Planning Anarchy: Why architects hate urban planners in my city.

This was one of my popular posts in 2016: Yes, some of my best friends are planners, many of my more admirably and politically orientated colleagues are planners, but I am sorry, we really need to continue to have this debate. For the amusement of blog readers, this time around I have edited a bit and added a few more notes on this enduring topic.

Architects are a contradictory profession. Prone to political activism and yet also deeply conservative. Seemingly agile, radical and innovative yet unable to move quickly in the face of gender inequality in the profession. Forward thinking and future driven yet bound by the traditions of the canon.

Are the planners any different? Let’s go through the list.

1.Prone to political activism and yet also deeply conservative. Tick, planners are definitely this.

2. Seemingly agile, radical and innovative: Yes, I think planners like to think they are all these things. You only have to witness all the social media feeds sponsored by planners regarding sustainability, urban spaces, not to mention their promotion of that great city in the sky: the great new whizz bang creative cluster, public transport, bike riding, organic coffee Henri Lefebvre, Apple store free, and right to the city city.

3. Yet unable to move quickly in the face of gender inequality in the profession: I am not sure I am actually qualified to answer this. I have not, to my knowledge seen any statistics on demographics, career paths or pay gaps for woman, in planning. It would be interesting to see the differences to architecture.

But if there is one thing I think many architects in my small global city of 4 million people can agree on it is this: Statutory Urban Planners are the lowest form of life (In late 2017 now cant believe I actually wrote this, was I too harsh?).


I am not the only one in Australia to actually think this. A recent article by Elizabeth Farrelly in the SMH also points to the crisis in the planning profession in Sydney. However, I think many of Farrelly’s observations may also apply to Melbourne. The only problem is the planners themselves are not aware of the crisis. Architects, to their credit, on the other hand always seem conflicted by professional guilt and riven by internal debates of one kind or another.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of urban planning and its associated discourse. I was in partnership with a planner who also did architecture. But, many small architectural practitioners I know are angry. They are angry about the idiocy of a planning system that permits the wholesale destruction of our cities fabric and memory and yet binds up small projects in the most torturous regulations and processes.

From the perspective of many architects in Melbourne planning governance is broken and this impedes the governance and development of the city. It is an anarchic system.

Lesson 1: The built environment would be better if planners actually learnt about architectural and urban design


Perhaps the study of Australian architectural history should be mandatory for statutory planners. The curriculum of most planning courses have a kind of pseudo legal aspect to them. This is matched with a altruistic, if not condescending, interest in community participation. Chuck a bit of sustainability into the syllabus and what more could you want? How about planners study architectural history, visual arts or urban design as a core component of their tertiary courses. How about planners learn about design, design research rather than exclusively focusing on social science research?

As someone who commented on one of my blog’s recently said in relation to the rise of apartments towers in my city:

“if the planning process / apartment standards allow such things, can I blame them ? No, but I do visualise someone sitting at a computer drawing it up, and wonder what they’re thinking – how to maximise units / floor only ? Is that person actually an architect ? Do ‘they’ consider the outlook and light at all ? I also wonder about the stat planners who approve them, I assume they’re just ticking boxes, checking regs, and that’s it. One day I’d like to interview whoever was in charge of the ministers planning dep from say 2005-2010, and ask them what they thought their job was exactly.”

Lesson 2:  Planners will tie you up in processes that are disproportionate to the size of the project at hand

In the process of doing an internal renovation of a commercially zoned building in a middle ring suburb the building surveyor insisted an external facing shutter be removed and replaced with a gate in order to facilitate emergency egress. Makes sense doesn’t it ? Sure, it makes sense but not to the planners. They insisted that the new gate be subject to a planning permit including advertising. Maybe 3 months, maybe 6 months maybe a year to get through this process if you are lucky. Providing no one objects during the advertising period. But, maybe someone will object and you will go to VCAT. Of course if any one objects the planners will agree with them.

The architect friend of mine responsible for this project bemoans the fact that, a junior planner is employed at the council on the project and is just following the rules; that way they don’t have to think. She says, perhaps with the benefit of prior experience,  if you complain the planners put you at the bottom of the list and go slow.


