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Life in Design: Alastair Swayn

After battling illness for some years, one of Australia’s foremost architects, Alastair Swayn, passed away late last week. Here, we remember his incredible legacy.

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BY David Congram

August 10th, 2016


On Thursday night, 4 August, Australia lost another of its revered architects. And while a man of many titles, Alastair Swayn – Professor of Architecture at the University of Canberra; Director of Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn Pty Ltd Architects (DJAS); inaugural ACT Government Architect – will be chiefly remembered by loved ones and Canberra’s public equally for his unending commitment to community interest.

Born in Scotland and travelled widely in Europe, Canada and South Africa, Sawyn arrived in Australia in 1973 and joined DJAS in Canberra, 1979. Becoming Director in 1981, Swayn helped build DJAS into one of the most illustrious award-winning firms in the country’s history. Having been duly lauded with Canberra Medallions from the Australian Institute of Architects for an incredibly diverse portfolio, Swayn has left us with an unbelievable design legacy which includes the Brindabella Business Park at Canberra Airport, the Australian Institute of Sports Visitors Centre, Grandstand and Swimming Hall, the CSIRO Discovery Centre, Lake Ginninderra College, Bonython Primary and the offices of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, among many more.

As a pioneer of sustainable design in Australia, Swayn was appointed to the post of Australia’s first Government Architect. Having made a beyond-meaningful contribution to the urban design of the City Centre and its people, Swayn’s signature care for an architectural aesthetic that is humble and refined speaks so much to the Australian romantic spirit that is down-to-earth but always stargazing.

Understanding so much of the community’s soul, when Swayn announced his resignation from the role of Government Architect due to declining health earlier this year, the public and profession alike were astoundingly saddened and concerned. Minister for Planning and Land Management, Mick Gentlemen, said Swayn had “ensured design and contemporary thinking is at the fore of decision making […] placing Canberra as a small ‘new world city’.”

Ken Maher, National President of the Australian Institute of Architects, echoes this bittersweet sense of gratitude for Swayn’s work coupled with the irrevocable loss of his passing:

“Alastair was a thoughtful, sensitive and accomplished architect who was broadly recognised for his services to architecture, education and the public interest. He will be deeply missed by many across the full spectrum of the profession”.

Please join us to celebrate Alastair Swayn’s commitment to Canberra with a public memorial service.

Wednesday September 7
University of Canberra
Ann Harding Centre
NATSEM Building
Building 24, University Drive South, Bruce.

3:30pm with formalities starting at 4:00pm.

We kindly ask that no flowers are sent and instead register your interest in the Alastair Swayn foundation.


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