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Architect’s legacy sends student on his way

Media release

A former primary school teacher who switched careers after realising his true calling was architecture is about to head off on the trip of a lifetime, having recently been awarded a $12,000 prize that will enable him to investigate architectural practices across the globe.

Curtin University architecture graduate and masters student Brad Wetherall will use the Peter Hunt Travel Prize to visit and study cities across Australia, the United States, North Africa and Europe. He will seek to understand how places with similar climates and urban challenges to Perth deal with issues including sprawl, high density living, the provision of affordable housing, and place activation.

Mr Wetherall, 30, said he was particularly interested in the way architecture could act as an agent of positive change, helping to solve problems such as affordability and isolation while cultivating rich urban experiences.

“I see this prize as an opportunity to extend my research into how architecture can be an agent for urban improvement and to further this research on a grander scale,” Mr Wetherall said.

The annual prize, initiated in 2000 and sponsored by the late Perth architect Peter Hunt, was presented to Mr Wetherall by Mr Hunt’s daughter, Suzanne Hunt – herself a prominent Perth architect – during the School of Built Environment Annual Awards held on 18 February.

The award is judged against strict criteria by three representatives of the profession – Ms Hunt as Chair of the Peter Hunt Travel Prize, the President of the Australian Institute of Architects (WA chapter), and a representative from Curtin University’s School of Built Environment.

Ms Hunt said her father, who passed away in November 2014, had never forgotten the way a similar prize had changed his own life.

She said his receipt of the £800 Morawetz Prize upon his 1961 graduation from Curtin University’s precursor, Perth Technical College, had allowed him to undertake the kind of international travel his own family’s modest means would never have allowed. His subsequent trip to London and Europe had changed his view of architecture and the world.

“That trip influenced Dad’s whole life – it gave him the opportunity to open his eyes to the world,” Ms Hunt said.

“He wanted to give that to a student who could not only appreciate the chance to travel, but bring back what they learned and share it with the architectural community and the community at large.”

Ms Lara Mackintosh, Director of Teaching and Learning at the School of Built Environment, said the prize was awarded to a final year architecture student on the cusp of graduation who demonstrated not only academic achievement, but self-motivation, dedication, leadership, passion and a commitment to the profession and the community.

Ms Mackintosh said the prize provided more than the opportunity for the chosen graduate to travel overseas. It prompted students to consider their future career paths and required applicants to focus on a project that would inform, and in some cases kick-start, their journey into their chosen profession – whether practice or academia.

“The generosity of the prize demonstrates the strength of the connection between the profession and the Hunt family, and their recognition of the importance of the ongoing education of architects beyond university,” Ms Mackintosh said.

“Past winners have travelled the world exploring topics such as organic architecture, design-build community projects, and the influence of architecture on everyday lives.

“The most recent recipient of the prize, Brad Wetherall, has taken the opportunity to align both his education and architectural background, and will be exploring urban and alternative learning environments across the world, as a way of informing not only his architectural profession, but his teaching aspirations.

“We look forward to his presentations when he returns, as he shares his experiences with industry and Curtin University School of Built Environment students.”