17/06/2021 - 08:00

Moore builds on case for design

17/06/2021 - 08:00

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Almost a year into her posting as the state government architect, Rebecca Moore has already made her mark.

Rebecca Moore was appointed to WA government architect last year. Photo: David Henry

An ability to make courageous career decisions during volatile times has proved rewarding for Rebecca Moore.

The first of these was in 1989, when a recession was not enough to deter the (then) recent University of Western Australia architecture graduate from pursuing her passion for design.

With limited job opportunities for recent graduates in Perth, however, that passion led to what most would consider risky business, chasing down opportunities on the other side of the world, in London, which was equally in the grip of a recession.

But Ms Moore soon found her feet, gaining an eclectic array of work experience that led to another careerdefining moment decades later, when she was named WA government architect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Moore started in the role in September 2020 and is broadly responsible for improving the architectural quality of the state’s public buildings and open spaces.

The position was created in 2003 to provide leadership and independent strategic advice to government, a nod to the previous appointment of principal architect, which was tasked with similar duties between 1891 and 1985.

As the first woman to take the reins of WA’s architectural guidance, Ms Moore inherited a portfolio of projects set to significantly shape the state, including the assessment of Metronet plans.

As part of her remit, Ms Moore also chairs the State Design Review Panel (SDRP), where she oversees the design review of major city-changing projects and significant development proposals, providing advice to government agencies, project proponents and major decisionmakers, including the WA Planning Commission.

Established in 2019, the SDRP is now averaging 12 design reviews a month, with Ms Moore about to hold its 100th review nearly one year into her posting.

Beyond that milestone, Ms Moore has helped fast-track new Metronet stations, while considering the prospective scope of 5,000 hectares of adjacent land for potential housing development and services infrastructure.

The $1.5 billion Perth City Deal is another big-ticket item for Ms Moore, expected to bring a range of community and recreational facilities and infrastructure forward for design review and advice.

In addition, Ms Moore has already assisted in the review of 23 projects collectively worth $2.15 billion, submitted via the new development assessment pathway introduced by the state government in mid-2020 to stimulate economic activity.

Navigating a new role is never easy – especially during this period of increased construction activity – but Ms Moore is firmly set on delivering high standards of architecture.

“Good architecture is not at all subjective,” Mr Moore told Business News.

“Taste is subjective, and fashion is transitional, but the state’s 10 principles of good design, which are now embedded in our planning framework, are an objective assessment of good design.”

Those principles are context and character, functionality, quality, sustainability, private and public amenity, safety and aesthetics.

“Even with aesthetics, the measures of good aesthetics are not limited to style and appearance; they relate to creating a building that is attractive and inviting to visitors,” Ms Moore said.

“Good design can sometimes be vulnerable to high-pressure workloads, tight deadlines and cost efficiencies.

“I want to advocate strongly for maintaining high standards of design wherever possible, to support the sector in championing the long-term benefits of investing in design and investing in design early in project delivery.”

Early start

Ms Moore’s enthusiasm for design has a familial tie with her father, Colin Moore, a prominent WA architect.

The father-daughter duo has collaborated on several mixed-use projects, including a five-townhouse development on Rupert Street in Subiaco, which won an accolade at the 2004 Royal Australian Institute of Architects (WA Chapter) Awards.

“I spent my childhood walking around building sites at weekends with my father and listening to conversations with his friends, who were mostly architects,” Ms Moore said.

“I have always been very interested in the design of our built environment, particularly our homes. “The spaces we inhabit have a way of informing how we behave and feel.”

Growing up in an architect-designed duplex in Shenton Park gave Ms Moore her first taste of how architecture could shape spaces.

Rebecca Moore as an architect student in 1987. Photo: Supplied 

The family home was designed and built by her father and fellow local architect Bob Gare.

“I was aware I lived in a different type of house to many of my friends, but I always thought my house was much nicer, with floor-to-ceiling glass across the width of the house and all rooms looking on to greenery,” she said.

Vocation

In London, Ms Moore secured her first job with an interior design and build company focused on office and bank fit-outs, which included the interior renovation of London’s Le Cordon Bleu Cookery School.

Later, she joined an architectural practice that specialised in office buildings in Beirut.

“[It] was something a bit different and a useful grounding in large-scale commercial work,” she said.

Ms Moore also studied at the Bartlett School of the Built Environment at University College London and completed a graduate diploma in construction economics and management.

“This gave me an understanding of different models of large project procurement and risk allocation in the construction industry, which has become useful in various roles since, especially when dealing with large infrastructure projects such as Metronet,” she said.

On home ground, Ms Moore has worked with Perth-based Brian Klopper Architect, with projects including the Henry Street warehouse conversion, and heritage restoration work at St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls.

Mr Klopper’s belief in collaboration at all levels of a project has stuck with Ms Moore

“Collaboration is [a] priority focus for me, particularly between architects and planners,” she said.

“Buildings don’t exist in isolation. They exist in a current or planned context and it’s important to work together to create great, liveable cities that are functional and attract people to live, work and play.”

Ms Moore has held key roles within the Australian Institute of Architects, was an examiner with the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia, and more recently, a nationally accredited mediator and long-standing member of the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT).

A near-decade at the SAT laid the foundations for decision-making in planning appeals and mediation across complex development projects. “It was a big decision to give up my dream job as a member of SAT,” Ms Moore said.

“But when I saw the advertisement for the role of government architect, it made me think that I could use my architecture, planning, construction and heritage expertise in a more strategic way.”

Plan

Leveraging her multi-disciplinary background, Ms Moore’s main focus for this year is refining the state’s design review process by drawing on recent SDRP experiences with the significant development pathway.

That includes considering different contexts for regional towns and cities when providing design advice.

“It is important our design review processes have the flexibility to adjust for the variances in geographic and environmental circumstances across the state,” she said. Longer term, driving collaboration between architects and planners, and pushing a more strategic design approach are top of mind for Ms Moore.

“Overall, my plan is to deliver built environments that give Western Australians a sense of identity, belonging and shared heritage without compromising on functionality, sustainability and aesthetics,” she said.

“In terms of strategy, I am working to bring design into the planning process as early as possible, even at expressions of interest and procurement stages.

“I really think good design is as much about the design process as it is about the outcome in built form, so the earlier design can be factored into project discussions, I think, the better.”

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