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Professor Steffen Lehmann

Professor of Sustainable Architecture

Steffen Lehmann
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Biography

Dr-Ing (TU-Berlin), AA Diploma (AA School London), Dipl Des (Univ ApplSc Mainz), RIBA, RAIA, AoU 

I am an Australian-German senior researcher, urbanist, strategic leader, author and educator. 

I am Professor of Sustainable Architecture and lead the research theme 'Sustainable Cities' in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, and across all faculties at the University of Portsmouth. 

I was a tenured Full Chair Professor in Australia for 14 years (since Dec. 2002), and now I am a tenured Full Professor in the UK (since Jan. 2016). 

I am Founding Director of the Cluster for Sustainable Cities, a University-wide cross-Faculty research concentration that brings together a group of over 38 researchers and key industry partners with an interest in resilient urban futures. 

Urbanisation is one of the defining processes of contemporary times. Our understanding of the urban, whether in theory or in practice, has reached a turning point, with cities across the world facing new, complex and challenging conditions that require resilience to the impacts of environmental change and adaptation to social change. It's time to rethink cities for the age of global warming. 

However, the complex challenges posed by urbanisation and development cannot be solved by one discipline in isolation. This is why I established the interdisciplinary Innovation Cluster that brings together key experts from a wide range of disciplines.

With my own practice, I am currently working on innovative low-carbon housing projects in Berlin and Stuttgart (Germany), and in Australia.

My motto: "Stay focused, hungry and resilient!"

 

Research 

I have a particular research interest in urban systems including the future of the public realm and the architecture of the city in Western and non-Western (Asian and Brazilian) contexts. 

In January 2016 I established the interdisciplinary Research Cluster for Sustainable Cities at the University of Portsmouth.  As an internationally recognised academic leader with a global network that extends beyond the discipline of architecture, I am currently engaged in large strategic multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research projects.  

Over the last 15 years as Full Professor, I have held a range of senior leadership positions, ranging from Head of School to Head of Discipline and Director of impactful research centres. I have been in research intensive positions for the past decade. During this time I have had significant responsibility in creating and leading new urban research formations, generating a large publication and granting output and a continuous stream of successful research students.

At the University of Portsmouth I am a Senior Research Professor. I was previously a tenured Chair Professor of Sustainable Design at the University of South Australia, where I was also founding director of two highly successful research centres. 

My research is concerned with the development of a theoretical approach to sustainable cities and architecture, examining our increasingly complex relationship with nature and place. I am regularly solicited as an independent expert on sustainable urban development and architectural design issues. 

My research interests span architecture, urban design and sustainability with a strong focus on improving the environmental performance of buildings and neighbourhoods by introducing the concept of 'integrated urban climate resilience'. The main focus of my work over the past 25 years concerns urbanisation and the integration of low-carbon technologies into the societal/behavioural context. Current research includes the emerging field of low-carbon neighbourhood design combining strategies of passive and active building performance, the adaptation of communities for climate change, and the changing social structures in cities.  I focus on solutions for a low carbon society, resilient urban development and technologies to further optimise the resource-efficiency of cities.

I believe architects and urbanists have a crucial role to play in developing strategies and adaptation solutions to ensure our cities are resilient, resource-efficient and more sustainable in the face of intensifying global warming.  One of the key questions I am trying to answer is: How can design thinking and behaviour change accelerate the move towards a sustainable society?  

The fruits of my research are prodigious, including 18 books, numerous articles and conference papers (over 250+), over 50 invited book chapters, encyclopaedia entries, online podcasts and contributions to significant UN reports. For the last 9 years, I have been advising the United Nations' UN-ESCAP and UNESCO organisations on urbanisation models and 'The New Urban Agenda'. In 2008, based on the international significance of my work, I was appointed the inaugural Chairholder of the prestigious UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Urban Development for Asia and the Pacific (2008-2010). 

In 2009, I was DAAD-Professor at the Technical University of Munich, Faculty of Architecture. 

