The role of the Government Architect

The Government Architect has responsibility for leading the activities of the Government Architect NSW (GANSW) including developing and maintaining relationships across Government. The Government Architect performs several statutory roles including delegated responsibility for the Department’s design excellence functions.

The Government Architect (or delegate) chairs the State Design Review Panel and also sits on numerous boards and review panels including Central Sydney Planning Committee, the NSW Architect’s Registration Board, NSW Heritage Council and Sydney Opera House Conservation Council. They also sit on numerous state and local government design review panels.

Ben Hewett is the Acting Government Architect working alongside the executive team to lead the activities of GANSW:

  • Olivia Hyde, Acting Deputy Government Architect/ Director of Design Excellence
  • Paulo Macchia, Director Design and Housing
  • Marissa Looby, Acting Director Strategic Services

Note: The recruitment process for the role of Government Architect is being finalised following the resignation of Peter Poulet, the 23rd Government Architect.

In the interim the role of Acting Government Architect is being shared by members of the existing executive team. Olivia Hyde led the team October 2018 to March 2019 with Ben Hewett acting in the role until a new Government Architect is appointed later in the year.

Government Architect NSW Team

The GANSW team represents a wide range of expertise and diverse experiences.

Members of the team include:

  • Barbara Schaffer, Principal Landscape Architect
  • Darlene van der Breggen, Strategic Design Advisor
  • Dillon Kombumerri, Principal Architect
  • Emma Kirkman, Manager Design Review
  • Jane Threlfall, Principal Urban Designer
  • Marc Lane, Strategic Urban Designer
  • Michelle Washington, Principal Engagement & Policy
  • Rory Toomey, Principal Design Excellence
  • Alicia Pozniak, Senior Design & Research Advisor
  • Angus Bell, Senior Design Advisor
  • Diana Snape, Senior Design Advisor
  • Gabriela Heesh, Executive Assistant to Government Architect
  • Gail Fletcher, Project Support Officer
  • George Savoulis, Senior Design Advisor
  • Media Hakim, Project Officer Design
  • Michael Holt, Senior Design & Research Advisor
  • Nagham Al Katta, Financial & Administrative Coordinator
A group photo of the GANSW team.

Image Credit: GANSW

Ben Hewett, Acting Government Architect

Ben Hewett is currently Acting Government Architect and Adjunct Professor at University of Technology Sydney. In his substantive role, Ben leads the office’s strategic services, including the development and implementation of the Better Placed policy, and Strategic Frameworks.

Previously, Ben was the inaugural South Australian Government Architect and Executive Director of the Integrated Design Commission and the subsequent Office for Design and Architecture SA. During this period, Ben was also Director of “5000+, an Integrated Design Strategy for inner Adelaide”, which was a national pilot project collaborating across three tiers of government, industry, academia and communities, to develop a design-based vision for Adelaide and model for urban development. Ben also established, led, and chaired South Australia’s Design Review Program.

Ben was a Senior Lecturer with the University of Technology Sydney, leading the Professional Practice stream and numerous design studios. Ben has professional experience across small, medium and commercial architectural practice in Australia, China and Dubai.

Olivia Hyde, Director Design Excellence

Olivia Hyde is Director Design Excellence and acting in the role of Deputy Government Architect. She is a registered architect and has worked on a wide range of project types and scales across Australia and internationally, including schools, libraries, hospitals, infrastructure, urban design, master planning and small-scale works. Projects include the AIA Lloyd Rees Urban Design award winning Taronga Zoo Upper Entrance for BVN Architecture.

In her role as Director of Design Excellence, Olivia has overseen the development of a range of measures to support and promote design quality in the built environment, including the pilot State Design Review Panel. Olivia has studied, worked, taught and lectured in Australia, North America, Asia, and Europe. Prior to joining GANSW, she was a Senior Practice Director at BVN in Sydney. She worked for several years at Foster and Partners in Hong Kong and London as well as holding a research and teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan.

Paulo Macchia, Director Design & Housing

Paulo is responsible for developing government agency partnerships and leading GANSW’s approach to the procurement of built environment professionals by NSW Government agencies.

He is a registered architect with experience defining and delivering innovative and strategic projects in both the public and private sectors. He has taught and been a guest critic at the University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and University of Newcastle.

Paulo brings insight into governance approaches with project objectives.

Marissa Looby, Acting Director Strategic Services

Marissa is acting in the role of Director Strategic Services, exploring the role and value of design in the built environment and supporting the development of strategic priorities for GANSW as part of the GANSW Executive team. In her substantive role as Principal of Design & Research for GANSW she has championed research on place and design quality, healthy built environments, and integrated design processes. She has supported the delivery of much of the organisation’s policy and guidance.

Marissa is a NSW Registered Architect, and has practiced in Sydney and New York. Prior to joining GANSW, Marissa worked on large public, transport and retail projects. She graduated with a B.Architecture from the University of Technology Sydney in 2006, and the Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, New York in 2010.

New role for Peter Poulet, 23rd NSW Government Architect

Peter Poulet resigned as the 23rd NSW Government Architect in September 2018 following his appointment as the Central City District Commissioner for the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) by NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian.

We take this opportunity to acknowledge his enormous contribution to the role of the State’s Government Architect and, previously, for more than 20 years across several senior and executive positions in the former Government Architect’s Office.

Peter led the shift of the role of the 200-year-old organisation from designing projects to providing independent, strategic advice and championing the need for good design in the built environment. Most notably, Peter spearheaded the development of the State’s first design policy Better Placed: An Integrated Design Policy for the Built Environment of New South Wales. He also championed the inclusion of a new object in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, to stipulate ‘good design and amenity’ as distinct and imperative. Under Peter’s guidance, GANSW has produced the draft green infrastructure policy Greener Places: An Urban Green Infrastructure Policy for New South Wales, and established the NSW State Design Review Panel pilot program.