Dr Noel Robinson
The NRA Collaborative CEO and Principal, Noel Robinson, was one of Five prominent Australians who QUT has recognised for their exceptional service to the community and the university with an Honorary Doctorate in 2021.
Noel has worked as a tutor, part-time lecturer, and Adjunct Professor at QUT during his career and served as a member of the QUT Art Collection Committee and the QUT Art Museum Board. Entwined in the fabric of QUT and the community, Noel has continuously shown his commitment and passion through mentoring future generations and his determination to deliver climatically responsive design and planning advocacy.
Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik
Members of the QUT official party
Family and Friends
Good morning, everyone.
Thank you to QUT for the opportunity of addressing this graduation ceremony today.
How good is it living in Brisbane with its near perfect climate?
As for your graduation today, Congratulations on your incredible achievement! You are the next generation of leaders, innovators and makers for the built environment. You are about to go out into the world and create history for the best of humanity.
As a student at QIT who worked full time during the day and studied at night, I was also inspired to play music, which at the time, I hadn’t realised the importance of.
I came from a musical family, my dad was a full time muso, and he placed a cornet in my hands at the age of five, so, as well as working in the daytime in an Architect’s office learning by emersion and being paid £6per week learning the trade, and then studying at least 3 nights a week; and on weekends, I quite often played out in the Brisbane’s 60’s music scene including the Festival Hall and up to six nights a week in pubs and clubs in addition to undertaking my architectural studies.
Now, on to business, that’s what makes the commercial world tick over and pay for your professional fees and future lifestyle; Business cannot survive without your drive and flexible thinking around challenging new ways of creative human habitation. Your buildings and designs will inspire future generations and change lives.
This milestone today is just the beginning of your professional journey, and the beginning of your wealth creation by learning how to offer exceptional value propositions to your clients and community.
Now that you have absorbed all that knowledge and completed your degree, from here on, your “imagination” will drive your success.
From today onwards, you will be presented with untold opportunities; Each one needs to be grasped –don’t turn any one of them down without thorough interrogation, it might just be the one opportunity that makes the difference to your life and those around you.
Remember, inquiry is the basis of your existence.
Cultivation is the process of achieving the result.
Each one of your stories will be different, but the common thread will be that you have jumped through major hurdles both scholastically and personally to arrive at this position here today together, so, do not be afraid of taking risks or making some mistakes along the way, everybody makes mistakes, but without risk there is no reward.
With your new degree you are now equipped to make a transformative difference to society. You are now also in the “emerging talent” category, and even though you may not know it yet you are about to change the world. Everyone will be watching your next move with great anticipation!
Our University has a reputation of delivering high achieving Alumuni into the marketplace.
While this University has laid the foundation for your graduation, attending this institution does not pave a guaranteed path for your success – those of you who come on the journey will only achieve success through smart, hard work and by applying your own creative talents, and then by doing so, you will create immense value for your clients, society and for yourself.
Architecture, Engineering, and the Creative industries professions taught at QUT are among some of the hardest fought, yet most rewarding professions that you can ever imagine - I’m sure that’s why many of you chose them!
Architecture and Urban Design are unique disciplines combining art, science, engineering, commerce, and the humanities.
Your profession, the Design and Engineering disciplines, are at the forefront of economic and technological advancement. Innovative design boosts productivity, that’s why commerce and industry are so engaged with us; they need us to generate their new ideas as well as deliver their survival and growth.
Your training goes well beyond just designing buildings and structures, it extends to exploring the essence of urbanism, place, and of your own being!
You are the transformative generation; You will see an exponential growth of technology and science multiplied millions of times more than I have ever seen in my lifetime.
You and I are now entering the future ages of the “Metaverse”, realising scenes from “the Jetsons” and much more!
You need to make sure that you're main highly skilled and relevant in what you do through continuing your professional development knowledge hunger, understanding of innovation and sustainability as well as demystifying the process externally, so that you, as Innovators, Designers, Architects, Urbanists place makers and change makers at the table with city makers and installing your value propositions and skills.
You will now need patrons, those are people and companies that need something that you and only you can envision and deliver, something that they are not capable of achieving by themselves.
Don’t underestimate that, Commerce and Industry need the Creative Arts, they can’t survive or thrive without us! We are vital to their ongoing existence! We set the stage for their daily inspiration!
From now on, the relationships that you develop with your patron clients will form a large part of your ability to have a successful practice and deliver creativity in the future.