Visiting professorial positions at leading universities:

  • Arts Academy Berlin-Weissensee (1997-98)
  • Tongji University, Shanghai (2003)
  • Technical University of Berlin (2005)
  • National University of Singapore (2009)
  • Technical University of Munich (2009)
  • University of California at Berkeley (2012)
  • Tianjin University, China (2014)
  • UTS Sydney Institute for Sustainable Futures (2016-18)
  • ANU Ahmedabad, India (2017-18)

From 2016 to 2018, I hold an Honorary appointment with the Institute for Sustainable Futures, at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). 

I am currently an editorial board member for five international scientific journals and editor of the Routledge book series for Sustainable Design. 

I have an international outlook and extensive experience as a senior academic and practitioner in Europe and Asia, particularly in China. In April 2014, I organised and led the high-profile international group mission and research symposium ‘Sustainable Urbanisation in China’ at Tianjin University (funded by the China-Australia Council). 

Qualifications 

From 1983 to 1988, I completed 5 years full-time Masters' studies at the University of Applied Sciences, Mainz (Germany). Following this, I completed postgraduate studied at the Architectural Association School in London in the 1980s (AA Diploma 1991), and completed a PhD (Dr.-Ing. 2003) in Architecture and Urbanism at the Technical University of Berlin. 

 

Leadership in architectural practice and professional credentials

I have a long and distinguished career as a practising architect and urban designer - with a strong track record as an award-winning practising architect, educator and policy adviser - and I like to combine practice with research and teaching. Industry collaboration is one of my strengths and I have been leading numerous outreach initiatives to practitioners, policy makers, municipalties, business and citizens. Since 1988, I have been an architect in professional practice and registered as chartered architect since 1993. 

As a young architect and urban designer I first worked with visionary architects Arata Isozaki in Tokyo and Jim Stirling in London, before establishing my own architectural practice (the s_Lab, Steffen Lehmann Architekten Berlin) in 1993 in Berlin. With my own studio I was actively involved for over 10 years (1993-2003) in the architectural creation of the `New Berlin'. 

When I was 30 years old I established my own business and architectural practice in Berlin:

  • Steffen Lehmann Architekten GmbH - the commercial arm for building projects; and 
  • s_Lab Space Laboratory for Architectural Research and Design - to research, teach and work with artists.  

In Berlin and throughout my career, I was privileged to work on numerous high profile projects: I designed and built significant large-scale (public and private) projects in historically important places, such as at Potsdamer Platz and at Hackescher Markt in Berlin, generating lasting public value for cities and high-profile clients.

The s_Lab in Berlin, which I led as Principal and Founding Director for over a decade, was an interdisciplinary studio employing around 20-25 staff, based on the belief that architecture can deliver important innovations. In the 1990s, the s_Lab was an adventurous team of fearless architectural designers, architects, researchers, urban planners, digital craftspeople, urban ecologists and model-makers, delivering a construction budget of over $900mill in 20 projects. 

With the s_Lab, I led project partnerships with architects Arata Isozaki and Christian de Portzamparc for the design and delivery of significant large-scale buildings, such as the French Embassy as 'Generalplaner'. 

I built for over 30 clients, including notable institutions such as the Bundesverband Deutscher Banken, the Auswaertige Amt (German Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Deutsche Bahn AG, the Berliner Volksbank, Daimler Immobilien - and numerous others we have represented - with entities as diverse as the Senate of Berlin, the Republique de France, Manhattan Loft Corp, URA Singapore and the City of Sydney. 

Buildings, places and neighbourhoods are always designed in team work. They need to be enjoyable, resource-efficient and work well over time. This means that they have lasting qualities and make a positive contribution to their context and user-experience. Each of my projects begins with a clear strategy and evolves from there, it never begins with a pre-conceived design solution. 

Over the last 25 years, I have presented projects to heads of state and heads of corporations, with international bankers and small-town advisors, with bureaucratic prime bodies like the Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (German Workers Union) and autocratic empire builders in Asia and the Middle East.  

Since then, I have been invited to advise numerous cities and teach at many different universities around the world. I have been a Visiting Professor at: the University of California at Berkeley, TU-Munich (as DAAD Professor), TU-Berlin, the National University of Singapore, Tongji and Tianjin University and other prestigious institutions in Europe, the USA, Singapore, India and China. 

