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government architect - Conga Line?

edited October 2008 in architecture
The recently appointed Victorian government architect (VGA) was appointed by a committee of commercial interests who have now secured institutional work in Western Australia. Note that the current VGO was formerly the GA of WA. And the VGA position is only for 2 years.

The previous VGA managed to maintain his position in a commercial practice and at the same time acquire work from the state. In contrast political candidates are required to resign from their commercial positions in order to take up a political appointment, let alone access the public purse.

Of further note is that the recently appointed Queensland government architect was appointed by a selection committee that included the current VGA (aka former WAGA). The QGA position allegedly will become available in two years time. It is currently filled by an architect who has moved from private practice into the public sector - a shift towards NSW.

This leaves the NSWGA - who is a dedicated and (most telling) resourced public servant - with no commercial ties. An independent position within an enabling government department subject to probity probes but able to pursue an independent architectural agenda.

Has the integrity of the Government Architect fallen prey to the Conga Line?


  • mark_melb
    edited October 2008
    <p> only needs to look at the Melbourne Convention Centre to see what model the Government has in mind for Victoria. One huge Shopping Complex cum Casino cum sports venue.</p>
  • info
    edited October 2008
    Queensland is different but equally shortsighted.

    A majority of publicly funded projects are procured using Design & Construct contracts. This means that between an impotent Project Services 'project manager' and commercial Contractor that there is little chance of any architectural quality.

    Best illustrated via Education Queensland's schools program - which throws up buildings commensurate with correctional facilities specification and care. All project managed by failed consultants (engineers and architects), and stunningly incapable 'capital works' types who couldn't cut it as diligent professionals. Smartstate readying kids for gaol.

    Unbelievably - the delivery of the State Library of Queensland and GOMA was pushed through this anus of government ingenuity. This practically broke (both financially and personally) both architects involved, and served only to generate a 5 year climate of bitterness for all parties involved. An uncultured way to make a cultural project.

    But not a whimper from the previous Government Architect - not in Queensland or any other state.
  • hairdresser
    edited November -1
    The former SGA of vic wrote a little letter in a recent Architect Victoria covering his term.

    He indicated that he felt the position was framed to allow real architects from practice to take it up. ie 2 year time span.

    The appointment of the WA man is a mystery in the context of that letter since he is not an architect.
    - at least not as I understand one to be.
  • dav_
    edited November -1
    <p>WA boy here. Geoff London (the WA man) has done a huge deal of work to push architecture in perth, and I am sure has had a huge part to play in the recent & huge architect-designed projects being built over here (ARM's Perth Arena and Kerry Hill's Performing Arts Centre). It's not just an 'architectural' position, it's also a political position, so you need someone who can play across the board.

    also, i've been in one of his houses, and it was beautiful and clever. so there.</p>
  • hairdresser
    edited October 2008
    fair enough.
    why don't you keep him then?

    and I take your other point - he has dabbled.
    but is dabbling sufficient incentive to get out after 2 years.
    (- and just how long ago was that dabble?).
    is that what J. Denton was saying/warning elliptically?
    If the model is to go in there - push a program and get out again.
    its not a bad model. its dynamic.
    you would hope London would respect it.
  • info
    edited November -1
    Surely the role of the government architect should be akin to any political appointment
    A term of 3-4 years - to ensure outcomes
    Private sector links declared and set aside
    Including the (R)AIA

    That the previous Vic GA was able to hold the position and see his practice gain work is stunning
    That the same personalities are sitting on the same committees between Melbourne and Perth is problematic
    This in no way infers that the individuals are incompetent architects (Dav)
    It simply argues that the position of GA in any state requires a dignity and independence of office commensurate with the title.

    Political first - intellectual first
    Commercial interests should not be part of the conversation

    Alternatively (the devil's advocate position): the government architect position carries the state presidency of the (R)AIA
    A full-time position that binds both the political and commercial in a hyper relationship
    No denials
    Just a clear platform, like the AMA, to respond to government policy at every level
  • info
    edited November -1
    Or better yet - direct policy
  • info
    edited November -1
    WA government architect position currently available
    Check last weekend's The Australian

    If Victoria got a non-Victorian GA - a WA'n
    Then maybe WA will get a non-WA'n - maybe a Vic?
    To maintain independence(?)

    State of origin discrimination is no guarantee of commercial independence
    Norman Day comment reads more as an accusation of hope - see The Age link below:

    There seems to be two paths -either ramp up the GA's role as part of a commercially bound relationship that is properly remunerated via commissions - within a 2 yr period - a clear industry platform
    Or set the GA's role firmly as a beacon within the respective state's public work's departments - with access to public sector resources - over a 4 yr period - a clear policy platform
  • hairdresser
    edited October 2008
    My guess is London says he's the second - though he is no Chifley.
    Denton would say he is the first.

    And Premier Brumby would say they are neither.
    they are in his department and gagged like all of his staff.
    (W.A. had the SGA sitting in the department of housing or some such thing I believe.)

    how long has that unelected and unelectable premier got to go?

    either model is ok I guess.
    but the one that Denton outlined is novel, has a touch of the hasn't been done befores and like american presidents has a fixed term get in and get out idea to it that
    a) ensures duds don't hang around too long.
    b) mates only get a short period where manna falls.
    c) if you don't hit the deck running you ain't going to leave a trace.
    d) if you do something good its done before anyone can stop it and your long gone before they even know it was good to identify it and stamp it out.

    personally I think 4 years encourages corruption.
    but I'm a pessimist.
  • info
    edited November -1
    AM thinking that the term should fit the GA position and context (ie instigator, advisor or manager)
    Say, 2 yr for an industrialist (to do the hit and run?)
    3yr for an academic (to set out a thoughtful agenda?)
    4yr + for a public servant (to make it happen via the public works portfolio - usually the biggest contributor to poor public architecture eg schools)

    On a different tack
    There seems to be a number of instruments at the GA's disposal rather than just headbutting snotty nosed capital works types or state minister's with particularly irrelevant narratives (sorry, a slight QLD sideline).

