Keynote lecture: There is no/only public architecture

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Lecture Theatre 1 (B117), Melbourne School of Design, Masson Road, The University of Melbourne

  • Lecture

Hear NH Architecture Director Hamish Lyon discuss public architecture - how has it changed, and why?

About this event

Who cares about public architecture?
Does the Public?
Who are “the Public”?

The global Pandemic, over recent years, has clearly brought this issue into sharp focus. Despite the daily public press conferences, statistical analysis, graphs and endless algorithms for future death rates, a positive an unforeseen side-effect has emerged. It has reinvigorated the idea of local communities and collective good-will.

But still the question remains, who are ‘the public’.

The confluence of ideologies and the complexities surrounding the definition of ‘who are the public’, reached a moment of contemporary clarity when the Federal and State Health authorities decided to close or limit access to schools, weddings, funerals, church’s and institutions, while continuing to allow supermarket’s and hardware stores to proceed with their mercantile commerce. The strange paradox, that buying a hammer or a garden hose was easier than getting married or burying the dead.

So what can architecture contribute to reinvent the need for collective and community spaces? The answer is hope and optimisms.

I recently heard a student in the mid-years of his studies confidently announce, as architects, ‘we make volume to house program’. I suggest, through naivety, he made a profound and very contemporary statement.

Over the last two years Melburnian’s have witnessed the Opening night of the Ballet on Margaret Court tennis arena, Drive-in movies inside the exhibition hall at the Melbourne Convention Centre and the world Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton, the seat of Australia’s first National Parliament, become a major medical hub for vaccine and COVID testing.

“Volume to house program” seems an accurate, clinical and pertinent statement.

The message is clear, Architecture and the community are resilient.

The NH studio supports the need for all our projects to have many diverse lives over their time and to serve the community. (Public)


The Glyn Davis Building is wheelchair accessible. If you have any questions about your visit don't hesitate to email us at

The University is operating under Victoria's COVIDSafe Settings. All visitors to University of Melbourne campuses, including galleries, must be fully vaccinated (or have a valid exemption). Your vaccination information will be checked prior to entry. Find out more.

This event is part of Melbourne Design Week 2022, an initiative of the Victorian Government in collaboration with the NGV.