What are architecture industry leaders predicting for 2023?

Will the rate rises continue? Are governments prepared to deal with the consequences of climate change? What does reconciliation look like in action? 2023 is on.

Australian architects and landscape architects have been back at their desks for nearly a month now. Over the summer, they’ve had time to reflect on the major changes from the previous working year and the challenges and opportunities up ahead.

Lindy Johnson Creative wanted to capture these reflections. What are industry leaders predicting for the profession in 2023?

We asked: Shaun Carter (Carter Williamson Architects), Laraine Sperling (Buchan), James Davidson (JDA Co.), Shaun Lockyer (Shaun Lockyer Architects), and Nathan Clausen (Arcadia).

Here are their insights.



2022 was marked by massive hikes in costs driven by inflation, widespread labour shortages, and increased material prices.

“Resourcing is plaguing the industry,” says Laraine Sperling, head of Strategy and Marketing at Buchan. Buchan is a global architecture, interior, master-planning and brand-experience studio. Getting the right people on board to balance with the existing cohort is essential for effective project delivery.

Sperling says Buchan responded to the labour crisis by establishing a strategic recruiting program. “We made a concerted effort to grow our next generation of leaders in alliance with our current teams to ensure we bring on diverse skills into the business.”

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data published in a December 2022 report estimated that in the preceding 12 months, building construction costs rose an eye-watering 11.1%. While increased costs are affecting everyone, there are regional differences. In Sydney and Perth, timber, board, and joinery costs are up; in Melbourne, it’s plumbing products. Everywhere, skilled construction workers – the ABS spotlights bricklayers, carpenters, and roofers – are in demand. All these shortages are impacting project financing.


Tree Island by Carter Williamson. Photo: Kat Lu.

“Costs remain front of mind,” says Shaun Lockyer, one of Australia’s leading residential architects. Lockyer believes that architects and clients planning to build need to be “pragmatic, conservative, and patient.” This means having realistic conversations about fixed or cost-plus contracts, price increases, timing challenges, and builder availability.

Nathan Clausen, Principal at Arcadia, has seen similar challenges in the landscape architecture sector. “Projects are getting pushed out or put on hold because of the increasing build costs and price escalation.”

Is hope in sight? Principal at Carter Williamson and design excellency advocate Shaun Carter is cautiously optimistic. “We are hearing from our builders now that getting supply items, getting skilled labourers like joiners – that’s all becoming easier,” says Carter. “It’s not back to pre-pandemic times or pre-inflation times, but it’s easing off.”


Rosso Verde by Carter Williamson. Photo: Pablo Veiga.



Carter believes that clients set on building will continue to build. But for many Australians, housing costs are beginning to bite.

“I think what we’re going to see is a bottoming of the market around the middle of the year, when all these fixed mortgages come off and everyone starts to feel the full force of the interest rate rises,” Carter says. As has been extensively publicised, the Reserve Bank of Australia has been steadily increasing interest rates to combat rampant inflation, with the rate lifting from 0.10% in April 2022 to 3.10% today.

Thinking longer term, Carter believes Australians need to start having ambitious, society-wide conversations about public planning and policy settings that will generate more affordable housing stock. This will become all the more important as our cities continue to expand.

“Housing will be a critical issue in 2023, but I think it’ll become more critical in 2045!” Carter says. In the meantime, while many Australians navigate a harsh economic environment, it is essential that architects maintain a pipeline to new work.



Regardless of specialisation or firm size, Australian architects are pursuing international clients.

“We are more global than we have ever been,” Lockyer says. “This means we are more capable and have greater exposure to potential clients, not only in Australia, but beyond as well.”

“Post all the challenges that COVID-19 imposed upon many firms, we are now actively putting our feet back out into the international waters,” Sperling says.

Large firms are looking towards the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, which will require substantial new infrastructure work.