My work has been exhibited at important international venues, including Venice Architecture Biennale, Aedes Gallery, Deutsches Architektur-Museum, the Bauhaus and at the Architectural Association. 

In my free time I enjoy running with my cocker spaniel ‘Mawson’ along the Southsea waterfront. 

Memberships

  • Member, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
  • Member, Bund Deutscher Architekten, Berlin (BDA)
  • Member, Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA)
  • Member, Academy of Urbanism, UK (AoU) 

 

PhD Supervision: I have successfully supervised a variety of interdisciplinary PhD studies as Primary Supervisor (since 2003) in the field of sustainable architecture, urbanism, design theory and socio-technical change. I have been Primary Supervisor of over 12 PhD students and 3 Postdoctoral Fellows. 

I am happy to discuss proposals with potential PhD candidates that connect to my field and are interested in exploring open-ended questions. PhD students will have the freedom to strategically 'design' their own research, and to 'research' in design. PhD students will form a critical opinion and continually reframe the question of our urban futures and how the professions might evolve.

"I am passionate about the possible urban futures of our cities and our capacity to rethink urbanism to enable principles of social and environmental sustainability. That passion extends into my research, teaching and collaborative practice."                                                     -- Steffen Lehmann, 2017 

 

Research Interests

The Cluster for Sustainable Cities is developing a trans-disciplinary approach to up-scaling urban innovation for low-carbon living, working and mobility. I am excited about our research leading to innovation and new critical thinking about our urban futures. 

My own research interests are in the following intertwined areas: 'The City as Laboratory' 

  • Resilient urbanisation for low-carbon compact cities and coastal resilience 
  • Green urbanism theory - visionary scenarios for the City of the Future
  • Urban culture and new programmes for age-friendly public space
  • Urban architecture and its relationship to the contemporary city 
  • Sustainable architecture and smart high-performance buildings
  • Climate-responsive design and technology integration - Green Campus design
  • History and theory of cities, urban renewal and cultural heritage
  • Optimisation of urban density and compactness: greening cities and health
  • Architectural responses to urban heat stress and sea-level rise
  • Ideas-driven concepts for the resource-efficient city: eg. infill using modular off-site manufacturing 
  • Social sustainability of urban regeneration and adaptive reuse 
  • Innovating cities and neighbourhoods for sustainability and resilience 
  • Fast growing cities in the Asia-Pacific region.

In my research I aim to focus on practical application to enhance the conditions for urban design strategies and decision-making under uncertainty; combining ongoing research into sustainable design, construction methods and end-user driven system integration.

I am committed to the efficient use of land, compactness, polycentrism, high-quality public space, mixed uses and appropriate density, through urban infill or regeneration strategies to trigger economies of scale and enhance resource efficiency.  The Cluster is particularly interested in the relationship between architectural form and performance; and in developing low-impact and low-energy construction systems and solutions across the entire project life cycle. 

My own track record of publications shows sustained scholarly contributions and advancement of knowledge in the relatively young research field of Sustainable Urbanism. Given the significant leadership roles I have held over the last 15 years, I have a high number of academic publications, with a steep increase since 2010.  

My publications appeared in high-ranking international journals, such as:

Journal of Sustainability; Journal of Sustainable Development; International Journal of Logistics Systems and Management; Greenbuilding; Singapore Architect; Domus; Bauwelt; Challenges; Habitat International; Next American City; Stadt:Pilot; Journal of Green Building; Journal of City, Culture & Society; Journal of Cleaner Production; Journal of Sustainable Cities & Society; International Journal of Development and Sustainability; Journal of Urban and Environmental Engineering; The Fifth Estate, Science for Environment Policy; Supply Chain Management: An International Journal; International Journal of Logistics Systems and Management; Landscape Architecture Frontiers; International Journal of Waste Resources; Cleantech; City Economics Wirtschaft Stadtentwicklung; The Conversation; The Adelaide Review; ArchitectureAU; Eco-Business; InDesign; Timber+Design International; Sustainable Development, Law & Policy; Keio SFC Journal; Waste Management & Research; Business Magazine; Building Design BD-Online; and others.

