Godsell highlights architecture’s role in tackling climate change

Born in Melbourne Sean Godsell becoming an outstanding Australian architect was perhaps an inevitable and cosmic alignment of fate. David Godsell, the late successful architect, is his father and Mr. Godsell (junior) was brought up in a house designed by his gifted old man, who adapted the principles of the Usonian house on a sand block and slope to Beaumaris, by the beach. Architecture is anchored in its genetic code.

An internationally renowned and critically acclaimed architect, Mr Godsell is currently on his national victory tour as the 2022 Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medalist – the Institute’s highest honour.

He says he is honored and privileged to have his peers give him such a major award and was thrilled to be featured in the Academy of Sciences as part of his tour – a construct he says is an “all time favorite”.

Canberra was his first tour stop, and Mr. Godsell sat down with Canberra Weekly to discuss the connection between architecture and climate change, the integration of First Nations culture into design, and the future of architecture.

He says Canberra’s architecture has some “highlights” and the city’s unique character is emboldened by the legacy of the Griffins and the Plan for Canberra.

“We almost won the National Portrait Gallery years ago – we got second place, which was good. It made me look very closely at this part of Canberra that is now a triumvirate…a part really power of the city.

In a masterclass for emerging architects in Canberran, Mr Godsell explains the crucial importance of understanding the nature of the city before designing a building.

“Going back to when we were designing our project – our unsuccessful project – for the portrait gallery,” smiles Mr. Godsell, “I remember we spent a lot of time looking into the history of the city, the importance of civic access and so on and so forth.

But grasping the design of a city is just the tip of the iceberg for Australian architects, he says, as they need to remember that they are “building on the land”.

“Wherever we are in Australia, we are building on land that was part of the traditional owners’ lives. So I think in many ways our profession is sensitive and sensitive to that fact now, and for two centuries we haven’t been.

“So I think this is a really important time for our country but also for our profession, that we can recognize that, and we can recognize that in a lot of ways when we’re designing buildings to understand the history of the land, to understanding the crowds and what was important about the land we’re building on, and respecting their concerns about what’s going on is really important.

During his presentation of the gold medalist, Mr. Godsell’s central theme centers on the integral role that architecture plays in the future protection of our planet against climate change.

“I think any architect who doesn’t talk about climate change is missing the point… We’re dealing with the built environment. So as a profession we are at the heart of the climate issue and what we design has a direct quantifiable impact,” he says.

“So if we design smart buildings, in terms of the environment, then we’re doing good for the community. If we don’t, we miss the point. So, every time we step in to build a new building, we have the climate at the top of our agenda. »

Mr. Godsell fears that the importance of architecture is being overlooked by the general public.

With the effects of climate change still present in Australia, he believes that a better understanding of how architecture weaves the fabrics of society and history would require a deeper understanding of how the industry can be vital to reversing the impacts.

“His [climate change] a problem of the day. All architects do is deal with all the issues of the day, because the history of architecture suggests that at certain times in our evolution there were important things that needed to be done,” says Mr. Godsell .

“There was a time when building temples to our gods was important, there was a time when building cathedrals and palaces was important. as we construct a building, we minimize the impact the building has on the environment because the planet is suffering.

“His [climate change] the main problem on the planet – despite pandemics, wars and supply chain problems. All of these things aside, they are meaningless if the planet does not support human life. This must therefore become a priority. »

-Sean Godsell

Addressing emerging architects in Canberra at its Gold Medal Breakfast, Mr Godsell expressed his optimism for the future of architecture, despite a mountain of obstacles in the path of new graduates.

“Our young architects are well trained, and I think they’re prepared and willing and ready to step in,” he says.

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