Good design has a positive influence on the quality of life for all human beings and stems from innovation, and then stands the test of time through its uniqueness, its robustness, its aesthetic and its agile qualities that allow it to inspire the rest of society in the long term.
Even though, as Architects we touch only a fraction of the new buildings and spaces being built in our cities; We all still have a responsibility not only to change that, but also, not to waste human capital and the resources of the planet in our endeavours, and, according to recent research, the construction, operation and maintenance of buildings generate more than one quarter of all the total greenhouse gas emissions in our country. So that’s a big responsibility we have to protect the future of humanity by not wasting resources and ongoing energy.
If this is true, then our buildings are one of the largest single sources of all carbon emissions, and, as we move towards our 2050 net zero target, we will all have a major role in achieving a healthy and sustainable planet.
This is your responsibility to make it happen.
To be clear: I have faith in man kind to sort this one out; we all need to deliver the circular economy required to keep this planet healthy and thriving for another million years.
I think that I have lived on this spaceship planet earth for longer than most of you and I am not threatened but challenged by the earth’s constantly changing social and climatic patterns, but that does not mean we need to be irresponsible or complacent about the climate challenges ahead of us - far from it!
We need to remember that Australian Architects and Engineers are considered a global hot bed for leading sustainable practice and research – we are internationally acclaimed leaders and are up there with the best! We ought to be very proud of our achievements as we continue to lead the world in sustainable design outcomes.
It is prudent and sensible that, we as a profession, work to de-carbonise our footprint and emissions to target net zero carbon buildings as well as invent new carbon capture techniques moving forward that deliver the new circular economy required to produce a zero carbon future.
This is our social and ethical challenge as Architects and Engineers!
To start with, we know about solar/wind hydro etc. and natural energy, but we to also need design all buildings to conserve energy and operate where possible without air-conditioning.
Air-conditioning is unnecessary and an energy guzzler!
Globally, air-conditioning is one of the biggest contributors to energy consumption and greenhouse gases; Air-conditioning in a number of building types is not necessary for comfort, particularly if the design solution truly responds to its natural climate by paying respect to aspect, natural breezes etc.
Generating energy for air-conditioning is not only bad for the environment, but it leads to standardisation and building typology outcomes; Buildings that are in turn unresponsive to local climate, so much so that they are in danger of losing their regional identities and individual “sense of place” because if we continue this trend then all buildings will look the same no matter where they are located in the country.
Residential buildings in particular are relatively easy to design to induce natural cross ventilation, passive solar design etc. even if we need to use ceiling fans to assist cross ventilation, there is nothing more pleasant or energy efficient than sitting with friends on a verandah enjoying conversation, a drink and being immersed in natural cooling gentle cross breeze; This stuff is not rocket science!
Commercial buildings on the other hand take far more care to manage their environmental response and energy consumption. Their external skins need to be airtight and shaded.
As our climate challenges need to be globally addressed, each society on earth need to reduce and then stop consuming carbon emitting energy - Mother earth is struggling to continue to provide the resources to deliver this unchecked population explosion and out of control consumerism any longer!
Together using existing, and yet to be invented low energy generation technology we can go a long way to halting and even reversing the harmful effects of inappropriate climate change on our future generations.
I’m saying this because you will all be designing buildings and products that consume energy and products, much of which today unfortunately ends up in land fill or in the oceans.
We, as individuals, and, as professionals, must question everything that we design, what is its purpose? and what is its life cycle cost? etc, and can society and the circular economy deal with what we are about to design?
Architecture is a civic art which becomes part of and impacts on our families and communities, we have a responsibility to make sure that it is the best we can do.
We are also facing a serious overpopulation crisis which is impacting our biodiversity and our climate.
This predicted population increase means that the need to accommodate these extra people with housing will become an urgent priority, innovating and, shifting from the traditional household typologies that is present nowadays will become a necessity.
This global issue of how we all live together harmoniously in the future on one planet earth is now your design challenge!
It is my belief that to achieve the best innovation, every design and every new building needs to be created from first principals thinking, and then be conceived for a net zero carbon future.
The fact is that every new project that you will design will be different; because every client’s needs are different; Every site is different, and every budget is different etc. Also, the design you are creating needs to respond to the time in history that it is being created.
So, the way to re-inspire yourself everyday is to start each new design challenge from the beginning and tackle every new project afresh from first principals (naturally drawing upon your ever increasing life’s experiences).
That’s not only fun but it is necessary.
That way of thinking will also keep you living at the peak of your profession whilst “living the dream” every day!
