In NSW, the advice of the Government Architect is structured through four statutory roles (eg Heritage Council, Board of Architects) and a range of non-statutory roles (currently 13, though this varies with need and includes Central Sydney Planning Committee, Sydney Opera House Conservation Council, Sydney Olympic Park Design Review Panel), and their various subcommittees.
Recently, as Government Architect I established an Eminent Architects Panel for the Sydney Opera House to provide overarching design advice for future works on the site. This is of particular importance as the Opera House now has World Heritage Listing and a continued and consistent input is required to protect its design integrity.
The Government Architect and senior members the Government Architect’s Office (GAO) give advice through advisory panels or by invitation to judging panels or independent review and expert opinion. This is sought by NSW Ministers, State Government Agencies and Local Government. As GAO is a multidisciplinary office, we are supported by expert advice available within the Government Architect’s Office (specialist advice for example on costing, environmental engineering services, heritage, landscape, and so forth).
We have developed considerable expertise on the conservation and maintenance of Sydney sandstone through the Minister’s Centenary Stonework Program.
Full commercial principles The office operates on full commercial principles and although, it sits within State Government, it is unfunded by Government and like all commercial offices is funded by the projects we undertake. Through this project work, the office keeps the advice up-to-date and keeps staff apprised of current technical, regulatory and market conditions. The projects within the operations of the Government Architect’s Office thus inform the advice, and the doing and advising roles reinforce each other and provide government with continuity and a corporate memory related to its built assets.
We are able to work with all layers of Government on a range of strategic projects. Our work with City of Sydney, for example, has allowed us to develop urban design options to help frame the planning controls. On specific city sites we developed options to inform the planning controls with the aim of generating a better built form and better public domain. The planning controls were duly adjusted and demonstrated a process that was more design led planning than the current paradigm of planning-led design.
Architecture could and should be given a more prominent position in the culture of civil life and therefore within Government. We are currently in discussion with the new NSW Government on the structure of the advisory role, and issues of procurement. Currently this role is limited to specific issues on specific projects, and Government procurement is often silent on design or quality issues.