John Held Awarded Presidents Medal

At this years South Australian Institute of Architects Awards, Director of Russell and Yelland Architects John Held was awarded the 2017 Sir James Irwin President’s Medal.
The Sir James Irwin President’s Medal is the highest accolade offered by the Australian Institute of Architects within South Australia.
When delivering the award current SA chapter president Mario Dreosti’s noted John’s contribution to industry “which has demonstrated core professional values of innovation in technologies, collaboration in our thinking, and in a willingness to lead and deliver vast amounts of voluntary contribution to the benefit of our whole industry”
The Sir James Irwin President’s Medal is awarded each year to a member or industry collaborative considered by the President to have made a significant contribution to architecture. It was established in 1992 through the generosity of the Irwin family in memory and in recognition of the services to architecture of Sir James Irwin. Previous recipients include Francesco Bonato, John Morhphett AM, OBE, LFRAI, John Schenk LFRAIA, Susan Phillips and Michael Pilkington.
A copy of the full citation can be found here

Step up, don’t step back…

Is stepping up to the small stuff also the path to improving the profession’s wider role in society?

In recent weeks I’ve heard some horror stories of projects going wrong. I don’t know all the details (and thankfully they are not our own projects) but there seems to be a common thread in many of them of architects simply not stepping up.

At the same time I’ve been reading about the architect’s role in society. Indy Johar, for example, states that for architects to have relevance “we must realign to focus  on all citizens and all their needs; not the construction and real estate industry  who are only a means for making our environment”.  He talks about both social and spatial justice to allow all citizens to flourish.

How are these connected? Is it because, in both cases, architects don’t step up?

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Research in Practice

John Held reflects on conjunctions of research and practice in a talk presented at the Australian Institute of Architects Flipped Forum, which asked ‘Can practice lead research?’

What does it mean to ‘flip’? In the strict pedagogical definition, it denotes swapping the roles of classroom and homework – reviewing and gathering content out of session, and using face-to-face time for discussion and exploration of the topic. But in the context of this discussion more likely it refers to the idea of practice-led or practice-based research. What forms could that take?

I have a bit of a problem with the definition of ‘practice’ as an activity divorced from academia, and the related idea of practice being just about business, profitability and technical capability.

How not to do it

Our firm was approached by a university a few years ago for seed funding for an interesting project related to sustainability. We considered it carefully but they didn’t want us involved in the research – ‘please hand us your money and we’ll give you a report at the end’. Any chance of learning went out the window, as did we.

How it informs design

If you are to be good at what you do, you have to keep up with research. If you are going to be involved in design for education, know what the research is saying.

As an example, the research of Carla Rinaldi and her influence on early childhood education in South Australia continues as architects participate in joint research on pedagogy and architecture as part of the South Australian Collaborative Childhood Project.

Keeping abreast of research on environments for aged people with memory loss is critical if your buildings are going to be calmer, happier places in which to live.

Our work with Guida Moseley Brown on Mawson Institute Building V was informed by research on research – the concept of placing disparate science and engineering disciplines together; with offices and labs directly connected, and making those researchers bump into each other and help solve each other’s problems.

So perhaps the concept of practitioners and researchers ‘bumping into each other’ is an inspiration for how we should approach practice and research.

How does it happen in practices?

In the midst of project deadlines and dramas and worrying about not having enough work or too much work, the importance of both reflective practice and internal research is really important.

Access to your own data for decision-making doesn’t sound like high-end research, but it’s surprising the stories you hear of architects who have no idea about the detail of their own practices.

In our case, as an example, we’ve spent a great deal of time and reflection on how to change workflows, project processes and outputs to suit truly collaborative BIM workflows.

It may not sound grand but it involves the same methodologies as academic research. We are also researching ways of integrating Virtual Reality into those workflows – not just for clients, but as part of our design review processes.

Finally, we realise the important links between the universities and practice, which is why we have three of our staff teaching and always have students working for us to keep those links alive.

Few small practices have the resources to fund academic research – but as a profession we should be doing this.

How does it happen as a profession?

We really dropped the ball in the last 15 years as a profession in terms of research about architects.  There’s been no significant work done on the effect of documentation quality on construction costs for 17 years. It’s even longer since the CSIRO did research on fees.

We don’t know how many architects there are in Australia, how many work in alternative roles, what happens to graduates after university, and why starting salaries are below most other professions.