In saying that, don’t get bogged down with following a “style”, style doesn’t promote innovation, it can be very misleading while being seductive! You should run from a project where a potential client says to you, I want “Hamptons” or whatever style they want you to copy. That direction does not advance creativity at all, you will get stuck in a time capsule.
This is not the type of thinking that you have been taught to deliver at QUT. You have been educated to be innovative in your design thinking not just to be a “style” copycat.
If you come into your studio space every day to be a stylist, you will quickly become bored with your profession and fail your purpose. Coming into the studio every day should be challenging and exciting and should be the source of your creation as you bounce your ideas off like minded colleagues and create brand new environments to respond to the ever changing needs of this earth as well as solving your new clients challenging needs!
Through experience and innovation, you will develop your own approach and individuality. This will become your own style and not by copying another, that is the most important thing for you to do, and that is what you should live for!
This process will ultimately become your “signature” and leadership style.
I find that for me, the best way to deal with innovation is to remain a lateral thinker and an optimist and be confident that your best works are always still ahead of you.
Make sure your creative tomorrow is better than what you are doing today.
Regardless of how experienced you mayor may not become, the Design and Engineering professions are indeed high risk and high value ones; You will need to develop and have faith in your own judgement and then Innovate and advocate your own new ideas to advance society.
Whatever your delivery skill from the right side of your brain is - whether it is a pencil or the computer – you need to be able to get your ideas down quickly and then to reflect upon the process until the last element of the design is completed in your mind. You need to be outcomes focused and deliver quickly.
Please remember, if you can’t dream it, you can’t build it.! Always build and resolve a project in your mind first more than once before you commit it to paper or the computer, that way you will achieve perfection every time.
We also need to collaborate!
Ove Arup the famous Engineer once said: That the Architect should be part Engineer and the Engineer should be part Architect in order to achieve a fruitful collaboration.
As the fourth industrial revolution takes hold on us all, boundaries will continue to blur between the design disciplines. We are now quickly entering the Metaverse of the “unreal” world.
Einstein once said, “nothing great was ever done alone.”
Maybe he was right for his time.
As an individual you can achieve great designs alone; some people are brilliant and content with designing small and larger projects alone and they make great inventions alone, but, your design profession, as a whole, is not for loners or prima donnas.
This is a profession for design collaborators working together.
Remember that teamwork makes the dreamwork; so, build a team around you that is so strong that you don’t know who the boss is.
Today the built form is driven by highly skilled design professionals as well as hard-nosed building economics, and in some cases, even greed, and you, the Architect/Engineer will become, in some cases, part of the vicious commercial cycle of “a race to the bottom” that occasionally engages the building industry; but this phenomenon should not stop you from designing beautiful spaces and places without exorbitant price tags,
Beautiful robust utility or doing “ordinary things extraordinarily well” should always be your driver.
Make sure your design is robust so that the Project Managers cannot value manage your ideas or your commitment to sustainability out of existence. You need strength of conviction in your leadership to maintain your “sustainability” goals.
Your advantage in the real world is clearly your new QUT degree that will provide you with an opportunity to deliver Exemplary Leading Edge Design, and thereby delivering outstanding projects through Advocacy, Agility, Timing and Relationships.
To quote Peter Ellyard: “The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made; and the actuality of making them changes both the maker and the destination. The challenge is to develop visions, strategies, designs and innovation not just for surviving but for the thriving in this new globalising society”.
Also, use your inspiration, your passion and your extraordinary creative energy to design amazing sustainable Architecture, Engineering and urban places for the joy of humanity.
Make them the unique frozen music of your dreams.
That way you will inspire others on your journey and make the world a better place.
Don’t lead with the thought of personal financial reward, lead with innovation – trust me, the money will follow you when you innovate successfully to provide truly exceptional value!
Finally, nothing in this life is really free or easy, particularly when you are a creative person and having your ideas recognised and developed into real-life living urban environments, these are awesome and rewarding achievements, but you need to sell them and convince others that you are right.
This is what I live for, and it will be what you will live for also.
Don’t take your responsibilities lightly, you are in a leadership profession.
You can make a big difference to humanity with the skills you now have and will develop.
You can visualise different realities, new surroundings, and unique new structures.
You are creative beings – so go be creative!
One final thing, and it is important! Be kind and ethical to your peers and those that help you in your professional development, as you will pass them on the way up in your career, as well you will pass them on the way down.
Each generation of design talent needs to celebrate their own time in history and it’s now your time to celebrate.
Thank you for the opportunities to talk to you today and good luck with all of your careers.
Go live the dream!