The home of architecture and design in Asia-Pacific

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

The ‘Affirmatives’ Have It! The NAWIC Great Debate 2017

Returning for the first time in years, the NAWIC Great Debate was a forceful, no-holds-barred tête-à-tête between the local design industry’s most critical thinkers.

The ‘Affirmatives’ Have It! The NAWIC Great Debate 2017

Hosted recently on Tuesday 5th September at Sydney’s Hyatt Regency in partnership with Roberts Pizzarotti, the NAWIC Great Debate made an epic return after several years on hiatus.

The topic: “We Should Drive Development ‘UP’ And Not ‘OUT’” proved a contentious one, where facts, figures and evidence-based thinking played a major role – alongside some playful mud-slinging of course.

Adjudicated by our own Indesign Co-Editor Sophia Watson, the two sides (Affirmative and Negative) argued passionately for their positions, presenting their well-researched points tied with more personal, anecdotal experiences.

Following a welcome and introduction speech by NAWIC NSW President & MPA’s Marketing & Client Relations Director, Sarah Hogan and Head of Design for Roberts Pizzarotti, Catherine Hart, the Affirmative team kicked off the evening with their persuasive ‘UP’ arguments.

The “Uppers” as they were later termed by their opponents, opened with City of Sydney Councillor Jess Scully, followed by Grocon’s Head of Development Chris Carolan, and brought it home with Tracey Wiles, Partner at Make Architects.

The Affirmatives focused on solid statistical analysis and peer-reviewed studies including the recent CEDA Report on the issue of housing in Australia, which outlined the mental, physical and economic benefits of the “UP” argument.

While the evidence was certainly on their side, the Affirmatives also threw in some more personal experiences for good measure, including some choice comments such as:


“No more having to endure crap podcasts while standing up for hours on the crowded train.”

Jess Scully


“We cannot abide these long commutes. We cannot abide the carbon emissions of greater daily car travel. But more importantly, we cannot abide the increased air-time and audience for Allan Jones.”

Chris Carolan.


“My designer [Cavoodle] dog greatly enjoys his doggy play-dates with the neighbouring pups in our vertical village.”

Tracey Wiles.


Though the Affirmatives ultimately took home the victory, the Negatives certainly put up a hell of a fight with some compelling points of their own. Lead by Jason Varker Miles, Director Aston Consulting, followed by Lend Lease’s General Manager of Workplace and Change Natalie Slessor, and finishing with a bang – Tom Goode, Director of Ethos Urban, the affectionately nicknamed “Sprawlers” argued that “OUT” not “UP” is the Australian dream, and that this vertical-obsessed “war on BBQs” must come to and end.

The Negatives proposed that “OUT” was the primary – but not only – solution to urban density and growth. They suggested that when “OUT” is done well with supporting public infrastructure and smart technology, distance is no longer and issue, and quality of life greatly improves.

In response to the “Uppers”, the “Sprawlers” presented some worthy points, but in the end failed to link their findings to cold, hard facts. This isn’t to say however, that they didn’t get some wonderfully entertaining one-liners in there, too. Some of the top comments included:


“The Uppers are nothing more than koala-skin suit-wearing developers trying to take away our backyard cricket and Sunday arvo BBQs. It’s un-Australian! One need only look at the poster-boy for ‘UP’ – Donald Trump.”

Jason Varker Miles.


“Dense living is dense. We should be thinking in ‘villages’ not ‘metropolises’. Villages produce communities. Metropolises on the other hand breed a culture of fat, criminal, dense children!”

Natalie Slessor.


“Sir Donald Bradman did not become an Australian champion by hitting a golf ball in the basement car park. Cathy Freeman didn’t achieve an Olympic Gold Medal by running to the bin-room and back. ‘UP’ could have serious effects on our future sporting champions.”

– Tom Goode.


The sold-out evening was a roaring success, and discussions are already in place in planning for next year’s program. NAWIC wishes to thank all of those involved in putting together The Great Debate, and looks forward to seeing you again in 2018!


To keep up to date of all NAWIC developments, you can see regular news alerts here.
Photography by Nicholas Smith

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed