The Wellbeing of Architects [education + practice –] symposium


The Wellbeing of Architects [education + practice] symposium marks the conclusion of a comprehensive research project, The Wellbeing of Architects: Culture, Identity and Practice (2020-2024). This event, held over two days, presents the study’s findings and – more importantly – proposes actionable recommendations for addressing the mental health and wellbeing issues prevalent in the architecture community.

Day one focuses on architectural education, exploring methods to improve the wellbeing of students and educators. It will feature insights from teachers and student leaders, aiming to identify effective practices and cultures that foster mental wellbeing – in the studio and beyond.

Day two delves into architectural practice, addressing issues such as workload management, service valuation, and the promotion of a thriving culture. The symposium will provide practical advice for practitioners of all sizes and sectors, considering the broader construction industry context and the role of peak bodies in driving change.

The event will also launch the Guides to Wellbeing in Practice, a set of research-informed guides aimed discussion and action towards transformative change. Speakers include researchers, industry leaders, and innovative educators and practitioners, offering attendees new insights, tools, and resources to lead efforts in enhancing mental wellbeing within the architectural community.

The Wellbeing of Architects symposium aims to drive positive change, helping to create a healthier, more sustainable future for the architecture community.

May 8: 9am-4pm – focus on wellbeing in architectural education
May 9: 9am-6pm – focus on wellbeing in architectural practice (Formal CPD will be available – details coming)
Venue: Collingwood Yards Music Market, Melbourne.

Day 1 – Education: Full ticket $75, concession $40.
Day 2 – Practice: Full ticket $130, concession $65.
Both days: Full ticket $190, concession $80.

Purchase tickets here

Concession tickets are available for students, the unemployed, or anyone in a state of hardship who feels they need it, working on an honour system.

Full Program

Day 1 — Architectural Education and Wellbeing
9.00am–4.30pm, Wednesday 8 May

Registration: 9.00am-9.30am

Naomi Stead (RMIT)

Keynote: Wellbeing in Architectural Education
Maryam Gusheh (Monash University) + Vicki Leibowitz (RMIT)
What have we learnt about wellbeing among architecture students as reported by students, academics and professionals? Drawing on the findings of the Wellbeing of Architects project, the opening remarks elucidates the findings to highlight key issues facing students of architecture.

New Approaches to Studio Teaching
Chaired by Charity Edwards (Monash University), with Amanda Achmadi (University of Melbourne), Kelly Greenop (University of Queensland)
How can studio teaching and assessment methods better support healthy connections, peer learning and an inclusive architectural culture and identity? This panel showcases innovative teaching practices that enhance the protective features of design studio, while mitigating its challenges. The discussion explores the potential vitality of studio teaching despite ongoing cultural and institutional constraints that undermine it.

Morning Tea: 10.50am-11.10am

Keynote: Throwing out the playbook
Narelle Lemon (Edith Cowan University)
How can attention to wellbeing reinvigorate architectural education? How can we empower students as the agents of this transformation? Narelle Lemon is a VC Professoriate Research Fellow Edith Cowan University and an interdisciplinary expert in Pedagogy of Belonging. Her keynote lecture offers a provocative critique of the status quo in tertiary education and positions wellbeing as a transformative force for a new and human-centred approach to educating architects.

Insights from SONA + Student Support Services
Nicole Mesquita-Mendez (SONA), a representative from student support (TBC)
What is SONA telling us? What can we learn from health and wellbeing professionals within the tertiary sector? A report on SONA’s 2020 student wellbeing survey and its key findings is followed by reflections from student health and support services. The speakers will speak to education-based challenges to student wellbeing and offer systematic strategies for enhancing student experience.

New Approaches to Learning and Assessment
Chaired by Chris Brisbin (University of SA), with Alex Brown (Monash University), Michael Mossman (University of Sydney)
Can we design new learning and assessment methods that integrate wellbeing and care within architectural curricula? This panel showcases holistic approaches to learning and assessment with potential to benefit student wellbeing. The discussion explores ways in which learning and teaching can position wellbeing and care as foundational principles in architectural education.

New Approaches to Professional Practice
Chaired by Helen Norrie (University of Tasmania), with Peter Raisbeck (University of Melbourne), Helen Duong (RMIT)
How can professional practice curricula better equip students for effective, viable, inclusive and fulfilling career paths in architecture? This panel presents educational curricula that extend professional practice beyond architectural ‘competencies’. The discussion considers the role of universities in educating architects for the realities of professional practice while also advocating for alternative models of practice.

Afternoon tea: 2.50pm-3.10pm

Chaired by John Doyle (AASA President, RMIT), with Kate Hislop (University of Western Australia), Philip Oldfield (University of NSW), Kathy Waghorn (Monash University), Blake Hillebrand (SONA President, RMIT)
Looking at the bigger picture, what is currently being done, and what more could be done, to support wellbeing within architectural education? The wellbeing of architecture students is subject to pressures both within and outside of educational institutions. This panel will discuss how care and student wellbeing can be foregrounded in educational frameworks, and through leadership from peak bodies, universities and student organisations.

