South-east Queensland of the future

south-east Queensland

This week, we look back at an article written in 1990 where Noel provides some insight into how architects, urban designers and local authorities have great duty in shaping the future of communities of South-East Queensland and its people.

Gold Coast Bulletin, Friday, December 21, 1990


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The 1990s heralds a renaissance in architecture; human values will be the first consideration in home and urban creative design.

That is, if developers and local authorities and lending institutions listen to the demands of the people.

“People want their lives uplifted, to live in communities that have spirit and that lifestyle that doesn’t have to be expensive,” says award-winning Brisbane architect, town planner and urban designer Noel Robinson.

“Short-sighted developers, low professional fees and hence not enough effort, and fast-track construction are major causes of the degradation of our cities (and its people).” Said Mr Robinson.

“In the past, there has been little sympathy towards relaxations requested by architects to sculpture, and this has added to rigid envelopes for such matters as sun control and architectural modelling.”

“Renaissance may be a strong word, but we are about to go through one. The next decade will see us looking at things with meaning.

“Human values will be much more respected. There will be less glitz. Housing will be more contextual, where there is more respect for the climate and the place where we are building. We will come to understand more what the genus loci of a place is.”

Society had determined urban housing over the past 20 years; developers met the market demand, or put on the market what they thought would sell.

Today urban designers have a wider responsibility to the community to produce something enduring, but often still turned out soulless, box-like suburbs.

One example cited by Mr Robinson was accompanied by the comment: “I know that is providing for a market, but there is a better way than raping the landscape and building slums of the future.”
“It should not be just a matter of subdividing but looking at the whole. If there is a demand for low-cost housing there are a number of ways to satisfy that market.”

Mr Robinson said that if developments on highways were necessary there should be landscaped parkways at least 500 metres wide on either side of the highway, making journeys much more appealing.

There should be controls at either state or local government levels, he said, leading to his criticism of local authorities and the plans of the Premier, Wayne Goss, for the future of south-east Queensland.

“Local authorities… need wide, blue-skies thinking, big thinking, instead of specifics or materials, ensuring people build in a way that is contextual, that answers issues like climate and energy consumption and even regulatory matters.”

Local authorities needed to be creative lateral thinkers and not so prescriptive. He suggested a pane of experts to assess applications for home permits.

“Let the people be creative and discuss their designs with this expert panel.”

“There may be a danger they will get it wrong but there is also a danger if they don’t try something new.”

“But councils must let go a little and work with designers in future and thus major advances will be made.”

“South-east Queensland will attract the best people in the world in the next 10 years and we need to polarise this. This is the renaissance we will see in Queensland, more than anywhere else in the world.”

“Happy people make great strides, and that means Australia too.”

“We need entrepreneurs with vision. We only hear about the bad ones, but there are so many good ones.”

Mr Robinson was an adviser to the Premiers’ Department think-tanks and said that one thing that emerged from MFP talks was the need for a new lifestyle.

MFP ideals were of a living environment, small urban cores much more expressive, where people had space to think.

He predicts that south-east Queensland will develop as an MFP.

Mr Robinson’s firm is better known for his big projects like the Lake Crackenback Village in the Snowy Mountains, where he is about to begin stage three.

Throughout Brisbane are many examples of his award-winning work and every airport traveller has seen the Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial, to name just a few.

Townsville Aquarium, the British pavilion at Expo, Bundaberg airport terminal and, closer to the Coast, he has designed the $200 million Alpha resort on Ephram Island for which work starts in July next year.

He has just been appointed architect by Ansett Tourist Industries for the Airlie Beach 300 room hotel and 200 condominium development, and architect for FAI’s Sailport and extensions to Airlie Beach township markets built around the 1000 boat harbour, 300 room hotel and 500 condominiums.

“It is important there is debate about architecture and the built environment.”

“There needs to be a vision for Australia and this will come about by an informed public debate, which not many architects have encouraged in the past.

“The institute of architects is doing something, but the press too, needs to start people talking.”

– End of article –