for the final UQ Architecture lecture, William Smart of Smart Design focused on his project, Indigo Slam, recipient of the 2016 Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture (New House).

Described as a ‘house on the park’, William’s dream commission is a wonderful demonstration of architecture’s ability to frame and enhance a client’s unique lifestyle and values. Every aspect of the architectural response has been thoroughly considered and every component of the house highly detailed. The quality of this piece of occupied art is so superb that it competes (and wins) against the art collection it was designed to exhibit.

There is no doubt that Indigo Slam is a beautiful piece of architecture, and William and his team should be commended for the quality of the outcome for the client. While we celebrate the success of this project, we are also given the opportunity to reflect on the image that the architectural profession is projecting to the public, and our communities, through the promotion of this work.

…architectural practice is slowly shifting away from the promotion of the heroic ‘star’ architect.

When positioning this project as exemplary architectural design, we must be mindful that this is also a highly unusual project, with an undisclosed budget, a four-year construction program and an amenable client that has allowed the architect the time, freedom and resources to strive for – if not achieve – perfection. It is a project that has the potential to perpetuate the idea of the architect as the hero, the critic, the perfectionist and as an exclusive servant to the elite. In reality the culture of architectural practice is slowly shifting away from the promotion of the heroic ‘star’ architect. Contemporary architectural practice requires architects to collaborate and facilitate within project teams and communities to develop shared visions and contribute collectively towards shared outcomes.

…the profession needs to be mindful about the image we project.

While it is imperative for architects to aspire to produce great architecture, there is also an inherent danger in the promotion of ‘perfect’ architecture, with the implication that only perfect architecture is good architecture. We currently find ourselves in a construction climate where the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), both at state and national levels, are investing significant energy into promoting the role of the architect both at urban and domestic scales. As representatives of our industry, the AIA are conscious of the need for architects to be included in conversations relating to city-changing developments. In this climate, and with such goals in mind, the profession needs to be mindful about the image we project. The perception of good architecture belonging only to the super-rich is a stereotype which is misrepresentative of the broader profession, and only hinders our ability to engage with society in a more meaningful and inclusive way, by placing further distance between the architect and the people who live in our cities and neighbourhoods.

Indigo Slam is a wonderful addition to the Central Park precinct. Through William’s presentation of the project it is clear that both the client and the architect were extremely satisfied with the process and the built outcome. However, it is a highly unusual piece of architecture that will only ever be experienced by an elite few. While not every house can be as finely crafted as Indigo Slam, it is certain that the design of every house can benefit from the unique services that an architect offers. The larger question is, does the promotion of this project help to progress the architectural profession, or hinder its relevance to society?