply entrenched problem lies within our historically-based,
exploitative attitudes to the natural world
connecting time and place
Our cultural heritage is a province in which time is
valued, as knowledge and memories are layered upon
places. Heritage is one of the primary agencies with
which we ascribe value and meaning to places. Heritage
discourse involves a complex of values within two
conceptual domains – cultural heritage and natural
Our culture’s understanding of time has changed. As
contemporary members of an increasingly science-
influenced culture, it is easy to forget that modern
geology is only a little over 200 years old; that Darwin
first published his theory of evolution a mere five
generations ago; and that the technique of radiometric
dating which has led to the discovery of one of the
greatest achievements of science – Deep Time – is of
very recent provenance.
The reason I am alluding to this is because we humans
construct meaning and value by building upon our
existing knowledge base. Until relatively recently, people
believed that the Earth was, at most, only 6000 years
old. It is now understood to be 4600 million years old –
that’s quite a change to cultural perception and meaning
in a mere 200 years. This knowledge should be having a
profound impact on the way we relate to the world.
But are our cultural values and attitudes actually keeping
pace with scientific understanding? This understanding
tells us how rare and fragile complex life is; how rare
and fragile our Earth is when compared with the rest of
the known cosmos. Are our present attitudes, and the
actions which spring from them, sufficiently responsive to
these new understandings?
cultural attitudes
A deeply entrenched problem lies within our historically-
based, exploitative attitudes to the natural world. While
this is, to a certain extent, an inevitable consequence
attending any life form surviving within its environment,
it is the increased degree of exploitation – industrialised
and hyper-efficient – along with the unthinking and
wanton destruction of the natural milieu, that needs to
A society that looks at a natural forest only in economic
terms, as cubic metres of timber alone, without
considering its other functional contributions such as
water retention and purification, biodiversity functions
and carbon sequestration (not to mention its aesthetic
and intrinsic existence values) is not demonstrating a
sustainable cultural attitude that will ensure its survival in
the longer term.
spirit of place with trevor king
Summer 2010

building designers BRIEF australia

he quality of local development depends on the
interweaving of cultural and other public policies
The continued dumping of toxic chemicals into functioning
ecological systems is a further obvious and deeply
disturbing example. Our ongoing need to create massive
landfill sites for the disposal of methane-producing refuse
is another contemporary indictment. Many other examples
of unsustainable practice could be cited – including
over-fishing of the oceans, mass felling of rainforest and
replacement with palm oil plantations, and the thoughtless
purchase of the products of illegal logging.
Such unsustainable practices underscore the critical
importance of examining the cultural attitudes and values
upon which our relationship with the natural world is
an expanded role for culture
The 1996 UNESCO Declaration of Cultural Rights provided
a platform for a general agreement of what we mean by
‘culture’. This understanding was subsequently used to
form the basis of Agenda 21 for Culture. Ratified in 2004,
it is the first document that has been used to produce a
unified approach to sustainability on a world-wide basis,
uniting cities and local governments in a common plan
for action.
Cultural planning documents for local government in
Australia are increasingly making reference to Agenda
21 for Culture as a touchstone document from which
principles, undertakings and recommendations are drawn
in the formulation of policies.
“Agenda 21 was agreed by cities and local governments
from all over the world to enshrine their commitment to
human rights, cultural diversity, sustainability, participatory
democracy and creating conditions for peace,” the
document proclaims. “The affirmation of cultures, and
the policies which support their recognition and viability,
are an essential factor in the sustainable development of
cities and territories and its human, economic, political
and social dimension. The quality of local development
depends on the interweaving of cultural and other public
policies – social, economic, educational, environmental
and urban planning.”
spirit of place with trevor king
the fourth pillar of sustainability
Here in Australia, government-generated planning
instruments around sustainability are centred on the
notion of the ‘triple bottom line’. This conceptual
framework has been extensively used to connect
environmental, social and economic factors into a
complex of values which, individually and in concert, are
understood as impacting directly on our capacity to live
here in a sustainable way.
However, and especially in regard to the emerging
international recognition of culture’s crucial role in a
Trevor King
Building Designer NSW
Heritage Consultant
Standard disclaimer:
he views expressed in this article
are entirely those of the author.
building designers BRIEF australia

Summer 2010

he decisions we make on behalf of our clients have
a real and tangible impact on the natural world
sustainable future, the ‘triple bottom line’ can be seen as
being overly simplistic, the inadequacy of its conception
having led to the development of a cynical citizenry
who are, in the main, progressively disengaging from
mainstream political processes. The real initiatives are
coming from the citizenry themselves, with the politicians
continually playing catch-up.
Why is the ‘triple bottom line’ simplistic? Because it is
cultural values and attitudes that provide the largely
unconscious motivating influences behind our relationships
to the environment, to others within society and to the
economy. Our cultural mores influence the value we
place on the natural world, the way we relate to others
within and beyond our society, and how we behave as
he Fourth Pillar
, Jon Hawkes presented arguments in
support of using ‘culture’ as the descriptor of that aspect
of analysis that focuses on the intentions and purposes
that inform our behaviour.
In his 2002 paper, ‘Creative Engagement’, Hawkes stated:
“In a vital society, the meaning we make of our lives
is something we do together and continually, not an
activity to be left to others, no matter how skilled
or representative they claim to be … in an engaged
democracy, the ideas actually emerge from community
debate, from the constant, often fractious and difficult
contestation of meaning at the base.”
Interestingly, Hawkes’ strategy for cultural engagement has
found wide acceptance internationally, but it is yet to be
adopted by local government in Australia.
His primary concern is to elevate the role of culture as a
means of empowering citizens to participate more actively
in democratic decision-making. It is therefore imperative
that new approaches are found across the cultural
spectrum. This includes an expansion of the concept of
culture beyond its mundane popular usage to make it a
more useful planning tool.
And this is where we also come into the picture.
As designers – as specifiers who operate within an
industry that we know is wasteful, that produces lots
of carbon, with accepted practices that are increasingly
criticised as being unsustainable – we have a vital role to
play. In our offices, operating our businesses on a day-
to-day basis, it is easy to feel a bit disconnected from
all that is going on around us, and to forget that we are
in fact working and behaving as cultural practitioners.
The decisions we make on behalf of our clients have
a real and tangible impact on the natural world. There
needs to be a change in perception within the building
design industry; that we understand ourselves in a new
way, as cultural practitioners, and as agents for change.
This is a concept based in empowerment, responsibility
and connectivity. It can underpin all that we do.
spirit of place with trevor king
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