Some of my articles have become the most downloaded or most cited article of the journal. 

My book publications are with major international publishers, including: Springer, Routledge, Elsevier, Hatje Cantz, Jovis Berlin and RIBA Publishing. My Routledge (London/New York) Book Series can be found here: www.routledge.com/series/EARTHSD 

Some of my books can be seen here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Steffen-Lehmann/e/B0034PYAVS 

In 2010, I published the authored book 'The Principles of Green Urbanism' (Earthscan for Routledge, 2010; English and Chinese editions; 910 pages), which underpinned my role as an acknowledged pioneer of Sustainable Cities research. In the late 1990s I developed the concept of Green Urbanism, and my seminal authored book ‘The Principles of Green Urbanism’ offered a new understanding of urban development and strategies of regeneration. This significant publication is used as a course book worldwide and has inspired new thinking that is now the foundation of many city plans around the world. 

My most recently published book 'Growing Compact. Urban Form, Density and Sustainability' (Routledge, with Bay JHP) was launched in July 2017 and contributes new knowledge in the complicated field of urban density.  

My forthcoming book is: 'Urban Manifesto: Regenerating UK Cities' (RIBA Publishing, 2018).

My Google Scholar h-Index is 17, see my profile here: http://scholar.google.co.uk/ 

Research impact and public debate

My multidisciplinary research has had significant impact (reach and significance) by influencing practice, leading to new thinking and improving urban policies. Some of my publications have become a point of reference for practice and I have been presenting my work publicly at over 450 conferences and symposia in 40 countries. 

Public speaking and keynote lectures

I am frequently invited as keynote speaker at important conferences and deliver lectures in the UK and abroad as an independent expert on sustainable urban development and architectural design issues. 

I have delivered over 80 invited keynote addresses and videos of my TEDx presentation, UN-HABITAT Urban Lecture, Venice Architecture Biennale lecture and other key presentations are online. See, for instance: https://unhabitat.org/steffen-lehmann-transforming-the-city-towards-low-carbon-resilience/

I have lectured at the top architecture and design schools in the world, including lectures at:

  • Architectural Association School of Architecture – United Kingdom
  • Delft University of Technology – Netherlands
  • University of California, Berkeley – United States
  • Harvard University – United States
  • University of Oxford – United Kingdom
  • National University of Singapore – Singapore
  • Tsinghua University and Tongji University – China
  • Hong Kong Polytechnic University – SAR Hong Kong
  • Polytechnic University of Milan – Italy
  • Technical University Munich – Germany
  • Technical University Berlin – Germany
  • The University of Sydney and University of New South Wales – Australia
  • The University of Melbourne – Australia
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology ­­– Sweden
  • Technical University Vienna – Austria 

I have been advising over a dozen cities on sustainable urban development and architecture, including Berlin, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Abu Dhabi, Ho-Chi-Minh City, Oslo and Helsinki.

The impact of my research work is tangible in

  • influencing decision-making, public policy and improving outcomes, 
  • public sector and industry collaboration: uptake of the developed concepts, 
  • improving the efficiency of urban practice and technologies,
  • stimulating and leading public debate, engaging citizens with research and collaboration,
  • making research outcomes accessible for users to adopt, 
  • identifying pathways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and 
  • enhancing understanding of sustainable growth. 

By invitation, I am advising the Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership on "Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies" (which is taking the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda to the next level), including contributions to the formulation of new policies, forthcoming high-level guidance for decision makers and key reports.  

Research leadership and grants obtained

Having been Founding Director of 3 successful research centres, and I lead large multi-disciplinary research teams and projects, for which I provide mentoring, coaching support and team building. 

