Senior Architect, RAIA
BArch (RMIT), MArch (Deakin)
“As architects, we're in a privileged position, shaping the lives and health of people and habitats. We have a responsibility to make sure we're changing things for the better.”
James is the great-grandson of a proud Yorta Yorta man and a leader of ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s Indigenous Design Group (IDG), a team of 30 people in every sector of the practice working to embed meaningful engagement and co-design with Traditional Custodians and other First Nations stakeholders on our projects. A highly respected senior architect and project leader in our Multi-residential team, James is responsible for a project’s progression through all stages of design and delivery. His broad experience includes Indigenous social housing and community facilities, and diverse residential and hospitality projects including ESD exemplar Lt Miller-NGBE, winner of PCA and UDIA awards in 2021 for innovation and excellence.
One of only a handful of First Nations architects in Australia, James understands and advocates for Country-focused design principles and opportunities on our projects and is central to our practice’s mission to Impact Tomorrow. He is currently leading one of Aboriginal Housing Victoria’s first multi-residential apartment developments, which through close collaboration with Indigenous landscape designers, RMIT design students, the client and tenants is helping to reimagine Indigenous social housing In Australia. Culturally significant landscaping including productive gardens create opportunities for tenants to practice and share culture. Considered architectural forms and materials and a prominent Elder residence create space and focus for cultural leadership.
James’s deep listening, understanding of culturally aware design and ability to connect with people and build strong reciprocal relationships with through ongoing engagement with Traditional Owner groups and their broader communities is leading to exciting project outcomes. He relishes both the responsibilities and opportunities associated with Indigenous cultural heritage, from knowledge systems to songlines, spiritual connections and living landscapes, and of collaborating and co-designing with Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders to create shared, intergenerational wins.
As design lead on a new community facility for a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) in regional Victoria, James has led project engagement and design visioning that expanded a modest brief to incorporate numerous cultural, economic, habitat and community-related benefits, including a mechanism for intergenerational wealth creation. The design now incorporates: biodiversity zones to regenerate habitat; a public adventure park to attract the wider community to Country, creating opportunities for cross-cultural connection and education; and a mix of hospitality offerings and spaces for hire to generate ongoing revenue streams. The client is delighted by this outcome, which evolved through informal engagement during walks on Country with Elders and through a series of inclusive workshops involving the RAP, co-tenant DELWP and stakeholders across government and the local community.
Generous-spirited, community-oriented and excited by challenge, James has found in Country focused design a way to serve Country, culture and people, delivering on personal and professional responsibilities he feels deeply.
Burke Place’s design presents a modern reference to the unique heritage of Kew. Portraying a strong, linear form with considered proportions, the facade was crafted to age gracefully with time, and to naturally embed itself into the urban fabric of the locale.