Architecture Australia

Our ninetieth year and the history that shaped us

- Words by Alice Hampson, National President of the Australian Institute of Architects

After a tumultuous year, the value of our architectu­ral community is evermore evident. This year, 2021, is a very special one for the Institute, marking our ninetieth as a national profession­al collective with a global reach. Celebratio­ns commenced on 18 November 2020 and will continue throughout the year.

Writing my fourth foreword on this auspicious date and reflecting on the history that shaped us, I contemplat­e the first general meeting of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) in 1930, which formalized a marriage between separate state institutes.

Between 1871 and 1903, each of the states founded its own architectu­ral institute. By the “Roaring Twenties,” all were well-establishe­d, financiall­y sound, and firmly constitute­d. The idea of federating, first mooted in 1887, was formally proposed in 1914. From 1915 to 1929, the Federal Council of the Australian Institutes of Architects worked towards permanent federation.

By 1926, a draft proposal required voluntary liquidatio­n of each state institute, with assets and liabilitie­s being transferre­d to the federal body. In 1929, the assistance of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) president Sir Banister Fletcher (author of the architectu­ral history tome) was sought in procuring the prefix “Royal,” which George V granted the following year.

Final agreement was reached on what has become our birthdate.

This memorandum, with some signatures now so faint they are barely legible, is proudly displayed at our founding national headquarte­rs in Canberra. Three principal documents were adopted from the state institutes: the Code of Ethics, the Competitio­n Code, and, to ensure the profession’s continued survival, the Scale of Minimum Profession­al Charges.

Two state institutes, Western Australia and Victoria – who were already permitted to use “Royal” in their names – resisted federation. By contrast, Queensland was so enthusiast­ic that they accidental­ly signed the proposed Memorandum of Associatio­n in 1926; had this been registered, 10 Queensland­ers might have founded the (R)AIA. Some states worked with alacrity to dissolve current institutes and start their state chapters: New South Wales led in 1934, followed closely by Queensland (1935) and Tasmania (1936). Western Australia held out until 1943 and South Australia until 1962. Most recalcitra­nt was Victoria, remaining independen­t until 1967. By then, the ACT Chapter had been created and an area committee inaugurate­d for the future Northern Territory Chapter.

Each state’s existing institute had a formal seal, all beautiful emblematic designs revealing how they viewed architectu­re. Proposals to merge these into a national seal were fiercely debated. Sidesteppi­ng potential angst, the new

RAIA seal (donated by the Queensland Institute) was based on the RIBA’s, with a pair of kangaroos emulating lions and an Anzac-inspired “rising sun” backdrop. These artifacts and more will be celebrated in this ninetieth year.

Launching our ninetieth anniversar­y celebratio­ns, I acknowledg­ed Traditiona­l Custodians and paid respect to past, present and emerging Elders, who nurtured our remarkably beautiful landscapes for many millennia. As we reflect on what has come before us, my own thoughts dwell particular­ly on architectu­re’s doyens, rightly recognized as repositori­es of our profession’s wisdom and knowledge. My personal aim is to encourage and foster opportunit­ies for our greater membership to engage in meaningful interactio­n with these members, and to propose that fledgling architects record oral histories with the profession’s sages.

Of particular note is Beatrice Hutton from Rockhampto­n, whose applicatio­n to join the Queensland Institute sailed through without debate or controvers­y in 1916. By default, she became the first female member of an Australian architectu­ral institute because New South Wales had rejected Florence Taylor’s 1907 applicatio­n on gender grounds.

In its ninetieth year, the Institute remains an associatio­n of people combining two fundamenta­l qualities: a diverse and inclusive dedication to betterment of the built environmen­t; and the education, training and experience to fulfil that ambition. We may all share an immense pride in celebratin­g this milestone of our profession­al collective, with its strong history, glorious past and promise of a magnificen­t future.

Finally, this issue announces the winner of the AA Prize for Unbuilt Work. Many architects lament an unrealized project, but an inspired design is no less worthy when frozen in words, drawings and models. I am delighted that Architectu­re Australia has delved into this important topic, not least because “Lost Opportunit­ies” will be a focus of our ninetieth-year symposium.

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