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Ideas, Progress & the Future

Visualising a future Canberra

Architect and UC Assistant Professor, Erin Hinton, is in a unique position to assess Canberra’s progression from a country city, which just happens to be the Nation’s capital, to a burgeoning metropolis.

As a second generation Canberran, Erin has witnessed first-hand the impact of the growth, which not only presents seemingly unforeseen challenges, but at the same time presents opportunities conventionally associated with bigger cities.

Added to her ability to visualise what the city might look like in the future is her reputation as one of Canberra’s leading creative minds when it comes to urban design and architecture.

Erin is undertaking a PhD in urban design, utilising her knowledge of Canberra and its intricate living patterns to review a future of living together in a bigger city whilst retaining a sense of community. And ‘community’ underpins Erin’s philosophy; ”People interacting as a community and that’s the starting point, allowing communities to build is fundamental to the future of any city.”

Transitioning to a bigger city has the potential to leave many people isolated, especially the disadvantaged. For Erin, this can and should be addressed through creative urban design and architecture.

“We need to look at new ways to think about the city and how we are going to function together.”

Effectively, Erin believes, creative urban design involves relationships; the relationship between the city, infrastructure, buildings, parks and impact these networks have on the city. There is also an interface based on how we use space and how it relates to our experiences. But fundamentally, it is about how these elements contribute to the development of a human-centred city.

As a practising architect and director of the firm HINTON Architects, Erin collaboratively integrates architecture, design and theory. Exemplars of her work can be seen through the significant role she has played in identifying and developing unique projects in the city including built works; Peppers Gallery Hotel (New Acton) the Palko Apartments (Braddon), and in collaboration, Mocan and Green Grout (New Acton).

At UC she has the ability to shape the next generation of built environment practitioners through her position as Assistant Professor of Architecture and Interior Architecture, combined with her role as the Associate Dean in Education for the Faculty of Arts and Design.

Her pathway to this point was less than conventional but provides an insight into her creative approach. After graduating from Mackillop College, Erin said her passion was interior design and the only way (at the time) to progress her chosen career was to undertake a two-year course at CIT followed by a year at UC.

In Erin’s second year of studies she won a competition to develop a proposal for adaptive housing for an ageing population. And this start led to employment by an architecture/interiors firm. As Erin recalls, “I started in commercial architecture, office buildings, multi-residential housing, commercial office and education facilities. I stayed within this area for 10 years.”

During this time she was asked to come back to UC to set up an undergraduate Interior Architecture program. And what was established then, continues to grow in reputation today.

Proving that she is more than capable of multi-skilling, Erin co-curated the Young.Hot.Canberra exhibition at the Gallery of Australian Design. This exhibition began in 2013 as part of the celebrations of the Centenary of Canberra.

“It has become so much bigger than we thought it was going to be, there is so much interest in young Canberra designers,” says Erin. The exhibition highlights the work of 10 young designers from Canberra, drawn from many disciplines including architecture, graphic, digital and industrial design, jewellery and object design.

The success of the exhibition also highlights that creative people are reviling in the growth of Canberra with more options and more facilities in which to work and express themselves. As a result, more people in the creative industries are staying in the city rather than moving to Sydney or Melbourne, as was the case in the past. And Erin plays a significant role in making this happen.

She continues to play a major part in the development of community-focused urban design within the city as a practising architect combined with her significant influence as a course convener and lecturer at UC. And her PhD provides her with the time and space to theorise about what is possible for our city in the future. Through this work, Erin has the potential to influence Canberra’s development so that the city remains a unique and inspirational place for all people to live and work.

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