Michael Tawa



Michael Tawa
Lecturer in Architecture: History and Theory
Room 551, G04 'Wilkinson Building', 148 City Road, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006
+61 2 9351 1486

Michael Tawa

Consultations and Appointments

Consultation Hours:
Consultation Rooms:

to make an appointment outside of these hours.

Research Areas | Units and Programs | Academic Qualifications | Professional Experience | Memberships and Associations | Biography | Publications and Outputs | Postgraduate Supervision

Research Areas

  • Architecture and Cinema
  • Arachitecture and music
  • Spatial and temporal symbolism

Units and Programs

BDES3010 | Architecture Studio 301

MARC5001 | Graduation Studio

MARF5201 | Honours Studio

Academic Qualifications

  • Phd | University of New South Wales
    Bachelor of Architecture (Honours) | University of New South Wales
    Bachelor of Science (Architecture) | University of New South Wales.

Professional Experience

  • 2010 | Professor of Architecture, University of Sydney
  • 2006 | Professor of Architectural Design, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University (UK).
  • 2004 | Invited Professor, Centre de Recherches sur le Japon (Centre for Research on Japan), Écoles des Haûtes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris
  • 1995 | Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of New South Wales.
  • 1988 | Lecturer/Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of South Australia.
  • 1977 | Tutor, School of Architecture, University of New South Wales.

Memberships and Associations

  • Visiting Professor | Carleton School of Architecture and Urbanism, Ottawa, Canada (2012)
  • Member | Indigenous Strategies and Services Committee, University of Sydney
  • Coordinator | Architectural Graduation Studio, University of Sydney.
  • Elected Fellow | Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA)
  • Visiting Thinker | Centre for Ideas, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. (2005).


I am passionate about the capacity of design thinking and practice to engage curiosity and wonder.
That passion extends into my research, writing, teaching and architectural practice.

I am fascinated by the way things (concepts, places, spaces, objects) are made – not only that they are made, but more so the way they come to be made. Consequently, I value process over product, and products only to the extent that they open up new perspectives and processes of thinking and making. I value the un-programmable, the uncertain, the makeshift, the incommunicable and the uncanny in language, the image, representation and architectural experience. My approach to teaching is that of an encounter with an equivalent fascination in the other, of a practice focused on opening up and mobilising sense through the project, around which the work hovers and proceeds.

I have worked on many fronts. My initial interest was in the symbolism of sacred architecture, framed by the works of Coomaraswamy, Guénon, Schuon, Eliade, Kollar and Snodgrass. Familiarity with the Platonic dialogues bred contempt for the limits of a mimetic and representation approach to art and architecture. Heidegger provided a bridge to continental philosophers who continue to influence my thinking and teaching – in particular Deleuze, Agamben and Nancy, who have shifted my orientation from logocentric certainty to the fluxions of sense, or to use a pre-modern turn of phrase, to the forest of symbols. I retain a fascination for words and for the interminable potential of semantic resonance. This is being explored through a work in progress, the on-line Design Lexicon. The intellectual shift from Platonic to continental philosophy is evident in my recent book on architecture and cinema, which argues against formalism and for a parallel move into the unprogrammable and fluxional propensity of architectural experience. I am working on a second monograph, Theorising the Project, which will explore how this could be played out productively in design thinking and practice. Along the way, my attraction to the sublime and the remote in Australian landscapes took me into the desert and to an encounter with indigenous communities. This led to working in the Centre, then initiating student projects in the Pitjantjatjarra and Ngaanyatjarra Lands of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, culminating in the BHP Steel awarded Patjarr Visitor centre – a collaboration with the University of SA. Growing concern for indigenous concepts and practices of place, and in the ethical rather than aesthetic dimension of architecture and placemaking, led to a collaboration with HealthHabitat and the establishment of the first indigenous preparatory programme in architecture at the UNSW.

Between 2006 and 2010 I was Professor of Architectural Design at Newcastle University, where I helped to develop and sharpen the year long final Graduation Studio, and came to appreciate the critical questions and sacrifices around regenerating abandoned industrial fabric in the contemporary city. I have practiced architecture in Sydney, Alice Springs and Adelaide, designing and building several houses and civic/community projects. I was design architect for the Garie Surf Lifesaving Centre, Royal National Park, completed in 2007 after a 10 years process that began as a student project.

Publications and Outputs

Books | Book Chapters | Journal Articles | Conference Presentations and Publications | Architectural and Design


2011 | Michael Tawa, Theorising the Project: A Thematic Approach to Architectural Design, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

2010 | Michael Tawa, Agencies of the Frame: Tectonic Strategies in Cinema and Architecture, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

1998 | Michael Tawa, 49 Veils: Windows in the New Central Synagogue, Waste Publishing, Sydney.

1994 | Michael Tawa, Paul Pholeros & Nick Opie, Ecotourism: A South Australian Design Guide for Sustainable Development. South Australian Tourism Commission, Adelaide.

