Skip to main content

The global pandemic of 2020 has drastically changed the ways we work. As initial restrictions on travel and mass-gatherings were renegotiated and intensified, we were forced to confront who we are, what we do and how we do it.


A new lexicon of labour quickly emerged—”essential” and “frontline” workers, “contact tracers”, job “keepers” and “seekers”— reflecting the various ways in which our society, and the role of work within it, was being reorganised in front of our very eyes. The actual virus aside, one of the key features of this reorganisation has been an amplification of the underlying conditions that already structured and stabilised our society. As a bulwark against a world in apparent freefall, our attention swung toward hyper-local, stabilizing procedures: we have moved back in with our parents; we have reorganised and redecorated our homes; we have stockpiled food; we have cooked more than we used to; we have paid closer attention to the news. We have—appropriately—hunkered down. What we have not done, however, is start a revolution. We have not fully seized the opportunity of this reorganisation to, for instance, more evenly distribute the wealth of our nation; attend to our environmental crisis; or step beyond BLM protests into enduring, material change. We have not yet leveraged the radical nature of the situation. We have not refused. We have not challenged. We have been (mostly) compliant.
And for good reason. Early projections of what the virus would do to us—individually and collectively—were frightening. We rightly gave over to the knowledge and expertise of public health officials and researchers who articulated the nature and extent of the measures we needed to adopt. In this way, a revolution of sorts was already underway:  previously unimaginable political acts—particularly from a conservative government—were put into play at lightning speed. Free childcare? Social welfare payments doubled? Almost everyone working from home? Pubs closed?! No sport?! Now, as things begin to habituate into a fragile and provisional “new normal”, perhaps this is a moment to both lean forward and stand back : to more actively interrogate where these recalibrations could take us.

A way forward, we propose, might be to reconsider the notion of radicality, the double-meaning of which suggests both a ‘return to the root’, or a swing back to the deeper origins of things, as well as a process of reform ‘from the roots up’. Being in this sense both diagnostic and prescriptive, radicality involves fundamentally rethinking the ways in which we work; not necessarily in order for us to become more productive, or more efficient, nor to return to some mythical ‘origin’, but to clarify the values, relationships and objectives—the root causes—that might affirmatively reshape work into the future.

Event Streams

Semester 2, 2020 becomes the first ‘Thematic Semester’ for UoN Architecture, where a specific enquiry shapes questions tackled across design studios and other courses in our programs – connecting us, our cohorts and directing our energy. Our leap into a thematic structure is in part a recognition of the fact that 2020— across drought, bushfires, covid-19 and Black Lives Matter—has called out for collective work, as the platitude “we are all in this together” so frequently reminded us. In an attempt to process what has just happened and where we can go with it, as well as to rebuild a sense of community in our school as we continue to broadcast from a sparsely populated campus, we plan to prototype a new Thematic Semester initiative: Radical Work. 

Niiarrnumber Burrai (Our Country)

This stream aims to address the question of how Allies might do the work of reconciliation without slipping into paternalism ...
Go to Stream

Thinking Rooms

Thinking Rooms are workshops focused on ways of working through, situating, critiquing, and conceptualising projects. They aim to create a ...
Go to Stream

‘Real’ Work..?

‘Real’ Work…?  is a play on the assumptions of how we practice architecture – as an individual master designer working ...
Go to Stream

Radical Domesticities

Radical Domesticities explores how architecture pertains to what we might refer to as ‘the political’: the broad social and economic conditions that inform how architecture is produced and occupied over time. Wealth ...
Go to Stream

Creative Practice Research

This stream is dedicated to the many facets and issues pertaining to research through creative practice. [delete line break] Guests ...
Go to Stream

Critical Histories of Australian Architecture

As part of the 2020 Thematic Semester, Radical Work, all SABE students are invited to join a curated fortnightly lecture series exploring critical histories ...
Go to Stream

Semester 2 Studios and Courses


Design Studio 2 offers first year students opportunities to develop a grounded design fluency and adaptive agility. The course has been designed for the challenges of a COVID-responsive world, and explores the Semester Thematic – Radical Work – through both grounding (radicality as going back to the ‘root’) and the effort (work) required in order to learn. The studio program propels students through a series radically adaptive design exercises, or weekly mini-projects. A focus on the ‘adaptive’ is about taking something given, or at hand, and adapting it to a situation, even as that situation changes. The studio is emphatically anti-tabula-rasa – proposing that there is never a ‘clean slate’ upon which a designer impresses their ideas.

Course Coordinator: Prof. Pia Ednie-Brown

Surface Tension

Assuming the conceptual role of the ‘digital flaneur’, students will actively discover and explore a variety of ‘surface’ qualities of the Callaghan Campus. The theme––Surface––questions the dynamic and transformative aspects of surfaces, prompting the exploration of expected and unexpected design outcomes through various techniques of data collection and analysis.

