21 March 2012

2012 Gold Medal Thank You Speech
Lawrence Nield 

President Brian Zulaikha, Councillors, Colleagues, Friends, Fellow Award Winners, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me acknowledge and recognise the traditional owners of this country-the Kauna people and their elders. The Kauna people, who first lived in this beautiful conjunction of river, plain and mountains, realised the power of country - and the red kangaroo dreaming.

Firstly, and always, I must greatly acknowledge and thank Andrea. She is my wife, my muse, my critic and the greatest of architectural partners. She has introduced practical, unsentimental humanitarian architecture to Australia.

As I have throughout my architectural life I need to thank BlueScope Steel and their predecessors for their support of the architectural profession.

Great! I am surprised and delighted for this very significant honour. I had always expected just to be a foot soldier, with poor computer skills, pushing due planning, design and construction processes. I have never had the rich baritone voice that seems often necessary to achieve such heights!  I dedicate this in the first part to the foot soldiers of the profession and in the second part to all those who I owe so much. I am deeply grateful to the Institute, the President, the selection committee and the profession for 2012 Gold Medal.

I must thank many who have walked with me over 40 years who I owe so much. Again my wife and family - our sons Hunter and Blake gave me love and time.

The great influences on my thinking are four: Lloyd Rees who made architecture at Sydney University a special experience and made me want to go to Venice.  Colin St John (Sandy) Wilson at Cambridge from whom I learnt to understand the power and importance of architecture and Joseph Rykwert from whom I learnt the central significance of history. Above all I was privileged to learn and discuss art, architecture and tennis with Adrian Stokes, critic painter and poet who lived around the corner from me in Hampstead. He was the deepest and most original writer on art and architecture and any insights I have, are built on or are development from his thinking. 

I could not have achieved the many buildings of my life without my partners and the colleague architects I have worked with. I mention particularly the principals of Bligh Voller Nield, James Grose, Bill Dowzer, Sarita Chand, and the late Neil Hanson. I mention especially Graham Bligh who was the enlightened elder. I thank Andrew Cortese and Matthew Bennett and the extraordinary Stella de Vulder; my fellow principals at Lawrence Nield and Partners especial my first partner John Mitchell and of course and again Andrea. John Mainwaring was more than a collaborator on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane. What an architect!   Kerry and Lindsay Clare have been special friends. What architects! I have great gratitude to those colleagues from Lawrence Nield and Partners who continued the journey with me and to my previous colleagues Gary Leahy, Frank Stanisic, Jim Russell, Peter Tonkin and Annabel Lahz. Lawrence Nield and Partners was an important postgraduate school for many. Thank you to Janine LeQuesne who organised and guided my life for so many years. Janine made is easy to be a principal, a professor and a president.

I am specially grateful to David Rolls, who I have worked with over many years and who has given me the opportunity to be involved with the rethinking of an important part of Melbourne in my new guise as Studio Nield. We are still writing a book together!  It was a pleasure to work with Ellie Schwab and Peter Thomas on this project. To Greg Deas who I have worked and debated with at the NCDC and then at Lend Lease and on the Olympic Village in London –thank you.

I’d like to thank my Italians collaborators: Alessandro Costa who worked with me during the Sydney Olympic games and subsequently opened doors in Venezia; also in Venice Jannis and Nicola Xanthakis, Professor Simona Morini at IUAV - the Instituto Universitario di Architetura di Venezia and chef Paola Budel made an incredible meal for Andrea and I’s recent birthday. -Grazie molto!  Grazie - Lucio Cenna of Arteco who were our collaborators on the Venice Stadium.  Especially, I must mention Christos Kourtis and Petros Synadinos from Decathlon who were our partners in Athens. Efcharisto poly!  The Athens Olympic work had the drama of a novel. I hope I have time to write it.  My friends in China at CCDI, the China State Construction Design Institute, who are the best Chinese design institute we have worked with, particularly Zhang Fang and Thomas Yi.  Richard Green and Tristram Carefre must be mentioned among many engineers I have worked with. Richard worked with me on many important buildings particularly the University of the Sunshine Coast Library, my most awarded building. Photographers make architects – John Gollings, Anthony Browell and my old student Brett Boardman have particularly made me.

More recently I have been working here in Adelaide with the City Council on Victoria Square with an excellent team Jason Pruszinski, Jared Barnes and Tim Horton and the Landscape Architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean, which has suffered the dreadful loss of Kevin Taylor. This is a very important scheme for re-balancing central Adelaide. 

During my years as a Professor at Sydney and subsequently I have had many colleagues Jennifer Taylor, Jim Connor, Philip Thalis, Richard Francis Jones (who I started Content with), Alex Popov, Haig and Jackie Cooper,Peter –John Cantrill, Peter Kohane, Swetik Korsenowski, Gevork Hartonian, Xing Ruan and of course the many students who went through a great graduation studio that I ran at University of Sydney. I thank the generally friendly reptiles of the press, the late Rory Spence, Roland Schlicht, Anne Suskind, Peter Hyatt, and very particularly Peter Davey the previous editor of the London Architectural Review. If I have had any international recognition it was due to Peter Davey of the London Architectural Review.

Recently at the University of Newcastle I have found a very convivial environment. It is great working with fellow professors the Clares (Gold Medallists), my old friend Rick Leplastrier (Gold Medallist), Peter Stutchbury, with Dr Michael Chapman and the many excellent people at the school.

There are many of equal importance to me that I have not mentioned and should have been mentioned.

Colleagues!  My profound thanks again for honouring me with the 2012 Gold Medal.

In my short address I want speak about ‘ten tendencies’ in recent architectural work and four central techniques in design. I shall use my own work to illustrate these techniques and processes.