Lesson 3: Planners have no control or interest in questioning large scale developments

One of of the last remaining buildings associated with the coach industry. Who cares ??? Not the planners. This facade is about to be completely demolished for a, perhaps tawdry, laneway and curtain wall. Maybe the laneway will have a barista outpost in it.

The upshot is almost nothing is actually governed by the planners. Small projects get locked up in red tape and as Elizabeth Farrelly points out the interests of big developers remain paramount.

Lesson 4: Planners love to meddle in architectural design 

You can always tell when the stat planners have a had a go at a building in the planning process. They love to tweak a corner or add a bit of value to a streetscape. They are excellent mimics especially when it comes to imitating, the facades of Victorian and Edwardian housing stock. Their favourite delight is slapping on the heritage colours out of the paint bucket. Fragmented and “broken down” facades, setbacks on setbacks, screening in myriad materials, different materials and colours; beige, pink, rust and that beloved of all colours for the planner wanting to evoke Melbourne’s historic past: terracotta. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the planners love a balcony.


These pathetic efforts are usually touted as a win-win and as a result our city is full of the results of this kind of urban streetscape slop.

In reply to Farrelly’s article the PIA the Planning Institute of Australia responded by stating:

Planning policy provides the checks and balances to put the densities where they best fit and ensure infrastructure is appropriate. There will always be differing public, professional and political opinions and reactions to any rapidly changing city. 

Planning is inherently focused on facilitation and balance where both the public and many differing private interests are accommodated. This should occur without compromising good design, creation of place, amenity and liveability – this is known as the public interest.


As far as I can tell urban planners in Melbourne are powerless and do none of the above. The planners are always good at writing stuff to make it sound nice.  After all that is what they are trained to do. But they need to be visually and spatially literate.

What rankles is how easily the punters find it in themselves to hate architects. In actual fact it is the urban planners the punters should be hating. Yes, architects are kinda guilty as well. Both professions are involved in and witness to the current and ongoing contemporary destruction of Melbourne.

But at least the architects as a profession will argue about it and lose sleep over it. Which is more than I can say for the urban planners.


What are we to make of the Apple Flagship Store at Federation Square?


Earlier in the year I went to an exhibition at the Design Museum in London about the influence of Californian design on the whole world. One of the original Apples built by Steve and the Woz was in the exhibition. It was great to see how primitive it seemed, then I kind of forgot about Apple for a bit. Even though, I was surgically attached to my my iPhone 7 plus. Apple design is so clever and I was living the Apple dream without even noticing.

But, then a few days ago there was an eruption of outrage in my social media feeds. OMG!!! Apple were knocking down a big chunk of Federation Square to replace it with an Apple store and the Koorie Heritage Trust (will the new Apple building acknowledge country?) has to move. Apple are building a flagship store on that most loved of Melbourne sites Federation Square. Thankfully, the Koorie Heritage trust, or at least that is what we are told, is moving across the way, to the Alfred Deakin Building, on the other side of Federation Square.

So Apple is going to take over Federation Square. Another bit of creeping and insidious privatisation of public space in the city. The outrage on Twitter was incessant.

So, what about all of the other moments in the history and memory of the city when public space has been eroded and privatised in the city? As the Melbourne architect Stuart Harrison famously once said: try riding your skateboard down the so-called lanes of the QV development. It’s not long before the low paid security guard tells you it is private land and turfs you out.

Of course, it would be easy for me to say horror, outrage and sacrilege and jump onto Twitter etc. But then again Professor Donald Bates, whom readers should note that I work with at the Melbourne School of Design, one of the original designers of Federation square, is in support of the Apple proposal. Donald Bates stated:

The design of Apple Fed Square is necessarily of a different and distinct architectural vocabulary. We would abhor a faux-LAB Architecture design, replete with triangles and shifted geometries. The Foster Associates design is simple, pure and of its own aesthetic. Its success will lie in how it maximises the civic nature of Fed Square to form a tight connection with events and activities, bringing an engaging program of debates and discussions, as well as offering a new vista onto the Yarra River.

So given this argument, perhaps we need to think through the issues and fault lines at play here. So, let’s not jump onto the Trumpian cycle of social media Outrage vs. Outrage. Evil Apple versus People who love Fed Square (now).  So, without taking an immediate position of media Outrage here are a few questions to consider:


Q: Why are the political hacks suddenly interested in Architecture and Urbanism ? 