Susan Shannon’s work was the first I’d seen tracking graduates – and should be the basis of a much bigger longitudinal survey over many years to get a better understanding of what we actually do as architects – and as graduates who don’t get registered but do other equally important things.

The Parlour survey was the first time we’d seen the scope of the many different ways you can practice architecture.

Locally, the SA State of the Profession survey highlighted a number of issues that need to be addressed – pay, gender equity, career paths, the unexplained dropout of mid-career architects and, most importantly, the future of the profession. But tellingly, we couldn’t get the required outcomes from universities – at least not for the budget we had available.  We ended up going to people who bridge academia and other non-traditional forms or practice – in this case, Justine Clark and Gillian Matthewson.  And trying to get a national version of the survey up finding the funding is proving very difficult.

The spinoff – a great series of reflective pieces under the theme “Where to From Here” – again highlight a diversity of practice and a belief in the future of our profession.

Our next try at research is to get access to the large amounts of data held by government clients – in this case DPTI – to actually find out relationships between fees, hours, and building outcomes.

How does it happen as a policy instrument?

If you are going to lobby on behalf of architects to government or clients you had better have some facts to back it up – even in this world of alternative facts.

You want to change the type of procurement? Here’s some facts about what happens when you do.

Want us to work for free?  Here’s some facts about what happens when you do.

Want to cut our fees again?  Here’s some facts about what happens when you do.

Want to push us downstream, rather than as a trusted advisor?  Here’s the evidence.

But it’s hard to find good evidence, because the research isn’t there.

We don’t have a group whose sole purpose is to produce solid research: even if the answers are not quite what you hoped.

How does it happen as an industry?

It doesn’t – at least not enough. The lack of investment in R&D in the industry is well known, and because so much of it is fragmented and comprised of very small organisations it’s not likely to improve without external funding sources.

This is too big a topic for today – suffice to say that if architects don’t help lead the push for more research, other groups will, to our detriment.

Conclusion

Firstly, we need to see practice and academia as a continuum, as opposed to polar opposites, because that is how it is in the real world. At the same time, we need to understand who is doing the big picture thinking about the future of practice.  This can only happen if you treat “practice” (in all its forms) as a subject worthy of academic discourse and research.

Our main task, therefore, is to strengthen links between academia and practice – and understand that all the different and alternative futures of the profession are reliant on this.

2016 – the year in review

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2016 has been a good year for Russell & Yelland. Significant projects included the new Science and Administration facilities under construction at Concordia College, with the administration building and the St. Johns Canopy complete; work commencing on the new Caritas Building at Nazareth Catholic College, Flinders Park, and the Boarding House at St Josephs School Port Lincoln nearing completion. We undertook a number of projects in Whyalla, including completion of the Cedar Wing at Yeltana Nursing Home, a major feasibility study for future secondary schooling in Whyalla (in association with Phillips Pilkington Architects), and planning studies for STEM facilities for four Whyalla primary schools. We are working on another three of these STEM projects, with the Minister for Education, Dr Susan Close, celebrating the commencement of construction of the Brompton Primary project with a Virtual Reality tour of the new facility. This VR technology is changing the way we can experience design – we are very excited about future opportunities in this area!Other projects included completion of school projects at Galilee and St John Bosco Catholic schools; a number of projects in country hospitals including a new renal & dialysis facility at the Gawler Hospital, and a large number of public housing schemes. The new Renown Park Preschool is under construction, and we undertook master planning for Nazareth and Woodcroft College campuses. Our UniSA Mt. Gambier Learning Centre (in association with GMB Architects) won awards from Learning Environments Australasia and the MBA.

In June we farewelled Alex Clothier, who has moved to Sydney, and Dan Schumann who returned to Flightpath Architects.  We welcomed Rhiana Bell and Anthea Marshall in November following their graduation from Adelaide University – both have previously worked with us as students. We also have Jess Weiland, a fourth year student, working with us at present.

We’ve also welcomed Tara, a daughter to Jeremy and Vouch, and Connor, a son for Stewart and Mia. We’ve kept our cooking skills sharp with a “how to make gnocchi” night at Craig’s house. Alistair and Stewart are both still building their houses, Craig and Pippa bought a barn in Mt Barker and Will and Kim a renovator’s special– whilst John’s happy for a couple of weeks overseas in January instead.