  • Inaugural Chairholder, UNESCO Chair for Sustainable Urban Development for Asia and the Pacific (2008-10) 
  • Founding Director, Centre for Sustainable Design and Behaviour, UniSA (2010-14) 
  • Executive Director, China-Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development, UniSA (2010-14)
  • Founding Director, Innovation Cluster for Sustainable Cities, University of Portsmouth (2016- to date)

I was Principal and Co-Investigator of numerous internally and externally funded projects. I have 30 years' experience of building, developing and sustaining relationships and partnerships with key stakeholders and industry.  In 2012, I was awarded as Principle Investigator for a large grant ($1.5m) under the CRC-LCL programme for the collaborative research on ‘Urban Micro-Climates Research: Comparative Study of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide’, which included over 20 project partners. 

I have been recipient of a series of research grants totalling over $5 million (a well-balanced mix of large and small grants) funded by a range of bodies, including:

Innovate-UK; The Australian Research Council (ARC: Discovery Grant); Arts NSW; various grants from the cities of Berlin, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Unley City and Newcastle City; grants from the governments of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia; the CRC for Low Carbon Living; the Forest and Wood Products Association (FWPA); Zero Waste SA; Renewal SA; Newcastle Alliance; Newcastle Port Corporation; Brisbane Southbank Corporation; Nursery & Garden Industry Australia; the German DAAD; Suters; GHD; MA Systems & Control; Innovate-UK; BlueScope Steel; Hassell; Siemens; the Research Grants Council in Hong Kong; the Australia-China Council and the Australia-China Science and Research Fund. In 2010-11, I initiated and delivered the ‘Hub-2-Hub’ project, which was commissioned and funded by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for activation of the Bras Basah-Bugis arts district, Singapore. 

In 2011-12, I played an important role in the winning bid for the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living, subsequently funded with $28 million by the Australian Government. 

More recently, I have been involved in complex projects on 'Nature-based solutions for inclusive urban regeneration' and the 'Food-water-energy nexus', forging large consortia with a number of European cities, including Brighton, Portsmouth, Southend-on-Sea, Brussels, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Mannheim, Gdansk, Rome, Lisbon, Uppsala and others. 

 

Teaching 

Teaching experience at all levels

I have been teaching postgraduate and undergraduate students in architecture and urbanism since 1991, and I have been advising PhD students since 2003. 

I have also been involved in teaching through various workshops and visiting appointments at leading institutions worldwide, including at the TU-Munich, NUS Singapore, UC Berkeley, Tongji Shanghai and numerous other top universities.

Current teaching 

  • Postgraduate (PhD) thesis supervision;
  • Advanced research training;
  • Guest lectures on architectural design theory and sustainable city design. 

New: MOOC 'Urban Lecture' my 15-mins podcast for UN-Habitat, see:  www.unhabitat.org/tag/global-urban-lectures/ 

PhD External Examiner: 

  • University of Sydney
  • University of Western Australia
  • Monash University 
  • Bond University 
  • Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • other universities 

Design teaching at leading universities, since 1991

Over the last 25 years, I have initiated and led numerous advanced and research-driven design studios in Master programmes at leading universities worldwide. I have more than 25 years of experience in Design Education internationally and I was named Full Professor of Architecture in December 2002. My academic career started in 1991 in London while I was working in the office of James Stirling, and subsequently in Tokyo with Arata Isozaki. My academic appointments since then include senior positions at universities in the UK, Australia, Germany, Asia and the US. 

Invitations to teach at leading design schools, such as the University of California at Berkeley and National University Singapore, further influenced my thinking.  I have particularly strong connections with China, where I have been guest lecturing at numerous universities and a Visiting Professor at Tongji University and Tianjin University. 

In 2008, in recognition of my significant contributions and academic leadership in the design studio, I received the Award for Teaching Excellence at the University of Newcastle. 

Since then, I have trained over 1,000 architecture graduates, and many of them went on to become successful architects in their own rights; some have won awards and even became university lecturers. 

My design studios have always engaged with the concept of the 'Future City' as a sustainable urban organism, where students develop projects on topics such as dense mixed-use and compact neighbourhoods, zero waste, urban farming and productive landscapes, low-carbon systems thinking, urban infill and resilient waterfront regeneration. Many of these works are published in books and journals with reputable publishers.  

In 2017-18, I am invited as Visiting Professor at ANU university in Ahmedabad, India. 