Suddenly all the politicians got interested in Architecture, Apple and Federation Square. The collision of place branding and technology tends to get them out of the woodwork. It was an unlikely cohort, Adam Bandt (the Greens), Jeff Kennett (neoliberal liberal) and even Senator Derryn Hinch (independent centrist crusader) had something to say about it.

James Norman in the Guardian wrote as if the store was going to destroy Fed Square as we know it. His bio states the he is “a Melbourne-based writer and author of the book, Bob Brown: Gentle Revolutionary.” Obviously someone with a deep and abiding interest and knowledge in architecture and urbanism.

The Sun Herald was probably the worst. 

I just wish these people would be more interested in architecture and urbanism when it matters. I don’t see this motley bunch saying much about the lack of affordable housing or the crap towers now adorning our city. Nor do this group seem to do much every time a bit of our 1960s or 70s modernist or brutalist heritage gets knocked over in the name of development.

A: It’s like a brand collision, a car crash of the big brands:  Melbourne, Fed Square, Crazy Architecture, and the biggest brand of all APPLE. Thats enough to get the political opportunists, who I am sure hope, to build their own little brands by being a part of the ecology of outrage. 

Q. Why don’t we have politicians who can talk more with more nuance when it comes to issues concerning public space or new projects?

This question is, I admit a particular bugbear of mine, and of course a number of state politicians jumped in with the hyperbole in defense of the project:

“The tourism minister, John Eren, said the store would bring millions more visitors to Victoria and breathe new life into Federation Square.”

The trade minister, Philip Dalidakis, said the deal “reinforces Melbourne’s reputation as the undisputed tech capital of Australia and creates hundreds of ongoing jobs in the process.”

I draw your attention to some of the above phrases that were probably dreamed up by their junior advisors and spin doctors: “millions more visitors”,“breathe new life” (Fed Square wasn’t dead), “undisputed tech capital”, “hundreds of ongoing jobs” (all casual retail).

A: Because they are ignorant when it comes to architecture. 


Q. We all live in the Apple economy now, so why be hypocritical?

Every now and then I ask my architecture students if they have Samsung or Apple phones. They all say Apple. So what is wrong with the Apple building given that most architects in town own Apple phones, perhaps we have turned a blind eye to Apples cross-border taxation arrangements or who makes actually makes the stuff. So given this blindness then what is now wrong with the having an Apple store at Federation Square. Is it any different to crafting your architectural or personal brand and career through Instagram on your iPhone ?

A. Apple’s success is its ubiquitous invisibility. Are we not, already as architects, totally embedded in the Apple economy? Do we not love Apple because of its design ethos?

Q: At what point, prior to its completion, do we judge the Foster and Partners design?

I am not sure about the Foster and Partners design. The design looks like one of those things old star architects, and their interns do, when they have run out of ideas. Just put together a bit of minimalist, and proportioned to an inch of its life, faux classicism with some smoochy and luxurious materials. Design it like a temple and make it “disappear” with transparency via glazing. A lawyer friend said it looked like a pagoda. Maybe, thats the easy way to build next to an already significant architectural building. There is an example of this type of thing here. It is not an unknown design strategy.

But maybe this design is actually a piss-take on Apple. Who knows? If Phillip Johnson was alive and had proposed it, that might be so. Also, and arguably, maybe Denton Corker Marshall could have done a better job than Foster and Partners. I am sceptical about the aesthetics of the building itself, the increased amenity seems likely, but lets wait and see how the thing actually pans out when it is built. I probably won’t be able to tell until it is built. It could be great, or pretty good, but I would prefer to wait and see in this instance.

A: Maybe when it is built. 

Q: Is urbanism just all about the brand now

It is unfortunate, if not outrageous, that we need an Apple Store to financially support a civic space like Federation Square. We need one of the biggest brands in the world to support the biggest and most important civic space in the city.

Architecture is a global system and brands circulate in that system, in Melbourne in many respects, Federation Square ushered in the idea of the iconic building as a global brand and nowadays, it’s all about the brand. The central Melbourne grid is now part of a property market, if it hadn’t always been, firmly embedded within the circuitry of global capital. This is evidenced by the privatisation of public assets, the commercialisation of public facilities, the private management of public spaces, developer driven regulatory frameworks and the product design of property assets.

