Richard Kirk’s presentation at the UQ Architecture lecture was predominantly about how architects can contribute to the public realm of a city.

As Past President of the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, Richard provided a brief, yet thoroughly fascinating, glimpse into some of the challenges the Institute faced during his two year term.

Richard commenced his talk with an overview of early images of Brisbane which he said illustrated the city’s sense of vision for the future.

“…it’s really important when we talk about heritage that we don’t think of it as a sort of curio or some sort of artefact that’s just interesting because it is old,” said Richard.

He also believed the past could be used as an intellectual resource for the future.

The concept of ‘what is the public realm’ was a topic which Richard explored, questioning why Brisbane as a city struggles with this now when 150 years ago the concept “seemed to be so patently clear to us.”

“So, we need to remember that the heritage and the knowledge base that we have in this city is far more significant than what people make us believe,” said Richard.

He touched upon the overwhelming opposition to the failed 2009 North Bank redevelopment proposal and why that was a good outcome for Brisbane. He also discussed the Institute’s reservations about the Queens’ Wharf project which has recently won approval.

“…the idea of using our government precinct… for a casino precinct development was inappropriate for a number of reasons.”

“The interests were much greater, the investment much greater and the appetite much greater for success by the proponents. I want to say up front that we actually maintain these comments or these views from day one. That the idea of using our government precinct – which if you remember back to one of the early slides – for a casino precinct development was inappropriate for a number of reasons.

“Basically, the location, the obscuring of the symbolism of the site, but also the fact that the nature of these sort of buildings just don’t fit very well in what is a 19th century street grid. To boot, there’s about a dozen significant heritage buildings that sort of stride through the George and William Street spines,” said Richard.

The successful heritage listing of the Queensland Culture Centre building, namely the QPAC, QAG, The Edge and the Queensland Museum, in 2015 by the Australian Institute of Architects is probably the most important highlight while Richard served as President.

“And it’s the first time, I think, that any heritage legislation has been used for the purpose of public open space to be retained. If you can see the propensity of our governments – and it’s not just Brisbane – throughout the country – to use public space as a form of asset sale, despite being cloaked in 99 year leases; this is an amazing achievement.

“What the listing’s started to do – it started to overlay a sense of rigour and a sense of consideration about what is valuable about these buildings so that if anything needs to happen to them – because we understand that buildings need to change over time. But at least they’re done within a context of a proper plan. Which is the conservation management plan that the successful listing will do,” explained Richard.

Following Richard’s talk we heard from Guillermo Sevillano, of Madrid-based practice SUMA, who detailed a number of their projects and competition work. He was also part of the panel discussion, with Richard and lecture series curator Antony Moulis, which focused on architecture in the public realm.

This article was based on the lecture presented by Richard Kirk as part of the 2016 UQ Architecture Lecture Series event on 22 March 2016.

In partnership with the Australian Institute of Architects, APDL and UQ are pleased to offer this event as a professional development activity for architects. Architects who attend UQ architecture lecture series events can claim two Informal CPD points for attendance, or earn two Formal points with completion of the Design Online written exercise which reflects on new knowledge and the ideas presented. AACA competency: Design.


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Q & A Richard Kirk


Anita Lewis

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