Paul's cover image


Year of Award: 2008 Award State: Tasmania Architecture > General
None > Social Welfare
The A.V. Jennings Churchill Fellowship to study contemporary design developments in social housing - UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland

Paul Johnston studied environmental design under Barry McNeill at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. He continued his studies in Architecture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, graduating in 1991. After periods of employment in the profession, he founded Paul Johnston Architects in 2000 and the practice developed a reputation for user-friendly housing design appropriate to specialised needs. It had the opportunity to design everything from home environments for women and families fleeing domestic violence to shared homes for people with intellectual disabilities.

Subsequently the practice developed new housing types that reflected the changing needs of communities and incorporated models of mixed use and blind tenure, appropriate to specific social and economic circumstances.

The Churchill Fellowship helped Paul to make a study of contemporary developments in social housing design in the UK, Netherlands and Scandinavia.

The study revealed the similar difficulties met by Australia and the UK in providing housing that integrated groups and developed strong communities. Design was characterised by the same social divisions as those found in Tasmania. In the Netherlands, state-provided housing dominated the market, so social stigma did not exist. Design was used to provide vibrant architecture and socially inclusive public spaces. In Scandinavia, housing was provided by the state as a community right, and had been integrated in urban planning since the post-war rebuilding programs of the 1950s. The development of community squares with markets, fringed by schools, halls and libraries, all connected to the city by urban rail, ensured that regardless of their economic circumstances, communities were not disadvantaged in participating in society. New building programs for the housing estates included community centres (called ‘lighthouses’, as their large glazed fronts were lit up at night) with facilities including gymnasiums, cafés and art galleries – while new high-rise housing often incorporated aged-care homes and kindergartens on their lower levels.

The study highlighted the importance of planning for social inclusion, and showed how design can elevate the spirit of communities. Since his Fellowship Paul has been active on design issues in the Institute of Architects; he continues to support the Northern Suburbs Light Rail Project as an affordable housing initiative that addresses the locational disadvantage all too apparent in the northern suburbs of Hobart.

Increasingly, however, the practice is becoming involved in heritage in Tasmania, and recently completed major conservation work to Domain House.This resulted in the publication of the project by the University of Tasmania, as well as collaboration with the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office in creating an archive of architectural documentation.

Paul continues to travel in his studies of housing and heritage, with an excursion to Lyon in France. This time it was inspired by his daughter Eva completing her university studies there, but it was still another opportunity to examine the way in which design plays an important role in the construction of the city. 

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

Related fellows
Benjamin NICHOLSON, Benjamin
Architecture > General
Architecture > General
Amelia STARR, Amelia
Architecture > General
Mark Trotter, Mark
Architecture > General
Necia Mickel, Necia
Architecture > General
Margy Green, Margy
None > Social Welfare
Michael Small, Michael
Architecture > General
Alan TURNER, Alan
Architecture > General
Philip JONES, Philip
Diane LIGHTFOOT, Diane