A: Yes, and architects need to recognise and counter this. 

Q: Do Australian architects have the theoretical instruments and maturity to cope with global competition? 

Lord Foster and Partners is coming to town; and globalisation has always meant that architects like Foster would come to town. The winning design of Federation Square by Lab Studio Architects was announced in July 1997 and completed in 2002. It was a shock to the Melbourne system as Lab Architecture was not part of the Melbourne’s entrenched architectural networks of architecture schools and various tribal cliques.

Lab had a new way of practicing, that seemed to rankle with the entrenched networks, a way that seemed to say that architects were advocates, equal partners with policy and decision makers. The contractors hated this approach. Lab never got another job in the town again.

My worry is that architects and urbanists in Melbourne, or anywhere for that matter, have not developed the theoretical instruments, advocacy skills or research and industry infrastructure to contend with the worst excesses of branded architecture in the global system.

A: I don’t think they do. 

Q: What should have happened? 

A1: The better solution would have been to have given Donald Bates and Lab Architecture the job

At least that way Melbourne could have been absolutely sure we weren’t getting a ironic piss-take building or more than a techno temple for the international tourists. Maybe I would have liked more of that crazy triangle stuff and space frame stuff or something new  from Lab. Even the punters and the bogans love Fed Square now. Lab Architecture would have done a great job.

A2: A design competition would also have been a great idea.

If Apple’s, and all the Silicon Valley rhetoric about disruptive innovation is real, then a design competition would have been the way to go. I might have won that one. But that would have provoked even more outrage.

Architects and urbanists need to avoid the hypocrisies of piling outrage onto outrage. What we really need is better theoretical instruments to build our own capacities as advocates of architecture. Maybe then we can get better at theorising, recognising, and avoiding, the really schlocky outputs of corporate capitalism.

Have a great Christmas and New Year. Again, Thank you all for supporting the blog in 2017.

Surviving the Design Studio: The 2018 list of what Architects should do over XMAS.

Happy New Year (well, almost anyway). 

As much as I love architecture studios it can get pretty soul destroying sometimes. Yep, being in, or running, an architect’s office can be gruelling, demanding and kind of boring as well. We all long for the Elysian fields far away from the towers.


For small practitioners it’s all about the desperation to survive, running from one builder or client induced crisis to the next, spending your time doing taxation admin and forgetting to send out the invoices or contribute to your super.  All of which you have to do whilst juggling the kids between child care, schools and sport. Nonetheless, most practitioners spend their time thinking about how they can lead better and better serve the community and their clients.

For architectural employees the low pay, the long uncontrolled hours, the peer competition and rivalries, the bullying and pressure, not to mention the outbreaks of workplace harassment and discrimination. Amongst this studio horror most architectural employees and recent graduates spend a lot of time thinking about the relevance of the profession and their place in it.

So when the holidays come along no matter how brief they may be its good to do a few things that will rejuvenate. Doing these things will actually help you answer the big questions of how to lead better and how to make your own place in the profession.

The following hints are designed to rejuvenate your creative and design orientated problem solving skills. These tips will help you rejuvenate and also help you to get a real life outside of architecture.

1.Watch an actual film or two

Thor Ragnarok 

Mountains May Depart 


2. Make a film 

Yep, go on a road trip and make a film. Do your own drawings and cartoons and turn them into a film. You can even make something with a few powerpoints. Be polemical.

3. Ride a bike around your city. 

Last September I rode all around London and it was great.

4. Listen to really weird Music 

The more twentieth or twenty-first century the better. Go for a bit of Stockhausen or Henri Denerin. In my town I go to the Salon at the Melbourne Recital Hall it is a great place to hang out and listen to music.

5. Get your social media act together

Kardashian style bathroom selfies aren’t really going to make your career. Think of Insta as a way to select curate and distribute ambiguous images. Check out my instagram account @archienemy.


6. Explore and get obsessed with the latest fashion or fad until you get sick of it. 

Craft beer has been my great discovery this year. Now I am sick of it. I really don’t think I will change careers to become a craft brewer.