 

Leadership

Over the last 15 years, I have served in a range of different senior leadership roles, from Head of School, to Head of Discipline (Department), to Director of 3 important research centres. I have led teams of over 100 academics and established new research groups, built teaching quality, driving impactful outreach activities, and published influential books and papers. 

I nurture a global network that extends beyond the discipline of architecture. I am currently engaged in large strategic multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research projects. 

I have worked both at grassroots level as well as at the highest levels of international advisory roles, addressing the interface between environmental sustainability, architectural and urban development and social equity. I have been the author of a report commissioned by UN-ESCAP (2013) and contributed to the key UN document 'State of the Asia-Pacific Cities 2015' Report (2014-15). 

From 2008 to 2016, I was repeatedly nominated by the United Nations and served on the panel of experts for UN-ESCAP on Sustainable Urbanisation in the Asia and the Pacific region. The group is responsible for providing high-level advice on the 'New Urban Agenda' for the work of the UN Economic and Social Commission in Asia-Pacific (ESCAP) on urban governance and transition pathways among Member States, focusing on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The work informs future strategy, policies and interventions that will improve people’s lives in areas of rapid urbanisation and in fragile and developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. 

I was a consultant to Rio Tinto (Australia) and an External Advisor to UNESCO, UN-ESCAP and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) on sustainable urban development. The Minister for Planning NSW appointed me as member of the Reference Panel for the urban regeneration of Newcastle (NSW). 

In my diverse leadership roles, I have reported to external Advisory Boards, Senior Management Boards and Deputy Vice-Chancellors, navigating organisational complexities. I have:

  • established new external partnerships with industry and government, 
  • provided strategic planning and intellectual leadership, and
  • chaired major committees and provided departmental/operational leadership. 

Outreach: Curator of major exhibitions 

I have a long-term interest in urban culture and public space, and have been the initiator and curator of major interdisciplinary exhibitions in urban space, with 3 books published as catalogues of these exhibitions, including: 

  • ‘Rethinking: Space-Time-Architecture’, Berlin (catalogue published by Jovis, Berlin)
  • ‘Absolutely Public’, Brisbane (catalogue published by Images Publishing, Melbourne)
  • ‘Back to the City’, Newcastle (catalogue published by Hatje Cantz, Stuttgart)
  • ‘Hidden Networks: Laneways by George’, Sydney
  • ‘Hub-2-Hub’, Singapore 

Invited as Reviewer of large funding applications

Since 2003, I am regularly appointed as expert assessor for international reserach proposals to evaluate funding applications. I have been invited by leading international funding agencies, including: 

  • European Commission, Brussels
  • EPSRC Research Council, UK
  • Australian Research Council, Canberra
  • Hong Kong Research Grants Council, HK
  • Swiss National Science Foundation, Bern
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ottawa
  • Israel Science Foundation, Tel Aviv
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo 
  • Earth Watch Institute, MA, USA
  • UNESCO Higher Education Sector, Paris 

Invited as Juror of international design competitions 

I have served as invited jury member for important international and national design competitions for leading organisations, including the Senate of Berlin, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, the Australian Housing Industry Association and other important bodies:

  • 2013   Siemens Green Technology Journalism Award 2013, Asia–Pacific Region, Singapore
  • 2012   ‘The Zero Carbon Challenge’, Adelaide (appointed by LMC, SA Government)
  • 2010   ‘Hub-2-Hub’, Singapore (appointed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, URA)
  • 2009   ‘Harmony Point’, HoChiMinh City (appointed by Municipality of HCMC)
  • 2007   National Urban Design Awards 2007, Housing Industry Association (HIA), Sydney
  • 2006   BlueScope Steel Glenn Murcutt Student Prize 2006
  • 2005   ‘Etihad Towers’, Abu Dhabi (appointed by H.H. Sheikh S. Bin Moh’d Al-Nahyan)
  • 2005   ‘Wedding Pavilion’, Brisbane Roma Street Parklands (appointed by Qld Government)
  • 2004   Queensland State Awards of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects
  • 2001   ‘Leipziger Platz’, Berlin (several competitions, appointed by Senate of Berlin)

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