Launch of AASA Award for Wellbeing in Architectural Education
John Doyle (AASA President, RMIT)

Closing Remarks – Day 1: Education
Naomi Stead (RMIT), Lee Stickells (University of Sydney)

Day 2: Architectural Practice and Wellbeing
9.00am–5.30pm, Thursday 9 May

Registration: 9.00am-9.30am

Angelina Maallini Pillai (ACA)

Keynote: New knowledge about Wellbeing in Architectural Practice
Naomi Stead (RMIT) + Byron Kinnaird (Monash University)
What have we learned about the wellbeing of architectural practitioners? Drawing on the findings of the Wellbeing of Architects project, this session elucidates the research findings to highlight key issues facing architects and those in allied fields today.

Launch: Guides to Wellbeing in Architecture Practice

Work Culture + Wellbeing
Chaired by Justine Clark (Parlour), with Tanya Awadallah (MHNDU), Darryl Suttie (DesignInc), Thihoa Gill (Grimshaw)
What measures can architecture practices take to support a creative, sustainable, healthy work culture? This panel explores positive strategies that address unhelpful patterns and norms within architecture work cultures. From supporting trust and openness in teams, to developing leadership that supports wellbeing, to supporting individuals in their own life balance, the panel will address what is happening now, and what more can be done.

Morning tea: 11.00am-11.30am

Keynote: Value and Wellbeing in Architecture
Flora Samuel (University of Cambridge)
Introduced by Maryam Gusheh (Monash University)
What is the social value of architecture? In what ways is this often overlooked or invisible, and how are these questions of worth linked with wellbeing and conditions in the architecture profession more broadly? Flora Samuel is the author of Why Architects Matter (2019), and was lead on the Architects Council of Europe Value of Architecture Report, as well as the RIBA Social Value Toolkit. As an expert in social value, Flora will examine the downstream effects of under-valuation in architecture, including on wellbeing, and set forth a better path.

Keynote: Beyond the Blueprint: Becoming in Architecture Amidst Constraints and Consumption
Jonathan Robberts (Monash University)
Chaired by Julie Wolfram Cox (Monash University)
Jonathan Robberts is undertaking a PHD as part of The Wellbeing of Architects research project, including an extended period of fieldwork embedded within a large Australian architecture practice. In seeking to understand this one practice, the research has sought wider insights into the profession as a whole – its aspirations, configuration, and activities, and how concepts of ‘becoming’ might affect both professional identity and organisational models.

Lunch: 12.45pm-1.45pm

Keynote: Systemic Risks in the Australian Architecture Sector
Dariel de Sousa (Dart Legal and Consulting)
Chaired by Kirsten Orr (NSWARB)
Dariel De Sousa is a multi-disciplinary professional who focuses on regulation, risk, compliance, governance and performance. Her keynote will address a joint research project undertaken in 2022 for the Architects Registration Board of Victoria (ARBV) and the NSW Architects Registration Board (NSW ARB). The project focussed on the systemic level, to understand key risks facing architects across the entire sector, particularly those that could affect architects’ ability to comply with their professional standards obligations. Dariel will outline findings and implications for the profession.

Contracts and Procurement + Wellbeing
Chaired by Tim Horton (L+E Court, NSW), with Gabrielle Trainor AO (Infrastructure Australia), Emma Williamson (GAWA)
How can we mitigate the ‘downstream effects’ of construction industry contracting and procurement processes on wellbeing in architecture? Some of the most acute stresses in architectural practice emerge through the procurement process, including in the framing and administration of contracts and project delivery. Given that architects themselves often have limited agency in determining procurement methods, this panel will frame wellbeing within the construction industry more broadly – noting opportunities and paths towards improvement for all.

Policy + Legislation + Wellbeing
Chaired by Natalie Galea (University of Melbourne), with Kirsten Orr (NSWARB), Brian Clohessy (BVN), John Held (President, ACA) What are the possibilities for greater wellbeing presented by ‘top down’ instruments like legislation and policy? Recent changes in legislation around psychosocial safety have the potential to shake up work practices in both architecture and the wider construction industry. Meanwhile many organisations are looking to mobilise policy at the sector-wide, industry-wide, or specific practice scales – with groups like the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce looking to foment systemic change for the better. This panel will examine what’s currently happening, and what could happen in future, to use policy and legislation as forces for good.

Afternoon tea: 3.50pm-4.20pm
The Profession + Wellbeing
Chaired by Angelina Maallini Pillai (ACA), with Cameron Bruhn (AIA), Tiffany Liew (Architecture AND/EMAGN), Sonia Sarangi (andever/ArchiTeam), Glenn Scott (Hassell/NSWARB)*
What is the role for peak bodies, regulatory bodies, membership organisations, and peer collectives in improving wellbeing in architecture? This panel will examine the possibilities that emerge when these groups come together with common purpose, towards greater wellbeing for all – from the level of the individual, to practice, to systemic and structural change across the whole architecture profession. What new alliances and initiatives are needed to effect lasting change?

Closing Remarks
Naomi Stead (RMIT), Julie Wolfram Cox (Monash University), Kieran Wong (The Fulcrum Agency)