As is usual, we have made a donation to the Australian Refugee Association in lieu of sending cards.
Our office will be closed from noon on Thursday 22nd  December and will reopen on Monday  9th  January. You can contact John Held on 0417 840 337 until the 3rd January and Craig  Buckberry on 0401 393 706 for the remainder of the break if required.

We’d like to thank our team, clients, and colleagues for the opportunity to make great places and we wish you all a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Brompton Primary School STEM

In July 2016 the SA Government announced a stimulus package for the creation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) facilities in 139 public schools across South Australia.

Construction of the Brompton Primary School STEM project commenced in December 2016 with a site visit from the Minister for Education and Child Development, the Hon. Susan Close. It will be one of the first of the STEM Works projects to be completed.

The design aims to encourage hands-on making and open-ended creative investigations.The robust finishes and open-plan workshop feel will show that the space is not ‘precious’ – it’s there to be used and it’s okay to make a mess!

The children will be the ‘star of the show’, with many locations for displaying and celebrating their work. Almost every surface will be interactive, including the ceiling, which is designed for hanging things from. Wall surfaces will used for display, storage, creation and collaboration, via a lego wall, pegboards, slat wall and whiteboards.

The four zones in the STEM space are denoted by different flooring, but are all interconnected, allowing multiple patterns of use. The dark room space is more formal, used for presentations, demonstrations, green-screen work and light experiments. The timber structure around the dark room is designed to with exposed connections to show how it was assembled.

The STEM space will connect to the courtyard and the veggie garden, as well as into the classrooms to the north. STEM will not be a ‘special’ activity but a normal part of the school day, easily accessible and highly visible.

To visualise this project in 3D, click on the image below to jump into a panoramic 3D representation. Each label will take you to a different view.

 

If you have a smartphone and want a more immersive experience you can equip yourself with a viewer such as the google cardboard and rotate your phone to have the views formatted in stereoscopic.
Minister for Education, Dr. Susan Close, takes a virtual tour through Brompton Primary's new STEM facility
Minister for Education, Dr. Susan Close, takes a virtual tour through Brompton Primary’s new STEM facility

 

Brompton Primary School's Principal, Tina Treffers, with the Minister for Education, Dr. Susan Close, and students
Brompton Primary School’s Principal, Tina Treffers, with the Minister for Education, Dr. Susan Close, and students

 

Brompton Primary School - the "darkroom"
Brompton Primary School – the dark room

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Designing Schools for STEM

Is school design for STEM about encouraging chance encounters across subject areas?

The recent announcement by the SA Government of a $250m stimulus package to provide Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) facilities for government schools has prompted the question: what does designing for STEM look like?

There are many articles noting how STEM skills are vital to the future of Australia; concerns about low numbers of science and mathematics graduates; and much talk about innovation. When it comes to design of spaces for STEM in schools, the principles seem to be the same as for most other disciplines: flexible, adaptable and interconnected environments which encourage a range of learning styles and cater for different group sizes and activities. We have seen the introduction of the Maker movement into schools, with laser cutters and 3D printers now common, and the rise of all things digital.

UniSA College: Science & Maths Centre, Mawson Lakes Photograph: Michael Bodroghy

UniSA College: Science & Maths Centre, Mawson Lakes  Photographer: Michael Bodroghy

 

When planning the UniSA College Centre for Science and Maths at Mawson Lakes, we emphasized a range of table, seating and display possibilities with less emphasis on traditional lab experiments and more on space for 3D printers and scanners. The structure of the existing building only allowed us to create very small display windows facing circulation areas – but this became an advantage as it gives a museum-like prestige to the objects on display. The building fabric also tells a story – the recycled timber ceiling screen is a graph of global warming. Continue reading

“A highly complex three dimensional puzzle”

One of the issues that emerged at the recent Australian Institute of Architects Conference in Adelaide was that, as architects, we aren’t that good at describing the work that we do and the value of our particular skill set.

Design can be particularly hard to pin down – the design process varies a lot from person to person, and the results of that process are hard to evaluate with quantitative measures. It is a process that has many ‘right’ answers to the same question (demonstrated by the entries to any design competition).

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Point Clouds in Revit

What is a Point Cloud?

A point cloud is a digital representation of existing space in three dimensions. It is created by laser scanning existing buildings, spaces and structures, linking hundreds of thousands of such spatial coordinate ‘points’ together . The 3D map of points (often overlaid with a colour photographs) rendition of the points) and is then imported them into specialist software which can interface with our 3D building modelling systems.

