2023 AASA President’s Report
A warm welcome to all member schools attending the Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia’s 2023 Annual General Meeting.
2023 has seen the return to something approaching normality in architectural education. Almost two years after the full return of face-to-face teaching at most schools it appears as though the direct impacts of the covid-19 pandemic have finally passed. At the same time, the financial impact of the pandemic on the Australian and New Zealand tertiary education sectors remains profound, with most universities continuing to suffer deficits, industrial action, and other disruptions. While it has been easier to make plans and predict the course of the year, for many schools a shortage of resources, coupled with exploding student numbers and an ever-increasing regulatory burden has made delivering high-quality architectural education challenging.
The 2021 NSCA came into effect in January 2023, and recently the first schools in Australia were accredited against these competencies. While we look forward to those schools reporting on their experience at the AGM, many others around the country have experienced difficulties implementing the new performance criteria – particularly those related to First Nations competencies.
This year this AASA has been primarily focused on advocating for reform of the procedure for the accreditation of architecture schools. We have seen substantial success with the commitment by the AACA to undertake a funded formal review of the procedure. Architectural accreditation reform will remain a central priority of the association in 2024 and we look forward to working with member schools to bring forth change that will improve the quality of architectural education, and professional standards for architects in Australasia.
AASA 2023 Activities
Over the past 12 months, the AASA has undertaken the following activities:
Architectural Accreditation Reform
Since June 2022 the AASA has lobbied the AACA, along with state and territory boards to undertake a review and reform of the procedure for the accreditation of architecture schools in Australia. Following discussion at the 2022 AGM, the AASA developed a proposal to reduce the burden of reporting for the ARP visit by grouping NSCA PCs into a limited number of thematic clusters that could be demonstrated by a single project or portfolio of assessments. This proposal was presented to state and territory boards in February 2023, which committed to undertaking a full review of the procedure. The AASA has worked closely with the AACA to frame the terms of reference for this review, along with the composition of its steering group. The AACA executive has worked closely with the ADBED, the AIA, and the ACA to ensure that allied organisations are briefed on the critical importance of this review to architectural education in Australia, and the potential impacts of any failure to enact meaningful reform on the profession. Professor Chris Smith, University of Sydney, has been appointed the AASA representative to sit on the steering group. We will continue to work closely with the ACCA and all other organisations involved through 2024 to ensure that an acceptable outcome is achieved. We strongly encourage all Australian schools to engage with this process and make clear the challenges presented by the current procedure when contacted.
To ensure a close working relationship with the AACA moving forward, the AASA has appointed Co-secretary Dr Cecilia Bischeri (GU) to the AACA’s Accreditation Management Committee. Dr Bischeri replaces Professor Chris Landorf who has served on the committee since 2021. The AASA executive would like to formally thank Professor Landorf for her service. Dr Bischeri will serve for a three-year term.
Architectural Work Cultures: Professional Identity, Education, and Wellbeing
Since November 2020, the AASA has been a stakeholder in the Architectural Work Cultures:
Professional Identity, Education, and Wellbeing project led by Professor Naomi Stead (RMIT University). We are pleased to report that this project is concluding, with the final student survey recently released. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2024. Both the raw data and the project team’s analysis have been shared with the AASA executive and broader stakeholder group. One of the planned outcomes of the project was a toolkit to support wellbeing in workplaces and architectural education. In consultation with the AASA, the project team has decided that this will take the form of a series of case studies of best practices and/or excellence in the implementation of well-being strategies in architectural education. Towards the end of 2023, the AASA will release an open call for examples of outstanding work by architecture academics in Australasia, which could serve as a guide for future practice. These case studies will be documented, distributed and discussed across a series of webinar events co-hosted with Parlour. The AASA is hoping that our bi-annual prize for academics might be directed towards academics who present outstanding examples of student engagement, culture, and belonging activities in their teaching practice.
Climate Action Working Group
The Climate Action Working Group (research led by Dr Liz Brogden and Chaired by Professor Chris Knapp) conducted a survey of Australian architectural practice (late 2022) and recently completed a report in this area. This is the third phase of a project that has grown out of funding provided by the AASA. So far, we have conducted (1) a 2020 pilot survey of architecture school leadership, (2) a 2021 survey of Australasian architecture schools, and (3) a 2022 survey of Australian architectural practices. Collectively, the three phases give a comprehensive overview of climate literacy in architecture in Australia, from students and academics in schools of architecture through to directors in practice. The outcomes of this research will be available on the AASA’s website.
