July 2015

Have a quick look at the little house we've done up on the Southern Downs. 9.5 BERS stars, low budget, self sufficient for energy and water, and a wonderful place to sit and be absorbed into the beautiful country that it has the privilege to rest in.

The core of the design project was the deep questioning and re-direction of needs and wants.

The local builders from Warwick, Roulston Builders, were professional, honest, friendly, efficient and an absolute joy to work with. Local building designer Ian Druitt prepared the building approval documents which, along some detail drawing from us, formed the construction contract documents. Thanks!

April 2014

Jim has been appointed Deputy Chair of the Toowoomba Regional Council's Urban Design and Placemaking Panel. This is an honour given the membership of the Panel.

The Panel wants to do more than these type of bodies usually do. The intent is to be pro-active, to catalyse and initiate ideas and projects rather than only critique and review proposals.

The other key intention is to explain the value of good design to the public and get people involved in design.  This is easier said than done, but we have begun with a series of public presentations and discussions where "designerspeak" will not be allowed. Having people understand what design really is and how it can make their lives better in simple and logical ways, is a foundation to improving the design of the whole place because it impacts on what is demanded from developers and government. The panel can make a start on, what will be, an ongoing process of building a culture of good design.

The Panel has recognised that its responsibility is not just to Toowoomba but to the Regional and its Townships. Its easy to focus on the big,"sexy" bits of the city but many of the economic and social opportuinites lie in the region: its soils, its food, its landscapes, its self-reliant and resilient communities. The panel has some resources to do catalyst projects -"Urban Interventions". These will focus on the regional towns with Pittsworth (for a number of reasons) selected as a Case Study".

These projects have to lead to something permanent and to places and processes that the community value. That is, they can't be one-off events that don't generate an ongoing legacy -that would be a waste of time and money. With all that in mind work is started on selecting a need, a location and a project in Pittsworth. It will then be a matter of designing a place as it might end up and designing the initial event that will get the ball rolling (so to speak). Tied to that place and event will be establishment of a process of thinking about the long-term future(s): considering climate, economic and social contexts and peoples' visions and aspirations.

The Panel will also work with QUT Architecture nstudents and staff to develop better low/medium density housing models. This will be a part of a push to improve the design of residential development in the city. This harks back to the need to build a culture that values and demands good design. Again, a beginning of a long process.

October 2013

The Sea Level Rise Summit and Subtropical Cities Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were both an eye opener and a confirmation.

The eye opener was the high level of interest and concern about climate change and its vast consequences. In "the American way", there is a strong sense of challenge and the need for action. This is unlike the back-turning refusal, "inverted snobbery" and cynicism to be experienced in Queensland and Australia. To be sure, they are in bigger trouble (the Everglades and South Florida is an inescapable fix -the land is sinking and the sea is rising) and have left it too late, but there is political power flowing to those that have been pushing for an adequate and thoughtful response.

Have a look at the work of Waggonner and Ball Architects in New Orleans. They are one demonstration that, not only can climate change responses catalyse better cities, places and lives, but that architects are essential as those who can propose viable answers to the complex, relational problems through design.

The confirmation was that the government people, engineers and scientists at the Sea Level Rise Summit saw the difficulty in making progress through analysis of single, isolated aspects of the problem. Capturing, pumping and purifying water might be one answer for South Florida, but what about the energy needed for that: costs might be a small fraction of the present local economy but can that economy survive sea level rise and the unsettlement and disturbance that will generate. Modelling of road networks for escape from catastrophic events might be in place, but what impacts might the cost and availability of oil have and what if people don't behave rationally?

During the Summit and Conference South Florida experienced the highest tides ever recorded. Their historic first house was nearly flooded. Land and streets around the Fort Lauderdale were flooded. This made sea level rise a highly visible and immediate concern, just as Sandy put climate change back into peoples' minds nationally and globally.

Ironically, but also perfectly in line with natural systems, the last place settled will be the first abandoned. Fort Lauderdale is new and escapist. It is a haven for unsettled people from The Caribbean, South America and cold Northern USA. Moving out of South Florida will not just be the problem of South Floridians but a problem for the places they retreat to and a global problem.

Professor Tony Fry (Griffith University) and myself ran a one day workshop obstensively addressing these issues and looking at/for possibilities for the future of South Florida: What must be done now?: How will a myriad of issues of oil cost, loss of arable land, global population movements (climate refugees), conflicts over resources and space, etc. interact with climate change impacts? Proposals were valuable, but demonstration of the power of design as a social process, instigation of a concerned group/network and the realisation of the problem as a cultural one, were the most valuable outcomes.

Keep an eye on events in South Florida.

January 2013

Jim has taken up a position of Professor of Design (fractional) in the School of Design, faculty of Creative Industries, at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). The teaching and research work involved in this runs along side and connects with, design practice in gall architects.

The teaching work is at Masters level with an initial project aimed at teaching students to see, learn and think more broadly -beyong the technical education/training thay have received. The project uses the relational review and re-understanding of home and housing as a way into the redesign of urban structures, streets and cities so they can be sustaionable and sustaining.

A research project is in early stages. The very broad idea is to redesign the town of Charleville in response the climate change (problems and opportunites) and to give it a sustainable and sustaining (biophysically, socially, economically, culturally and experientially) future. Part of this is to demonstrate that design is research and an important community process.

30 November 2012

The last 18 months have gone quickly. There was a lot to do. So with some work completed and some well under way ... the web site at last.

30 August 2012

Jim and Nora Kinnunen presented at the Nordic International Climate Change Adaptation Conference in Helsinki. This was done under the move design banner, a vehicle for exploring sustainable and sustaining design thinking at a strategic and cultural/social level with actions at global, regional, catchment and city scales.

The paper presented the design approach to adapting and moving cites and people, used for the Boonah 2 and Gold Coast 2 projects.

While it was a long way to go to present a talk, it was well received: it highlighted the problems and limitations of the dominant scientific/technological way of thinking and lead to the initiation of links with the architecture school at Aalto University.

April 2011

gall architects builds on and extends Jim Gall's work at Gall & Medek Architects.