accustomed to producing boutique solutions for private clients; acomfortable scenario that has distracted us from our responsibility forsociety at large. By reconceiving the role of the architect not as a designerof buildings, but as a custodian of the built environment, the space of opportunity and tools at our disposal are vastly expanded.
Hunter Street Mall Newcastle in full swing during the Red Lantern Night Market, December 2009, following Renew Newcastle’s initiatives. Photo: Marni Jackson.
TheRenew Newcastleproject, established and led byMarcus Westbury,
illustrates the value of people in the improvement of a public space. Whilemillions had been spent by local government on rebuilding the physicalaspects of Newcastle’s rundown and largely deserted Hunter St mall, thesimple gesture of opening up vacant spaces for use by creative practitionersand businesses has kick-started its revival. 
The Visionary Pragmatist
The stereotype of the architect as an obsessive, black skivvy-wearingaesthete who produces detailed artefacts of beauty is a pervasive one thatmay sometimes live up to the truth. This is a potentially dangerousperception however, as it promotes our interest in form over our value asstrategic thinkers. By promoting our capacity to challenge the underlyingassumptions of a problem and to develop responses informed by a largercontext, we can hope to be invited into projects at an earlier, more decisivestage, and not as mere cake-decorators.
Elemental, community housing, Iquique, Chile.
Chilean practiceElemental, led by Alejandro Aravena, views the largercontexts of policy, financing and social mobility as equally importantterritories for the architect to understand and engage. The multi-unithousing project in Iquique proposed a unique solution to the issue of thelimited funding allocated per unit of social housing. By providing ‘half of agood house’ , and configuring it in a way that enabled future expansion,the residents can create housing of real personal value and utility.
The Trans-Disciplinary Integrator
The complex, manifold and integrated issues of today cannot be solved byarchitecture alone. To be truly instrumental, we need to open ourselves tonew constructive alliances with thinkers and makers from beyond ourdiscipline.
Design Research Institute studio session. Photo:Stuart Harrison.
RMIT’sDesign Research Institute, established in 2008 by Professor Mark Burry, is a research centre directed toward collaboration and information