7. Make your own public art in your neighbourhood then snapchat the results. 

If you need more ideas check out my 2016 and 2017 posts on this subject. Have a great break.  Over the next month I will be posting the most popular: Surviving the Design Studios from 2016 and 2017. Thank you again for your support and a special thanks to all of all you who have alerted me to the numerous typos here at Surviving the Design Studio! 

The @archienemy awards for the 2017: 5 Ugly Moments in Architecture. 

Season Greetings 


Of course, getting this close to Christmas its time to thank everyone who has actually bothered to read this blog. Thank you so much.

The blog has gone from strength to strength this year and the number of unique visitors has doubled. Whilst the blog has primarily an Australian focus there are still many visitors to it from elsewhere. The largest number of visitors outside of Australia are from the USA, Europe and India. Many people visit from the cities of London, Mumbai, Los Angeles and even KL. Architecture is indeed a global system and one aim of the blog is to explore the inequities, contradictions and limits of this system. Of course along the way it is hoped the blog can help architects learn how to navigate their way around the design studio.

Next year the look of the blog will get a makeover and I am hoping to get some podcasts interviews with architects up as soon as I figure out how to do that over the summer. In the meantime thank you for all of you who regularly read Surviving the Design Studio. I will of course still be transmitting over the Southern hemisphere summer.

The @archienemy awards for the 2017

There has been a lot of talk about architectural urban and architectural ugliness in the media lately. It’s easy to blame the architect for “ugliness”, whenever anything is outside of a “stylistic” norm; yet, that norm is never defined. As an invective ugliness has had some measure of success in the media and continues to do so. I hate it when the political class, usually unversed or untrained in visual arts, decries something as ugly. More and more it’s becoming a way to grab media headlines. Perhaps there has always been an anti-intellectual streak towards architecture and the visual arts in Australian public life. Architects need to call this tendency out at every opportunity as it has coarsened our public debate around what our civic realm should be like.

As an architect recently pointed out to me recently the use of the term ugliness by politicians, contractors or property developers and the like is usually accompanied by an underlying or concealed economic imperative. My favorite example is Southern Cross Station whose procurement and delivery was mismanaged by the contractor after a very low bid for the project. Of course, the large contractor got mileage in the press complaining that all the problems were the result of the “krazy roof” by Grimshaw Architects. The roof is great. Earlier in the 2000s Federation Square was no different at the time of its construction. LAB’s great Western Shard at Federation Square was zilched, by a coalition of contractors, politicians and the tabloid press in 2002. Easier to blame the architect every time. Of course Federation Square has come to be a great civic space in the city.

So here are my top 5 @archienemy “ugly” awards for 2017. These are examples of the real ugliness underlying our architectural and urban discourse. Architectural aesthetics is entwined with politics and to think otherwise is a mistaken conception.

Of course I would be happy to get further nominations for next year, or even late nominations for this year. Don’t hesitate to let me know.

1. Ugly Office Makeover Award: 222 Exhibition Street 


For some reason this addition really annoyed my sensibilities. Probably because it is indicative of a situation that is all too common. It has been given a kind of fake and folksy parametric make over by Jones Lang Lasalle. So they get the award. No idea if there is an architect. The casual and unthinking destruction of a fine Post Modern building originally designed by DCM.


Apparently all this flummery is in the name of sustainability ratings. I wont call the new additions a dog, but I think the slightly lesser rating of shocker, is relevant. This sort of thing only reinforces my prejudice that sustainability consultants, despite their hyperbole, have no regard for aesthetics and that the sustainability push in the context of commercial office space is so often greenwash.

The original building, 222 Exhibition Street received a RAIA Merit Award New Commercial for DCM in 1989.

2. Ugly Security Addition Award: Parliament House Fence Canberra


The Parliament House fence. Not sure who deserves this award. Maybe the AIA for going along with it. It should have been an Australian wide design competition. But that would require political leadership. It was simply a bit of a media debate and a process focused on security. A debate that, as it progressed, at no point questioned the aesthetic or symbolic implications of putting a fence around Parliament house. I met a journo who works there and mentioned it to her. She didn’t really get it. Who cares about that stuff when our secure lives are at stake. The fence says, its ok if we look like a Gulag state as long as we are safe.

I know it may sound crazy, but I think there is a logic in the idea that we are now living in our own Australian version of Stalinist style social realism. Soviet social realism existed in order to generate and transmit propaganda from the ruling class into populist mythology. Is this any different?

