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This issue of Architecture Bulletin is dedicated to addressing the future of the built environment in Sydney. As the guest editor invited to tackle this subject, with the support of the NSW Chapter Built Environment Committee, I have curated a survey of contemporary architectural thinking and architects that are strategically involved in the creation of our built environment, urban form and public domain.

With contributors from the Government Architect’s Office, leading architectural firms, landscape architects and experts in urban design and infrastructure, this issue of Architecture Bulletin considers the possibilities for the future of the built environment in major cities through the specific lens of Sydney. I would like readers to consider how the role of architecture is evolving and how it may be most effective in the development of our built environment. Where and how is this happening? How do other disciplines involved in the built environment perceive the role of architects and how might architects better relate to broader contexts?

The future of the architecture profession lies in advancing lateral, creative and critical thinking skills – beyond the notion of problem solving – and in being comfortable in the complexity that comes with seeking a more holistic understanding. Comprehending and engaging with the inter-relatedness of things is vital. As is open-mindedly testing scenarios, working simultaneously at multiple scales, and rapidly moving through the potential consequences of decisions to better inform process, proposals and decision makers.

A key example of this [as detailed on p.8] is the approach taken for the Integrated Design Strategy for inner Adelaide (otherwise known as 5000+) that ran in 2010-12. The 5000+ team designed a process that allowed time for extensive research and analysis of precedents from around the world involved in city renewal. The resultant integrated design strategy was in itself an evolving, emergent and experimental model that early on established  key principles from this research to guide the ongoing approach. These principles of 5000+ articulate both what we need in our urbanised regions and what strategic design offers cities. They also serve to frame this edition of Architecture Bulletin, highlighting the diversity of a design-led approach, which operates at multiple scales – often simultaneously – and does so projecting a desired future while outlining the steps to get there.

Demonstrating the breadth of issues informing and involved in strategic design thinking, the range of articles is diverse in form and content. Shaun Carter interviews two key players in the transformation of Sydney – Jim Betts, CEO of Infrastructure NSW and David Pitchford, CEO of UrbanGrowth NSW; we hear Parramatta and Sydney Council’s positions on strategic design; Russell Olsen reflects on the urban transformation of Ultimo-Pyrmont; Paul Walter examines the role of institutions in city making. Representing the fundamental importance of landscape architects in the design strategy space, Barbara Schaffer outlines the Green Grid – a key strategy, now policy, for Sydney. Gerard Reinmuth offers a view on the state of the profession in NSW with direct comparison to Denmark, a country that demonstrably values the strategic function of the architect.

The architect’s ability to negotiate complexity and optimise competing agendas with creative intelligence is valuable to society. A strong future for our profession and our cities lies in the strategic capacity of the discipline. However, to best position ourselves in this future involves developing a contemporary inter-disciplinary understanding of, and respect for, the other cooks in the built environment kitchen.

Ben Hewett
Guest Editor
Director of Strategy, NSW Government Architect’s Office
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