Laura Lee

Residency 2009

“The concept of integrated design is key to a sustainable future and ultimately quality of life,”
Laura Lee

Laura Lee’s residency was all about design, in particular, the value of design and the impact of the built environment on the quality of life for South Australians.
Laura focused on creating an integrated approach to design, planning and development to build a more vibrant and liveable Adelaide.

The final report of Professor Laura Lee, Adelaide Thinker in Residence:

An Integrated Design Strategy for South Australia - Building the Future

Professor Laura Lee report: commentary
Gabrielle Kelly, Director, Adelaide Thinkers in Residence

The report of Adelaide Thinker in Residence, Laura Lee, An Integrated Design Strategy for South Australia - Building the Future, presents a visionary strategy for design that puts people at the the centre - in the initiation of projects, in planning and in development.

If you don't change the process, you'll never change the result.

The process of integrated design outlined in the report promises a significantly better result for South Australia and the city of Adelaide. The report is unashamedly ambitious with nine exciting recommendations. It explains and frames an Integrated Design Strategy for South Australia and shows us how to produce it.

A new way of looking at design

Professor Lee has given South Australia the framework for uniting sustainability, behaviour, materials and the external environment into a whole that satisfies the needs of people, environment and place, while still delivering good value for money. In her report, she has produced arguably the world's first integrated design curriculum and a manual for its realisation. It is a holistic, people-centred, future-focused document to guide a city's design, planning and development beyond today.

Across the globe people and governments are struggling to create liveable communities. They now have an articulated methodology for finding their way, launched through the Adelaide Thinkers in Residence program and the residency of Professor Laura Lee. This call to action encourages everyone to take part in the conversation and own the outcomes.

What did Professor Laura Lee find in South Australia?

‘... one rarely witnesses a place so rich in potential and as yet unspoiled as South Australia. Its assets are incomparable - extraordinarily diverse and natural beauty, a world-renowned gridded city-in-a-park plan as a profound manifestation of democracy, a vibrant arts community, and a multicultural population ready for change.'

‘South Australia ... has the extraordinary potential to transform and unify these assets through design. Such an approach promises, at the very least, to address the urgent environmental challenges of the state: design-led decision making will ensure the integrity of South Australia's unique identity AND define the future of the state with an authenticity that must not be compromised. Understanding the values of design in South Australia will imbue its past with presence.'

Professor Lee's report maps her process in South Australia, which is a repeatable process for integrated design anywhere at any scale.

Her first stage was to establish context.

‘... the most vital aspect in realising a successful Integrated Design Strategy and ensuring a sustainable future derives from a complete understanding of the immediate local context - cultural, physical and temporal. The existing ecology of a place must be fully examined historically, contemporaneously and predictively to render solutions that honour the authenticity of any environment. Finding and advancing the spirit of place leads to more meaningful and memorable experiences, a sense of belonging and identity.'

The residency went beyond the engagement norm to collaboration with stakeholders in a process that helped to describe the texture and qualities of South Australia.

The report explores the values, perceptions, assets, best, worst, challengers, inhibitors, influencers and needs of South Australia to consider in an overarching program for the design of all places, spaces and services in the State.

Immediate Progress

Two of Professor Lee's recommendations are already up and running: the Integrated Design Commission with Timothy Horton as Commissioner and Ben Hewett as State Architect; and the Integrated Design Strategy for Inner Adelaide, a unique partnership of the South Australian Government and Adelaide City Council, in association with the seven inner-Adelaide local councils, supported by a $1 million investment from the Commonwealth's Local Government Reform Fund.


The Integrated Design Commission SA is taking a leadership role in implementing Professor Lee's recommendations.

Comments on Professor Laura Lee's Final Report

'In our daily lives we are surrounded by the results of design – but too often poor design. Design is underrated yet it really does matter.

In her Thinker in Residence report Laura Lee identifies the centrality of integrated design as an agent for a sustainable future, and a better human experience.  She also advocates the importance of collaborative engagement across sectors and disciplines in her work as a thinker in residence, with its focus on the unique qualities South Australia has great clarity. It is a work of immense significance and great intelligence with clear, profound yet achievable recommendations.  More significantly she proposes a model for enriching the quality of our built environment nationally and internationally.

The SA Government is demonstrating admirable leadership in not only commissioning her residency but also in taking steps for the implementation of the recommendations.'
Prof Ken Maher, 2010 AIA Gold Medallist, Chairman of Hassell, and Professor, UNSW Faculty of the Built Environment.

‘The challenges we face with population growth, global warming and ecosystems destruction are impacting our ability to secure energy, water and food supplies. This needs a fast paradigm shift in the way we live to mobilise and close resource loops, stop pollution and enable our quality of life to be improved by allowing us to have more money to spend on a healthy lifestyle and educate our children. Integrated design that recognises the virtuous cycles of benefit ,that come from smart interconnected opportunities for improvement, is essential and there is much to learn about the tools and skills we need.’ Peter Head CBE (Director, ARUP)

'I am very impressed with the scope of the Lee report and regard this initiative of the SA Government as the most important step taken by government to draw attention to the significant role played by design in the urban context. This report is a blueprint for action and I understand that through the initiative of the Commission for Integrated Design there is evidence that the recommendations it makes will be acted on.' His Excellency Michael Bryce AM AE, Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Design at the University of Canberra