No.3 Its Brutalist so its Ugly Award: The Sirius Building 


The actual award goes to  NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet who unleashed a vitriolic diatribe via the Daily Telegraph on 28 July, dismissing the Sirius building as “a boxy blight on The Rocks,” made from “towering slabs of grimy concrete,” that stands as a “drab relic of union power.” He went on to say:

“Sirius represents the destructive, dehumanizing vandalism of the modernist movement; the legacy of the likes of architect Le Corbusier, high priest of the cult of ugliness, who was determined to demolish the stunning heritage of downtown Paris in favour of utilitarian concrete skyscrapers,” he proclaimed. “You might say it’s brutal: the epitome of the out of touch left, putting ideology before people.”

Comments like that seem to bear a lot in common with the celebrity fascist Milo Yiannopoulos comments about the Opera House here. Actually you have to Google the link yourself. I don’t actually want to give Milo much air. Again, you have to ask are we living in our own version of Soviet Social Realism?

As noted in a previous blog this award pretty much sum’s up many of the battles over state-owned land in our cities. The NSW government seems determined to sell the site. Why not make it an international architectural design competition? Rather than some low-grade property investment tender orchestrated by people who look like they come out of the Riviera series.

Of course we all know, the money made from any Sirius sale will not go back into social housing. It will just dissipate in treasury accounts and be used to rebuild a few new ageing stadiums. After all the sporting brands are worth more to the state than the social housing brands.

4. Apartment Clusterfuck Award: Ministerial Planning Approvals. 


I don’t normally like to sound overtly partisan, but we are now witnessing in our city the results of Matthew Guy’s planning decisions, from his time as planning minister between 2 December 2010 – 4 December 2014. There is always a 2 to 3 year time lag with tower builds. If you are in Melbourne just go down to the corner of Franklin street and Elizabeth street and have a look around. You can follow the links below in Google street view. You will wonder WTF happened? Well Matthew Guy happened and the award goes to him.

Super Tuesday 2014 and also in June 2014 was Guy’s best of times. But follow the link below to see the resultant cluster of apartments.

127-141 A’Beckett Street

398 Elizabeth Street

452 Elizabeth Street

500 Elizabeth Street

5. The Apartment Ugly Standards Award: Plus Architecture


Its great when architects lobby politicians to make the world a better place. There is nothing wrong with that. It is always good to see actual architects engaging with the political sphere.  This award goes to the fine firm of Plus Architecture. In particular to Craig Yelland. Plus is responsible for some truly great projects around the city.

Richard Wynne the planning minister who succeeded Matthew Guy actually put in place a policy to mitigate the worst of the apartment plans in Melbourne. The policy can be found here and the standards came into place in April 2017. 

I really enjoyed reading the counter arguments from Plus Architecture about how much extra these minor changes were going to cost the so called consumer per apartment.

“If all of the apartment standards being considered are brought to Melbourne, apartments will cost approximately $115,000 to $145,000 more”

It seems they were going to cost the consumer, and developers, of these apartment products a lot of money. But sadly, no thought in the analysis by Plus to the longer term costs or benefits to the community or the city.


If anything, the above awards indicate the continuing power of the property development lobby.  Whole of life costs are usually missing in action. Cowboy aesthetics often reign supreme. Riding shot gun with the developers means just making those priapic towers bigger and taller and meaner inside. Its a lobby that arguably has no interest in urban aesthetics, amenity or the quality of civic and public spaces. Its a lobby more interested in the comforts of its seaside beach house taste culture.

Combine the developers with unthinking provincial politicians and its little wonder our cities are degrading almost as soon as they are built. Of course, it is always good to see actual architects engaging with the nexus of property development issues and politics. We definitely need to have the debates around “ugliness” when the ignorant impinge onto our disciplinary turf. But some architects also need to ask whose side are they actually on?

Surviving the Design Studio: Architects have the best Christmas parties.


Now that the festive season is just about upon us I thought it might be good to be less serious, after some very, and all too serious recent posts, and to reflect on why the architectural profession is such a great a great thing to be a part of.

