This first half of 2013 has been somewhat of a turbulent time in the life of Brisbane design with the shuffling and merging of small personal firms with larger businesses.
There has been a few months of waiting and watching to see what emerges out of this climate (see Peter Were’s Design Online article). For those that are keenly interested in Brisbane’s residential architecture, one overriding aspect that has consciously or unconsciously been achieved through the current UQ Architecture Lecture series is a reassurance of sorts that everything is going to be ok.
With the gaps created in the market due to these mergers there is a handing over of the batten to a new vanguard of small, local practices. From what I have seen, those that are poised to take the reins offer a home-grown sensibility that is extremely valuable to the time and place we live in.
Listening to the Owen and Vokes and Peters lecture in April and more recently Paul Hotston from Phorm’s lecture, I found myself able to relax and take in a breath of fresh air. There is a depth of relevance at the heart of their work that stems from a deep-seeded understanding of place and it is birthed out of simply growing up in this region.
In talking with one of the above firm’s directors, it was made clear that there is much work to be done. He pointed out that there seems to be a default attitude that wants to fix Brisbane’s perceived issues though conceiving schemes totally separate from local ideology, especially at the university level.
In my opinion, this approach to design is born out of a lack of indigenous knowledge coupled with unrestrained design parameters from the onset of the learning process. It then filters into practice and subtly erodes the local condition to a point where the cities fabric is much the same as everywhere else.
As concerning a picture as this paints, the gaps created in the market due to these recent company mergers have the ability to produce a silver lining for Brisbane architecture. It is simply by way of creating room for quieter voices to be heard.
What companies like Owen and Vokes and Peters and Phorm have in their hands is an ability to bring back a local appreciation of place and history that depicts a way forward with grace and relevance. Theirs is an attitude and a philosophy that is producing a home-grown model of habitation for the future by looking into the past. It is distinctly appropriate to Queensland and has the opportunity to make more of an impact at a grass roots level both in practice and at an educational level.
South East Queensland is once again in safe hands.
- Anthony Rigg