Australian Modernism Project
In 2023 work commenced on the delivery of the AASA Australian Modernism Project. The project was established in 2018 under the leadership of the AASA’s Vice President, Professor Deborah Ascher-Barnstone, with the aim of creating a nationally available database on modern architecture in Australia and is guided by a Working Group consisting of academics from each state/territory who are working to collect a range of materials to be made available digitally on the AASA website. This year a prototype platform was established that provided a geospatial database that could be populated with detailed information on examples of significant architectural works in Australia and New Zealand. Once this was established funding was allocated to undertake the preliminary population of the platform to a level that could demonstrate its application for research, teaching and cultural engagement purposes. Over the last four months work has been undertaken by Dr. Martha Liew to identify national and NZ projects and populate the database. To date, we have collected more than 120 projects in the system and will soon start locating projects on GIS. While the database is undergoing development, a national symposium on Australian Modernism is currently being organised by the AASA and the University of South Australia (15 and 16 Feb 2024). Information regarding the symposium, including calling for papers, will be released shortly.
AASA Teaching and Learning Research Grant
The AASA Teaching and Learning Research Grant was launched in May 2023. Dedicated initially to Online Learning, the Grant was redeveloped with a focus on Teaching and Learning in recognition of the absorption of digital and online teaching practices into typical pedagogy.
This year the grant was focused on the emergence of AI tools in architectural education, their possibilities, and the challenges they might present. The AASA received eleven outstanding submissions. Due to the high quality and volume of the proposals, the AASA executive elected to increase the number of grants and awarded three winners ($5,000 each); they are:
Dr Sean Pickersgill (University of South Australia) and Patrick Macaseat (RMIT University)
Title: The Architects’ Dream, The Sleep of Reason
Dr Simon Weir and Dr Kazjon Grace (University of Sydney)
Title: Co-creative AI in the Architecture Studio
Dr Cristina Garduño Freeman (UNSW), Dr Lucila Carvalho (Massey University) and Dr Vicki Leibowitz (Monash University)
Title: Chatting to Dall*E: A Post-Digital Exploration of Architectural Learning
The expectation is that these projects will be completed by the end of 2024 at which time the outcomes will be presented to the AASA and members.
European Association for Architecture Education (EAAE) MoC
In March 2023 the AASA signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the European Association for Architecture Education (EAAE) – the equivalent body representing architecture schools in Europe. This agreement provides opportunities for exchange between executive members of the AASA and EAAE, along with the potential to further disseminate the activities and outcomes of architectural education in Australasia. The AASA will work with the EAAE to establish pathways and opportunities for exchange in 2024.
Association of Collegiate School of Architecture (ACSA) partnership
The AASA has maintained a formal affiliate membership with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) in North America. Since late 2022 the AASA, led by Vice President Professor Deborah Ascher Barnstone, has explored how we could form a closer partnership with the ACSA. In November 2022 Professor Barnstone attended the ACSA administrators conference in Boston. Following this event the AASA has held a series of meetings with the full executive of both the AASA & ACSA, discussing the potential for a representative of the AASA to sit on the ACSA board and laying plans for a future staging of the ACSA teachers conference to take place in Australia – most likely in 2025. AASA Treasurer Dr Chris Brisbin will attend the administrators conference in Buffalo in November 2023 to continue discussions.
Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) MoU
The AASA has continued to work closely with the Association of Consulting Architects in 2023, following the signing of our Memorandum of Understanding in 2022. I attended the ACA Annual General Meeting in Melbourne in March and briefed the ACA executive on critical issues facing architectural education. I also attended the ACA’s wellbeing in practice working group, led by WA chapter president Kukame McPierzie (Woods Bagot). I have been working closely with ACA CEO Angelina Pillai to assist the ACA in developing their position towards the upcoming accreditation procedure review.
Administratively, we have completed the following tasks since the last AGM:
-We welcomed Dr Cecilia Bischeri as the new Co-Secretary to join the AASA Executive Team
-Completion of financial and audit reports for FY 23 (Dr Chris Brisbin and Dr Martha Liew)
-Renewal of the ACSA membership for 2022 – 2023 (Dr Martha Liew)
The positions of AASA President and Vice President will be open for election at the upcoming AGM. Should members be interested in these positions, please do not hesitate to contact the Secretariat,
Dr Martha Liew.
Dr John Doyle
President, Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia Incorporated