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New Govt Architect to raise the voice of design


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Newly appointed Government Architect Kirsteen Mackay says she will be a public advocate for design with an expanded role in government.

The Scottish-born architect and London Royal College of Art alumnus will have a larger role than her predecessors, which will include managing the Office for Design and Architecture SA (ODASA).

“I’ve taken the expansion of this role as a sign that government really does care about it [design],” she says.

“The remit is broader. It’s more involved in the delivery of projects.

“Not only is the Government Architect involved in the planning approvals processes, but it’s planning policy now.”

Mackay says she wants to engage with the public on the design issues of the day and use the expanded role within the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) to coordinate the promotion of good design in South Australia.

“The thing that I’m most excited about is being able to do more of that public advocacy.

“I hope that the role will be more visible.”

She says her role will include “coordinating opinion, potentially, from (the design) industry and making sure that the minister has access to that brain power”.

“That has to be done really carefully by a Government Architect.

“Sometimes people feel that it’s more independent if it’s not in a department. [However] I’m finding that … it’s actually really good that we’re embedded within the planning department, because we get really good access to the Minister.

“You have to be able to give frank and fearless advice, and you can do that within government.”

Mackay studied architecture at the Glasgow School of Art before taking up work with the firm which designed the London Eye, Marks Barfield Architects.

She completed her post-graduate degree in design at the Royal College of Art in London before launching her own architecture firm working on residential and workplace design projects.

Mackay also worked with the UK’s Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment and, in the process, composed a model of design review which is now embedded within the South Australian planning system.

Acting Premier John Rau congratulated her on her appointment.

“Ms Mackay has played a pivotal role in shaping Adelaide’s design review program over a number of years, and will bring her strong design expertise to the forefront of major projects in the city and across the state,” he said.

“The Government Architect’s role, through design review, is to encourage better development.

“It’s about making sure that Adelaide’s new buildings and public spaces are lifted to a higher quality and creating places which people enjoy being in.”


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