This studio questions received notions of architectural practice: how we view public space through the lens of technology as operational definitions to interrogate, explore and outline radical propositions.

Course Coordinator: Dr Nic Foulcher

A City within the City

Design Studio 6 presents students, organised as small architectural firms, with the problem of designing a city for 6,000 people on a former industrial site on Newcastle’s urban periphery. It frames this task as an opportunity to propose ‘a city within the city’; an alternative community located within, yet operating independently of, its surrounding urban context. Course materials explore the nature of the distinction between private and public, and their spatial correlates (the individual dwelling and the city), in order to rethink architecture’s capacity to affect change at an urban scale. Fundamental to these explorations is the idea of domesticity, understood in terms of political economy. How do the ways in which we live produce and reproduce a wider social order? What role does the individual household play as an administrative device within our socio-economic and political structures? How can the domestic serve as the site for an affirmative politics; for a more evenly distributed and care-ful future?

Course Coordinator: Dr Jasper Ludewig

Common Ground

Design Studio (4th Year) is structured into a number of tutor-led themes and will explore complex issues associated with architecture’s agency in the social, economic and ideological conditions we face. The studio will explore the overall theme of ‘Radical Work’ by re-viewing the typology of the campus (Callaghan) and exploring its alternatives. A key focus of the studio is about learning to care about our impact on the world through design – how do we establish common ground?

Course Coordinator: Emma Wood

Team 10: Final Design Thesis Project

Studio 10 is intimately connected with the Thematic semester. The polyphony of voices will help to articulate 5th year students’ research challenges and designs, throughout “critically” and “radically” revisit their research, to make them work.

The way the semester is organised is a collective construction: workshops, organised with 4th year, where the Visiting “voices” are invited; followed by workshops, conducted and peer-reviewed by students every other week, and focus on helping each other and work collectively and collaboratively.

Course Coordinator: Dr Irene Perez-Lopez

Architectural Practice

In the context of today, it is critical to ask who we are, why do we do what we do, and how do we do it? – as individuals and as a collective profession.

Architectural Practice will explore the thematic of “Radical Work” through a series of case studies, workshops and symposia. We will stand back and re-view the value of practice and the role professionals play in shaping our environment. What does it mean to be ‘radical’ and why the urgency?

Course Coordinators: Emma Wood & A/Prof Sam Spurr

History Theory 1

The word ‘radical’ derives from the Latin radic, meaning ‘root’, and it is a root structure that inspires our approach to History + Theory in the Built Environment 1. In their 1980 work A Thousand Plateaus, the philosophical duo Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari presented ‘the rhizome’. Drawn from biological concepts of the radicle-systems and fascicular roots, they propose ‘the rhizome’ as a new system of valuing knowledge, as an alternative to the largely entrenched dichotomous and hierarchical nature of science and ‘objectivity’. In summary, the rhizome values multiplicity and pluralism.

This philosophy is the approach to history that we will take in History + Theory 1.

Course Coordinator: Dr Sarah Josefiak

History Theory 2

In this course, students will explore the relationship between the architectural culture of the twentieth century and the extra-architectural concept of ‘modernity’. The Thematic Semester provides a unique opportunity to recast the history of architecture’s modernity in terms of a more general history of the transformation of labour (or work) under modern conditions: from the institutionalisation of the profession itself at the dawn of the twentieth century; through the mechanisation of labour and life that characterised that century’s development; to the global infrastructures and information networks that facilitated work at its close.

Course Coordinator: Dr Jasper Ludewig

PhD Research Strategies

Creative Practice research can be understood in relation to ‘radicality’ in the terms defined in the Thematic overview statement: a “rethinking of the ways in which we work  to clarify the values, relationships and objectives—the root causes—that might affirmatively reshape work into the future.”

All research is fundamentally creative, but creative practice research critically re-emphasises this, and calls for a rethinking and reframing of conventional research assumptions; it actively reshapes the conventions of research as work.

Research Strategies support for PhD candidates occurs through workshops, gatherings and events in which strategies for researching through creative practices are discussed and developed. 

Link to July 2020 PhD Cohort Event Page

Chair, Creative Practice Research: Prof Pia Ednie-Brown

Electives: Intensive Architecture Studio Projects

Architecture Studio Project courses are amazing opportunities for students to complete coursework, while engaging with different cultures and communities, and other forms of practice, through an immersive architectural experience. We’ve been running these courses since 2016, and students have travelled to many parts of the world, engaging with different cultures, while using their knowledge and skills to contribute to some very real and important projects. Students find these courses rewarding experiences, life affirming and sometimes life changing.


Course Coordinator: Dr Chris Tucker