Architects have the best parties 

One of the main reasons people are so desperate to do architecture is because architects are the best at doing parties. In comparison the parties at my business school were never as good as the parties at my old architecture school. I have been to numerous  birthday parties (recently hosted a great 75th) , christenings, pre-wedding parties, weddings (including a few of my own), engagements, parties, cocktail parties, dinner parties and exhibition openings as well as other various events in genteel polite society.

I know to my friends on  the outside I look like a boring middle-aged academic. But actually on the inside I am really a wild party animal. Once I realised this in my late teens I vowed to have a big party at each decade milestone. After a three of these so-called milestone partays I thought it was better for the entire city not to continue. I know this sounds a little narcissistic, but a Raisbeck birthday party usually has reverberations that go beyond the immediate event.


I have not been to my Faculty Christmas for 5 years after a kind of self-imposed exile. Maybe its only 4, but I can’t really remember a lot about the last one I went to, I vaguely remember going to the party, maybe it was at the ARM Recital centre, or maybe it was ACCA, or the Abbotsford Convent, and then I remember the bar on the Yarra, and I don’t remember much after the tram-ride. Unfortunately, just when I was about to venture back to the Faculty festive party this year, it was cancelled because of the prospect of dangerously bad weather. The whole city was shut down.

If architecture is dangerous then architectural parties are potentially very dangerous. We should all worry about what we do at the end of season partays. Any personal information revealed at a party, and distributed across social media, may be of interest one day to the HR types, who seem as young as my teenage son these days, or  promotion and interview panels, who, we are led to believe, scour the interwebs for details of our past lives, just to make sure we are not crazed alcoholic or drug infested maniacs. Not to mention the local and judgemental village gossips that every organisation seems to have in its nooks and crannies. I am constantly amazed at the antics of the Kardashian generation on Instagram and Snapchat and I fear that when they are my age they will regret all those terrible bathroom selfies.


I better get back to the point.

Engineering parties are not great, still a lot of shorts and white sock action. Quantity Surveyors have not been known to kick their heels up and the conversation soon goes stale. They tend to choose wine and food that is prudent but not lavish. Think, smoked oysters (lavish) wrapped in slivers of bacon (prudent). Planners and parties don’t really mix as these can get argumentative if you attend as an architect. They will usually have a healthy selection of celery sticks, carrots and dried apricots. Its amazing to watch them dip the dried apricots into the little containers of hummus. They are planners after all.  Builders and sub-contractor parties are really a no-go-zone for architects; best not to say why. Let’s just say they are yet to discover craft beers and so they only drink beer from brown glass stubbies.  Plus, you wont get in with any black and without a fluoro hi-vis vest. Its amazing what they will do to each other at the end of an evening when they are drunk. Thats exactly when you should try and get them to tender. Its incredible to think, you have to virtually bribe them to get them to tender on any architecture project under 0.5M$. The parties of Project Managers are not much better. There is a lot of kabana sausage bits, pineapple and yummy glaced cherries (PMs love shiny cheap things) on skewers sitting alongside buckets of Costco dips. They always forget the crackers and the party never starts on time. Then they blame the architect.

Whatever why you look at it: Architects have the best parties.

Avoid Lawyer Parties. 


In my experience the worst parties are the ones where there are too many lawyers. The worst thing about the Lawyers is that they also try and dress fashionably. But, then they always get it a little bit wrong (except the lawyers who are my actual friends).  We should give them style lessons. But then they will probably sue us anyway.

They all get down one end of the room and talk about the law. Then their actual partners are, usually sort of down the other end of the room, and if you tell any of the partners you are an architect they will say things to you like:

“oh, so your an architect, how interesting.”

“oh, my partner wanted to be an architect but he became a lawyer instead.”

“oh, our architect (insert name of appalling fee cutting architect) has just finished our Georgian style renovation, do you know them?”

“oh, I went to school with an architect, do you know them?”

“oh, we have a garage extension that needs doing what do you think?”

“oh, what do you think of the Opera House?”


Its better if we only go to architect only parties as they are more fun. As you should be able to discern from the attached images here. This particular party was a great exercise in brand building. It really makes you want to do business with this office.

For those architects averse to parties, my advice is to loosen up, if you want to build your brand the best thing you can do is have a great end of season party. Invite me along. I will be one of the last to leave. After all is said and done there is nothing like having fun and partying to the max as architecture goes down the gurgler in Australian public life.