In anticipation of Urbanity ’17, The Urban Developer’s upcoming conference for the creators and custodians of cities in the Asia-Pacific, we sat down with Queensland Government Architect Malcolm Middleton OAM.
Malcolm will be speaking at Urbanity on his vision for the future of the Sunshine State which comes from a distinguished career spanning the disciplines of architecture, masterplanning and urban design in the private and public sectors.
Malcolm shared insights with us on his role as the Queensland Government Architect, his opinion on smart cities, why it’s important to promote great local architecture and his involvement with Urbanity ’17.
TUD: What is your education and professional background?
MM: I have an Honours Degree in Architecture from Sydney University and a Masters in Urban Design from QUT. I spent 25 years working in private practice, starting out as a project manager/design manager for Lendlease.
I’ve been lucky to work on a wide range of projects including the Roma Street Parklands, which was a great example of integrating landscape design with major urban renewal. It’s satisfying seeing the difference the parklands have made to the lives of people who live and work in the city. Before taking on this role in 2011, I served on the South Bank Design Advisory Panel and the Queensland Heritage Council and I was president of the Property Council in Queensland.
TUD: Tell us about your role as Queensland Government Architect
MM: As Queensland Government Architect and Chair of the Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel, I advocate for excellent outcomes in the built environment. My team and I provide leadership and strategic advice to governments, industry and the community on everything from major infrastructure projects to heritage assessments and urban advice.
We support design excellence and creativity through the Deputy Premier’s Award for Urban Design, the new urban design trigger under the Planning Act, and also the Density and Diversity Done Well competition. This is our open ideas competition that challenges multidisciplinary teams to present new, affordable and buildable missing middle designs that are tailored to our climate and our lifestyle.
TUD: What role does the State Government play in setting the vision for the cities and regions?
MM: The Queensland Government promotes design excellence in government agencies. We contribute to urban policy platforms across state and local governments, encouraging the use of good design principles.
Convincing people to adopt a design-thinking approach can require patience and persuasion as sometimes it’s a challenge to get decision-makers to focus their attention on design early in the project cycle.
TUD: How do you coordinate with the various local authorities across the State?
MM: The Office of the Queensland Government Architect sits within the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, which provides us with strong connections to state and local government agencies across the state. I actively engage with my personal network and I make the most of other industry and community channels to share messages about good design policy and aspirations.
TUD: We hear a lot about smart cities. In your opinion, what is a smart city and what can the industry do to work towards these outcomes?
MM: Smart cities are about smart people. It’s important to present policy positions that enable sound and fast decision-making in a time of rapid and disruptive change.
TUD: What is your vision for the State of Queensland?
MM: It’s about shaping our urban legacy. We need to make decisions now about creating smarter, greener, cooler urban places. There needs to be an emphasis on quality public realm and better connectivity, particularly active transport connections. Also, the urban heat island impact in a period of clearly rising temperatures is a very important issue to address.
TUD: What would you like to see from major infrastructure projects in Brisbane?
MM: I’d like to see integration between projects and an emphasis on active transport connectivity. Infrastructure projects provide meaningful opportunities to deliver city-building initiatives beyond line-of-sight problem solving. We need to capitalise on the broader opportunities that accompany major infrastructure projects.
TUD: You recently featured in Channel Ten’s Australia by Design. Why is it important to promote the best architecture and urban development in Australia?
MM: The role of good design processes and decision making is not well understood. In my experience, what people believe about architects generally doesn’t reflect the reality of what actually happens. It’s important to demystify design and show that it’s an essential ingredient in living a better life in a more economically sustainable setting.
TUD: You’ll be speaking at our upcoming Urbanity 2017 conference in September. What can attendees expect?
MM: I’ll be promoting good design principles that are relevant across a range of design professions. I’ll challenge the audience to consider the long-term impacts of the decisions they make each day, and ask them to think about how their work fits into the creation of greater places in which our grandchildren will want to live, work and play. I’m looking forward to it.