Architectural Blatherations

RMIT University School of Architecture writes to Us

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The Good Oil

We received this email from Mr Brent Allpress, a senior lecturer at RMIT University, in response to our comments on his school. He makes some important points. We have responded to them here.

The email is complete and unabridged, retaining the original spelling and orthography. Mr Allpress does seem to have some innovative notions about English composition (or maybe his shift-key is broken). If his writing is typical of the standard that academics such as himself expect of students at the school of architecture at RMIT, then we suggest that those hapless souls be given a short course or two in standard English before they are let loose into the workforce. We don't want RMIT's students looking like halfwits, do we?

Naturally, we try to verify email so far as we can. This one was sent from the server (, an address registered to RMIT University (technical contact Mark Scolyer) according to apnic. We are fairly confident that it is genuine.

Mr Brent Allpress' email

dear Garry,

re: comments about the RMIT School of Architecture and Design website.

it would be fair to say that there are some issues in this school regarding communication, identity and leadership.

a key point that your survey overlooks however is that you are conflating multi-discipline schools with single discipline architecture schools which are increasingly a rarity. a great many architecture departments and schools in australia have been subsumed within larger multi-discipline structures.

this is the case at rmit. we used to have a department of architecture. this was subsumed 7 years ago by the school of architecture and design which includes five seperate (sic) and autonomous disciplinary programs: architecture, interior design, industrial design, landscape architecture and fashion! along with quasi-autonomous research centres: the spatial information architecture laboratory, (multidisciplinary grant and postgrad research group but largely architecture focused), a fashion textiles research centre and the centre for design, a sustainability cluster. the urban architecture laboratory is a grant and postgrad research cluster within the program of architecture.

in short:

the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT is not a "School of Architecture."

the equivalent disciplinary unit to a School of Architecture at RMIT is the RMIT Architecture Program.

Harriet Edquist is not the Head of Architecture. I was for the past 3 years. Harriet Edquist is not the Professor of Architecture, Prof. Leon van Schaik is.

the home page for the discipline of architecture is not:

it is:

having said that, the critique of the website, which is controlled by the School still largely holds. we are working on it.

the Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia has had to rewrite their membership rules to ensure that the head of the disciline of architecture attends as a voting member, rather than a line managerial executive head of a multidiscipline school who is more often than not from an unrelated discipline.

if you were to break down your survey to focus on architecture discipline units and not multi-discipline units your comparisons would have far greater relevance. as it stands your survey title: "rating australia's architecture schools" is a misnomer.

it would be more accurate and useful to retitle the survey: "rating australia's architecture schools and programs," and undertake a more selective audit accordingly.

this issue is a significant one for professional disciplines which are subjected to centralising economies, efficiencies, and in australia, substantial cross-subsidising pressures. often undergraduate international architecture students prop up multi-discipline schools with research largely undertaken by non-architecture staff in research centres.

many multi-discipline architecture schools in australia have research centres that have no real affiliation with the discipline or profession of architecture. grant research is often in building science or other adjacent feilds, not in the professional discipline of architecture and rarely ever in design.

within the rmit architecture program, the dominant model for research is project-based design research. specialist architectural research is also undertaken by sial and the ual.

spatial information architecture laboratory
digital design research
urban architecture laboratory
urban architectural design research

The RMIT Architecture program is the only architecture discipline in the country invited by DEST to participate in a pilot research quality audit, to develop models for measuring research quality not quantity, cf current uk and nz models.

citation indices are largely an inadequate measure of research quality in design disciplines.

in the pilot quality, community impact and capability building are the nominated key criteria, submitted to peer review panels.

your criteria remain interesting, but your survey would greatly benefit from a more accurate, selective and careful methodology that identfies the primary architecture discipline unit and doesnt compare apples with fruit salads.

brent allpress
Brent Allpress
RMIT Architecture Research Director
Melbourne, Victoria
p: (03) 9925-1880
f : (03) 9925-3507