The recently released Design Guide for Heritage is intended to act as a resource to help make sure that everyone – from site owners to architects to consultants, builders and more – practice only the best design techniques in all heritage places across the state. In other words, it’s designed to help all parties involved better understand the value and opportunity present in our existing built environment, all while outlining the steps necessary to protect and conserve that heritage through excellence in design.

While these new guidelines bring with them a number of different implications for projects over the region, it’s fair to say that they’re positive – particularly within the context of the larger story unfolding across Australia every day.

Breaking Down the New Heritage Design Guidelines

The guidelines themselves were developed as a collaboration between the Heritage Council of NSW and the Government Architect NSW. It draws heavily on earlier publications developed by organisations like the Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter and Heritage Council of NSW.

“New South Wales is home to some of the most incredible European history in Australia and shares a vibrant and unique Indigenous Australian past. Those lucky enough to practice heritage consultancy here are faced with new and exciting projects weekly. At EMM we want to ensure that each of these projects is completed to our highest standard and we welcome the challenges that come with an expanding state and the need for heritage conservation.”

– Kerryn Armstrong,

These new design guidelines are also intended to act as a companion to Better Placed, the first dedicated policy on the topic that was originally released back in 2017. At its core, Better Placed was a comprehensive strategy dedicated to creating places that do not lock people out. By integrating the essential elements of living and working, it puts key stakeholders in a better position to create the types of environments that are sustainable, healthy, productive and – most importantly – liveable. That document recommended that design activities be informed by the place for which they are being developed.

Preserving History, One Step at a Time

The new heritage design guidelines are only the latest in a long line of efforts intended to protect the fragile environment around us, all while preserving our ability to grow and evolve as a society at the exact same time.

Efforts began in earnest with the Heritage Act of 1977, which is a piece of legislation that granted protection to relics and other items of environmental heritage (both natural and cultural). That gave way to the EP&A Act of 1979, which established an essential framework for environmental issues to be formally addressed in both the planning and development consent processes from that point forward.

Another notable effort came by way of the Burra Charter, which was a set of guidelines adopted in 1979 (and recently revised in 2013) that set a brand new standard for which heritage was managed and conserved in NSW.

“Our projects have taken us all around the state where we have been lucky enough to record Aboriginal rock art, investigate early historical archeological sites and photograph buildings that are so old the techniques that built them are no longer in use… We work within the statutory framework and heritage guidelines while also ensuring we are flexible in our own continual education.”

– Kerryn Armstrong,

To that end, heritage is about more than just preserving the past. It’s about celebrating the journey that we took as a diverse society and country to get to the moment where we are today. With Australia’s new heritage design guidelines and other efforts, it’s clear that incorporating the past with the present and the future will all continue to be very important moving forward.

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