Prior to his appointment as Government Architect, Geoffrey was in a similar role in Western Australia, his place of birth, for five years. He is a past Dean and Head of School at UWA, past Chair of the Committee of Heads of Architecture Schools of Australasia, a past President of the Western Australian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, and a Life Fellow of that Institute.
He sees his role here as building on the achievements of his predecessor, John Denton, but moving into the next phase of what most people see as a very positive Government commitment to quality design by being situated in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Geoffrey enjoys objects, such as buildings, but emphasises that it is the spaces around them, the places, that he really enjoys most. Therefore it is not surprising that he sees urban design, not just architecture, as a very important part of his remit. His love of film frequently focuses on the way in which places are depicted and celebrated.
He muses on some notable places he enjoys – in Rome, with its history, New York because of its energy, the delightful ‘chaos’ of hill towns. But he particularly enjoys Melbourne as a collection of spaces and places, the quality of which he considers to be richer than other Australian cities.
As State Architect, Geoffrey sees his role as a strong advocate for good design, making sure that design is encouraged not inhibited. He sees Melbourne as the city in Australia that most readily engages with design and sees his role as a voice in government for the design disciplines. The main challenge is to be heard loudly enough at the decision-making level.
What is good design?
So what is good design? Geoffrey relates it to qualities of life such as amenity, pleasure safety, and economics – with faith in the idea and experience that good design is also good economics.
The Office of State Architect gets involved in a wide range of types of projects, for example schools, but is also active in advising on Public Private Partnerships, framing design processes, on juries and in design reviews. They also respond to requests from the Premier and Departments, and are involved in projects such as the Southbank Cultural Precinct and Federation Square East.
Geoffrey says a particularly challenging project is addressing sustainable, affordable, medium density housing in the context of rapid demographic change, with a concern that we are still producing traditional family housing in urban growth areas without the necessary diversity. He is also keen to be involved in the creative concepts to increase urban densities along tram routes. Clearly Geoffrey London has a challenging agenda, and we wish him well.