Book Chapters

2011, Michael Tawa, 'Limits of Fluxion', in Architecture in the Space of Flows, Andrew Ballatyne and Chris Smith (eds.), London: Routledge.

2008 | Michael Tawa, 'Garie Beach Surf Safety Centre', in World Sustainable Construciton, Dou Pingping (ed.), Beijing: China Architecture and Building Press.

2008 | Michael Tawa, 'Cashpoint', Back to the City, Strategies for Information Urban Interventions, Stephen Lehmann (ed.), Berlin: Hatje Cantz.

2006 | Michael Tawa, 'Framing the Parasite', in Richard Goodwin: Performance to Porosity, Fisherman's Bend, Craftsman House (Thames and Hudson, Australia).

2005 | Michael Tawa, 'Verdant Green', in A Survey Exhibition, Janed Laurence, (ed.). ANU: Canberra.

2004 | Michael Tawa, 'Furnishing place: what is architecture fit for', Content(s), Barbara McConchie (ed.), Canberra: Craft and Design Centre.

2001 | Michael Tawa, 'Reconciliation in Action', in Everyday diveristy: Australian Multiculturalism and reconciliation in practice, Scott K. Phillips (ed.), Altona: Common Ground, 2001.

2000 | Michael Tawa, 'Making-for' in Warm Filters,Linda Marie Walker (ed.), Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide.

2001 | Michael Tawa, 'Powers of Ten', 1010:anniversary objects, Adelaide: University of South Australia Art Museum.

1992 | Michael Tawa, 'Poesis and Praxis: Craft Modernity and Techne of Architecture', Craft in Society: An Anthology of Perspective, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle.

Journal Articles

2012 | Michael Tawa, ENTRACTE: INTERVAL: A Review of Adrian Snodgrass Thinking Through the Gap and Linda Marie Walkers And so on, and",[[i| Architectural Theory Review]], 16(2), 124-135

2008 | Michael Tawa, 'Agencies of the Frame: Mobilising Assemblage in Cinema and Architecture', [[i|Jianzhushi (The Architect)]]. special issue of Architecture and Cinema. No. 135, Beijing, China.

2002 | Michael Tawa, 'Place, Country, Chorography; towards a kinaesthetic and narrative practice of place', in Architectural Theory Review, Vol. 7, No. 2, November.

2001 | Michael Tawa, 'At Kbal Spean', in Architectural Theory Review, Vol. 6, No. 1, April.

1998 | Michael Tawa , 'Mappng: Design', Architectural Theory Review, Vol. 3., No. 1, April.

1990 | Michael Tawa, 'Ideology and sources of nationalism in contemporary Australian architecture: objections to the marketing of an architectural fiction', Australian Studies in Architectural History, Stanislaus Fung and Timothy Turner, (eds.), The Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra.

Conference presentations and publications

2004 | Michael Tawa, 'Limit and Leimma, What remains for Architecture?', Limits, Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand, Melbourne, SAHANZ, RMIT.

2000 | Michael Tawa, 'What is theory for?', in Architecture + Education 2000, Proceedings of the 1st Association of Architecture Schools of Australiasia International Conference, Gary Moore, and Louise Trevillion (eds.), University of Sydney, 2000.

1999 | Michael Tawa, 'Imagining a place: mapping Alexandria', in Self, Place and Imagination: Cross Cultual Thinking in Architecture, Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium of the Centre for Asian & Middle Eastern Architecture, Adelaide.

1997 | Michael Tawa, 'Deliquent practices: drifting writing architecture' in Building Dwelling Drifting: Migrancy and the Limits of Architecture, Stephen Cairns and Philop Goad (eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd Other Connections Conference, University of Melbourne.

2000 | Michael Tawa, '(Un)making place. Défaire le lieu', in Proceedings of the 16th IAPS Conference, Paris, 2000. (CDROM)

1999 | Michael Tawa, Place, visuality and kinesthetics: indigenous experience of country at Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Central Australia', in The Practice and Pedagogy of Preservation, IASTE Working paper Series, Vol. 112. Berkeley, IASTE.

1997 | Michael Tawa, 'Grounding the question: Implications of indigenous narrative practice for architectural history', in On What Ground(s). Proceedings of the SAHANZ'97 Conference, University of South Australia and University of Adelaide, Peter Scriver and Sean Pickersgill (eds.).

Architectural and Design

Architect | Garie Surf Safety Centre, Garie Beach, Royal National Park. Awarded 3 awards in the Master Builders Association of NSW Excellence in Construction Awards - "Sporting facilities up to $5m", "Environmental Management", "Best Use of Timber", categories.

Visual Artist | Cashpoint Back to the City, Strategies for Informal Urban Interventions, edited by Steffen Lehmann, Berlin: Hatje Cantz.

Design Lexicon | Website and Exhibition, - internet based text and image resource of ideas for design thinking and practice, aimed at design students, teachers and professionals.