Point Cloud - RGB
The above view is a point cloud, overlaid with photographic imagery

Continue reading

Five Tips to Speed up your Revit

As for most budding architects who have used Revit on large projects, I have dealt with its labyrinthine interface sluggish performance.

From my experience I would like to share…

1. Auto Section Box

a. The section box in Revit is a great tool, and something that makes it even more powerful is my favourite Revit Add-In: the ‘Auto Section Box’. It saves time getting a good look at anything in 3D, no matter where it is in your model.
b. If you haven’t installed any Add-Ins before, you can get them from Autodesk’s Exchange Apps website. Clicking on the X in the top right of your Revit window will take you there. Once there, search for Coins Auto-Section Box, download and install it.  Most Add-Ins will install while Revit is running.

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c. Or simply go to: https://apps.autodesk.com/RVT/en/Detail/Index?id=appstore.exchange.autodesk.com%3acoinsauto-sectionbox%3aen

d. This Add-In allows you to automatically position a section box around any element in any 3D view

i.      Select the item you want to focus on. You can select it in any view or schedule

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ii. Click Add-Ins > Auto Section Box > then select the view you want and the size of the section box.

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iv. Press OK and the 3D view will open with the section box positioned around the item you selected

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v. I find this an efficient way to jump to a specific part of the model, or by selecting a floor it is a quick way to cut the top off and have a look inside a level in 3D.

vi. Unfortunately it doesn’t work on linked model items. [I set and use the short cut AS to quickly launch this tool]

2. Double-Click Options

a. Once you are familiar with the interface of Revit, power-up your double click options by making the double click action for all the available elements allow you to jump right in and edit the element. It is useful to activate any view on a sheet at the double click of the mouse: simply double click outside the view to deactivate it.

b. To set this up click on the big R, go down to Options > User interface > Double-click Options > customize… and set them all to Edit Family/Element and Activate View.

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3. The Shortcut to Keyboard shortcuts is ‘KS’

a. Have a look in the Keyboard shortcut settings by pressing K then S.

b. These are unique to each work station so go ahead and add some of your own.

c. You can have the same shortcut for multiple commands; if you do you may need to use the arrow keys to cycle through the commands available depending on the work environment you are in. press space bar to accept the what is displayed in the prompts area (bottom Left of the Revit window)

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d. One of my favourites is to have the shortcut ‘FF’ for; basically every finish command there is. eg. Finish Sketch, Finish Model and the many Finish Edit mode commands…

e. With the powered-up double click and the FF finish sketch you can quickly edit the boundary of a floor, for example, by double clicking on it, making the change to the outline the hitting FF and its done!

f. You can export your shortcut settings as a text file and load them on to another computer.

4. Microsoft KeyTips in Revit

a. KeyTips allow you to use any command in the ribbon without moving your mouse.

b. Press and release the alt key and you will see the key tips appear above the buttons on the ribbon.

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c. Once you press one KeyTip it will either activate the command or take you to the next set of options. My favourite use for this is quickly creating new sheets by pressing alt then V then NS

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5. Set your Windows theme to Basic

a. Speed up your Revit by setting your windows theme to basic, which will free up some memory and improve performance.

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i. Right click on your desktop and you will see a pop up menu: select personalize.

ii. Use Windows 7 Basic, which will save your computer thinking about all the pretty graphics and transparency in the Aero Themes.

Bonus tip!

a. If you aren’t toggling already you need to get on to it!

b. Press ctrl+tab to cycle through your open windows or ctrl+tab+shift to reverse the direction.

Thank you for reading, I hope this will save you some time!

From Project Team Integration to the Architect’s Trojan Horse…

Peter Barda, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Construction Industry Forum, has visited our office several times recently to conduct pilot Project Team Integration workshops for one of our projects.  This is based on the ACIF/APCC guide “A Framework for the Adoption of Project Team Integration and Building” using the “Project Team Integration Workbook”.

This allows all team members to discuss, in a very different way, how they might work as an integrated team, with great benefits to the whole project.

While with us, Peter gave our staff some off-the-cuff thoughts about the profession. He’s expanded those ideas in this month’s article for the Association of Consulting Architects: BIM – the Architects’ Trojan Horse.

It’s not all complimentary about our profession – but well worth a read!