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Leon van Schaik

Professor

Leon van Schaik AO, B.Arch. Studies (Ncle), AADip (SADG), M.Arch (UCT), PhD (CNAA), RIBA, LFAIA, LFAA, is Professor of Architecture

He is a writer and academic with research interests focusing on spatial thinking, the poetics of architecture, and procuring innovative architecture, Professor van Schaik has been responsible for promoting a dynamic culture of architectural innovation through practice-based research. His support of local and international architectural culture and significantly his leadership in the procurement of exemplary architecture through his role at RMIT, has resulted in some of Melbourne’s most distinguished contemporary buildings which have had a profound impact on architectural discourse and practice in the city over the past two decades.

His Architecture and Design Practice PhD programme at RMIT has become an important template for institutions worldwide; it has recently been a awarded a several million Euro grant by the EU Marie Curie Actions Fund to extend its activities internationally by partnering with institutions in Europe.

Leon became a Life Fellow of the (then) Royal Australian Institute of Architects (2003), was the recipient of the Neville Quarry RAIA Education Prize (2005) and was named Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia (2006).

He initially studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, and also taught and practiced from there during 1971 to 1986. Leon’s Ph.D. examined the relationships between communities and expert knowledge in design. From 1987 at RMIT he pioneered a design practice research program that engages architects and designers in evidencing the nature of their mastery in their field. The program now operates in Australia, Asia and Europe.
In professional practice, Leon has worked on self-help and conventional housing, the design and building of complex educational buildings, art galleries and factories.

Leon pioneered a criterion-based process at RMIT University for consultant appointment, which has transformed the university’s reputation for architecture and urban design through award winning buildings. Leon’s involvement in other key consultant appointment processes have included: a Civic Centre in Wagga Wagga, a New South Wales regional city; the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; the UNISA faculty of architecture; Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross Station, Melbourne).

His service on boards included: Architecture and Design (AD), the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (1992-1999); the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute; the Architectural Association Asia, and the Asian Urban Laboratory. Leon was moderator of the Asia Design Forum and was Commissioner for Australia at the Venice Biennale 2000 (Less Aesthetics, More Ethics : 7th International Exhibition of Architecture). He was curator for Australia for the 2005 Rotterdam Architecture Biennale (The Flood : 32000 Beaches). He served as a member of the Victorian Arts Centre Trust, where he advised on the redevelopment of the precinct, in particular Melbourne’s principal concert venue, the Hamer Hall (2007-2013).

A selection of Leon van Schaik’s written works ranging from authoring and co-authoring books is listed below:

    • Pavilions, Pop Ups and Parasols, AD May 2015 (guest edited with Fleur Watson)
    • Practical Poetics in Architecture (Wiley 2015)
    • Ideograms (Lyon Housemuseum 2013)
    • Meaning in space – Housing the visual arts (Lyon Housemuseum 2012)
    • By Practice By Invitation, Design Practice Research at RMIT 1986-2011, co-authored with Anna Johnson (onepointsixone 2011)
    • Procuring Innovative Architecture, co-authored with Geoffrey London and Beth George (Routledge 2010)
    • Spatial Intelligence: New Futures for Architecture (Wiley Academy 2008)
    • Non Fictional Narratives, Denton Corker Marshall (Birkhauser 2008)
    • Design City Melbourne (Wiley Academy 2006)
    • Mastering Architecture: Becoming a Creative Innovator in Practice (Wiley Academy 2005)