“The Olympics are a bit of a game changer for Queensland,” Clausen says. “They can’t be paused. It won’t matter if a recession happens, for example – these projects must be delivered.”

“We are targeting key projects relating to the Brisbane Olympics,” Sperling says. Buchan sees exceeding the Organisation Committee’s key targets, such as carbon neutrality, as a crucial part of a competitive tender.


Newmarket, Randwick by Arcadia. Photo: Brett Boardman.



At the start of 2022, Lindy Johnson Creative spoke to leading climate-adaptive architecture expert and Principal of JDA Co., James Davidson. He predicted that more and more, governments would need to address increasing disruption brought on by climate change. Just a few weeks later, catastrophic flood events hit the east coast of Australia.

“Now, the conversation has shifted,” Davidson says. “Previously, people were still of the opinion that it would be a long time before a major event happened again. Nobody believes that anymore.”

Long-term leadership is urgent. A Climate Council report on the 2022 floods shows the real cost of inadequate planning: insurance claims were estimated to be at least $1.45 billion (Insurance Council of Australia 2022). Yet only 3 percent of government funding is spent on disaster mitigation, with the lion’s share going to post-disaster reconstruction (Productivity Commission 2014). Behind these numbers are hundreds of thousands of people with waterlogged houses and disrupted lives.

The election of a new Labor government in the recent federal election is a source of positivity for Davidson. “In terms of my own experience, a change in government helps a lot,” he says.

On an everyday level, firms continue to actively seek to reduce their contribution to the construction industry’s carbon footprint.


Newmarket, Randwick by Arcadia. Photo: Brett Boardman.

“On the sustainability front, we don’t just want to talk it. We want a better way of walking it,” Sperling says. Buchan ensures that each of their offices have at least two Green Star accredited team members, and that sustainability is embedded as an integral consideration in projects from the get-go.

For JDA Co., everyday sustainability often means weighing up between carbon miles and materials with longevity. “If it’s a choice between a material that has travelled through multiple overseas locations versus a material that’s locally produced, we might select locally produced,” Davidson says. “But if choosing the local option means that material will need to be continually replaced, we might select the option with heavier carbon miles but better longevity.”

Increased dialogue about the importance of the natural environment may have influenced the perceived value of landscape architecture.

“Over the past five to ten years, it’s been really positive to see a shift in priorities with our clients recognising outdoor spaces as a defining feature of projects,” Clausen says. “As density increases and we see further urbanisation of our cities, biophilic design elements help people feel connected to the landscape and to each other.”



Architects are highly engaged with national conversations about reconciliation with Indigenous Australia.

“Discussion of Country and our First Peoples is a greater consideration than it’s ever been,” Carter says. He predicts a “Yes” vote for the planned referendum on the Voice to Parliament and notes the influence of Carter Williamson’s Reconciliation Action Plan: a set of goals and benchmarks that ensure consideration of Indigenous heritage and cultural knowledge is integral to every step of the design process.

Buchan has also proudly initiated a Reconciliation Action Plan. One high-impact outcome is the creation of a brand-new scholarship for an Indigenous architect studying at the University of Queensland.

As an industry, landscape architecture is leading the way in advocating for First Nations co-design and cultural engagement. Arcadia has been committed to practical outcomes such as scholarships and research reports for years.

“We know that Indigenous-led designs are richer in narrative and meaning. Projects are also more sustainable, with materials that are environmentally sensitive and planting strategies that strengthen and rebuild lost and endangered vegetation communities,” Clausen says. “We’ve seen how First Nations involvement has proven to increase commercial viability and productivity of space, and we want to continue to lead in this space.”



Lindy Johnson Creative predicts that despite economic, climate, and culture challenges facing the profession, the true value of good design has never been clearer. Opportunities for forward-thinking architects and landscape architects are set to continue in 2023 and beyond.

What are your predictions?


Main image – Newmarket, Randwick by Arcadia. Photo: Brett Boardman.

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