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    National Cultural Policy neglects architects say RAIA

    The Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) has expressed disappointment over the lack of "significant measures" to facilitate architecture in the National Cultural Policy released by Arts Minister Simon Crean on 13 March.

    David Parken, chief executive officer of the RAIA said:

    "While the government is to be commended for its commitment to developing a National Cultural Policy, it was hoped that, given the guidance the Institute provided to the government, the references to architecture would be strengthened, and would lead in turn to complementary changes in government policy, programs and activity."

    Parken added:

    "As a cultural enterprise, architecture is punching above its weight at both local and international levels – and all without government assistance. The profession is a key player in the creative industries and yet it has been overlooked. Architecture has again been the victim of its own success. I am disheartened by the tokenism of the policy in regard to the profession."

    In 2011, the RAIA made a submission in response to a discussion paper and stated why architecture and design are integral to Australian culture and pointed to a number of ways the government could strengthen the recognition, promotion and facilitation of architecture and its contribution to Australian culture.

    The RAIA contended that "architecture encapsulates the development of culture like no other art form. It demonstrates technological advancement and innovation as well as cultural ambition."

    The submissions also made the point:

    "Where most arts engagement– seeing a play, reading a book, visiting an exhibition – are experiences specifically chosen by an individual, architecture is in the public realm, buildings are ubiquitous and inherently part of our lives."

    The submission proposed key government activity, including:

    • Supporting, seeking, facilitating and celebrating good design and architecture at all scales, through awards, design competitions, and selection and assessment panels
    • Encouraging public discussion about the role and importance of architecture and urban design in Australian life
    • Raising community expectations and participation that is guided by best available information of the value of architecture and good design
    • Encouraging State Departments of Education to develop architectural and urban design issues in their curriculum development.

    In addition, it outlined specific areas in which it could better support the role of architecture within Australian culture, such as:

    • Through the Venice International Architectural Biennale
    • Through the Gallery of Australian Design, a showcase for Australian design and architecture
    • Investment in architectural innovation and exploration, and the development of an architectural policy.

    In the 152 page-document released this week, the RAIA said the only significant reference to architecture is the following paragraph:

    "Australian architecture has evolved in response to our particular climatic conditions, resources and cultural demands. It now represents a unique architectural tradition, recognised annually through our own National Architecture Awards. The maturity of this sector is reflected in the recent success of Australian architects and designers at the 2012 World Architecture Festival in Singapore, where Australians won eight of 33 award categories. We are also exporting our architectural talent and expanding our international influence—at least seven of the major venues at the 2008 Beijing Olympics were designed by Australian architectural practices."

    In response to this passage, Parken said:

    "If the government really does value architecture so highly, why does it not support the profession in any meaningful way within this policy for a creative Australia?" 

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