Kevin OBrien GS.jpg

Kevin O'Brien

Swimming Pools and Other Contests

Perhaps the first casualty of the Frontier Wars in Australia was the concept of truth. Specifically, the idea that that the loss of life, Country and liberty were somehow a greater sacrifice for the greater wealth and extension of the British Empire. In referring ‘The Ethics of War’ by Russell Bertrand, the leading British philosopher of the 19th century, it was argued that a war of colonisation although indefensible was judging by results a worthwhile venture. What is set up there is the exit of reason and the entry of historical revision. Launching a perfect arc to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 and the Australian offering titled ‘Pools’, we can see again the absence of a complete story. The ‘Pool’ was exhibited as that great equaliser where all Australians come together in sentimental harmony. What I will complete is the story. And how the first water holes were contested places during the Frontier Wars delivering a different kind of dark arc to Australia’s indigenous peoples.


Kevin graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1995, and a Master of Philosophy (in the field of architecture) in 2006. He was a Churchill Scholar in 2000 and established Kevin O’Brien Architects in 2006. He was Professor of Design at QUT from 2013-2015 and was appointed Professor of Creative Practice at the University of Sydney in late 2016.

In 2012, Kevin directed the Finding Country Exhibition as an independent and official Collateral Event of the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy. The radical project sought to recover Aboriginal Country from the Australian City and received the Karl Langer Award for Urban Design at the Queensland State Awards and an International Architecture Award from the Australian Institute of Architects in 2013.

Built projects completed by Kevin O'Brien Architects have been awarded many residential, commercial and public architecture awards from the Australian Institute of Architects.

Desna Whaanga-Schollum