    Tax breaks are one - as demonstrated by the Irish in rebuilding and attracting quality architecture in Temple Bar
    Media is another - love him or hate him, Chris Johnson (previous GA in NSW) stirred up public interest like no other
  • hairdresser
    edited November -1
    I think Johnson was substantial as an SGA.
    But they still have a works department in NSW.
    so your 4+ model can work in a set up like that.

    whereas Kenniger in QLD - how many years did that dude sit there like the invisible man?
    he definitely made the case for a 2 year time limit.
  • info
    edited November -1
    Yes, Keniger was the previous Qld GA
    And he had two things going against him
    Firstly, the position had no supporting resources
    And secondly, it was an advisory role only - with no instruments to make change

    Given this context, his quiet demeanor and diplomatic no-waves style made him the perfect fit
    Under the radar presence - invisibility - maybe that was his problem
    He didn't use the media (not his style) in the clever way that Johnson did

    Equally, it could be argued he gave it the attention it deserved
    And focused on his administrative career at the University of QUeensland (he is now Deputy VC)
  • hairdresser
    edited December 2008
    XWASGA influence already?
  • sideburn
    edited November -1
    Between Brumby growing his fringe and Doyle wanting to re - part his hair right down the middle, Melbourne's looking more and more conservative and laughably out of touch with the trends.

    Looks like the 2030 report is being relegated to the bottom of the magazine rack.

    Shame, it was a good read.
  • info
    edited November -1
    Who owns all the land on the Melbourne fringes?
    Westfield? Establishment cronies? Contributors for the next State election?
    Who is going to profit?

    Brisbane is attempting to get the density along the transport lines
    Avoids the quiet suburbs - and builds over the train stations
    Not a bad pursuit
    Just needs some decent architecture to support it now
  • info
    edited November -1
    By the way - Queensland Government Architect yet to make a splash
    Bumped into him recently - nice bloke - seemed generally happy with himself to have picked up the title
    Surprised even
    But nothing to report yet ... will wait until January and then set-up the blowtorch
    Fingers crossed
  • hairdresser
    edited December 2008
    brumby could be said to be the surviving apex of the triangle bracks, thwaites & he.

    from what i've read melbourne is paying for a decade of
    1) disdain for its architectural community by the incumbent govt.
    2) at least 3 reckless and incompetent planning ministers. -
    3) an overconfident faith in a unsustainable toll road system.
    4) a consumer/market led solution to housing.
    a govt. that has refused/hasn't needed to govern?
    you can't catch a train from the airport!
    - headed for oblivion as the mexico city of australia.
    biggest problem will be the first australian city to run out of water.
    probably needs greater talents than the violin playing XSGAWA.
    someone like a Winston Churchill might pull the joint out of the fire.
  • miles
    edited November -1
    joining the conga line. londons old buddy at uwa set to become waga. prof simon anderson. a few interesting houses does not a politik make. nonsense
  • hairdresser
    edited December 2008
    ordinary houses?!
  • info
    edited November -1
    <p>@Miles - do you know who was on the selection committee?</p>
  • miles
    edited November -1
    no but i imagine the london underground had something to do with it.

    @hd the brick thing in gingin is a cracker (tried to find a link sorry)
  • hairdresser
    edited December 2008
    @ miles.
    I know the gin gin house.
    it was lavishly published years ago in a fringe cuts annual.

    I appreciate the enthusiasm.

    the houses are ordinary?
    I've never heard him explain them with any other claim.
    he's either a clever left thinker? or talented neo con? undecideable.
    info is asking an interesting question.
    though I'd add - was there a selection committee? - before I asked who was on it?
  • info
    edited November -1
    @ Miles - do you know if anyone else 'applied' for the WAGA?
  • miles
    edited November -1
    @info tone wheeler
  • info
    edited November -1
    @miles - rumour up here is that Kevin O'Brien (merrima guy) did too ... not confirmed though
    why would he bother? The commute + vasoline expense would be a bit much, no?
  • miles
    edited November -1
    nah. i agree why would he bother. fyi wilke had a go at playing in perth gave it up. cant see why any non local would bother. 50's politiks, expensive coffee, too far from everywhere. o'brien has the wrong surname for that redneck town.
  • info
    edited November -1
    ha,ha - I'd say o'brien had the wrong first name too for wa too.
    Need to keep scratchin - and find the list ...
  • hairdresser
    edited December 2008
    that certifiable info INFO?

    be like stepping back in time to 70sbrisbane for the merrima guy.
    place is full of refo white south africans with itchy trigger fingers around black people.
  • miles
    edited August 2009
    <p>further insider reveals ivan rijavec and norman day also also rans... what a list. ivan ex-perth and no work would love a 250K position and [xxxxxx] is now a publicly failed businessman and obviously needs the cash to pay the tax man.</p>
    <p>{mod. edit}</p>
  • info
    edited November -1
    @HD - bumped into a reliable source here at SLQ this morning - info certified.
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