Day 2 of the 2015 National Architecture Conference: Risk saw the beginning of talks at the Melbourne Convention Centre from a collection of inspirational speakers from Australia and overseas.
If you missed the Day 1 highlights click here to see highlights from the Opening party tours and Parlour Soiree
Emerging Architects Breakfast
The day got off to a very early start for many young and emerging architects attending the Emerging Architects Breakfast in Fatto Cantina at Hamer Hall.
Over the obligatory coffees and pastries engaged and enthusiastic young professionals ‘talked shop’. Events such as this one highlight yet another reason why membership of the Australian Institute of Architects is so valuable for young professionals developing their networks.
A special shout out should also go to the corporate sponsors AWS who are very active in their support of the profession.
Richard Wynne – Opening address and policy announcements
An excellent welcome to country ceremony began proceedings, followed by an introductory speech by AIA National President David Karotkin. The next piece of the official opening and welcome was an address given by the recently elected Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne.
Wynne’s presence alone was evidence of a remarkable turnaround in the engagement of the Victorian Government in the architectural profession since the change of government last November. The previous planning minister, now opposition leader, Matthew Guy had refused multiple requests to attend both meetings to discuss policy, and AIA events such as the state architecture awards ceremony. It was therefore a very welcome sight to see a politician interested and engaged with architecture.
In even better news Wynne came prepared with the news many local architects had been waiting quite a while to hear. The Office of the Victorian Architect would be returning to its rightful place fearlessly providing independent advice direct to the department of Premier and Cabinet. The Government will also be seeking to appoint a new Victorian Government Architect to fill the empty chair left by the former governments inaction.
This is an excellent announcement which lifts the Andrews government performance on built environment issues to 7.5 / 10 from the Red + Black scorecard in March
The Creative Directors
The creative directors are the team that sets the theme, designs the format and selects the speakers for the conference. This year the masterminds of the event are Donald Bates, Andrew Mackenzie and Hamish Lyon. Aside from a question here or there, a comment or an introduction they have so far been content to somewhat play a low key role and push the guests to the foreground. Nevertheless they deserve significant credit in putting together what has so far been a very slick production.
Gregg Pasquarelli – [SHoP Architects]
First speaker up was Gregg Pasquarelli, a founding partner of New York-based SHoP Architects. SHoP are globally recognized as at the cutting edge of architectural innovation and only five minutes in to Pasquarelli’s presentation it was easy to see why. They are consistently pursuing side projects to improve their value as professionals. The first example is one that you might expect, a see-through glazed facade system which generates electricity like solar cells. Something far from expected was an app which automatically analyses the New York planning scheme determine the overall building envelope and allowable floor area for any site, in only a few minutes.
“The New York planning code is 400 pages of rules followed by 300 pages of exceptions to those rules”
With the audience already impressed Pasquarelli then went on to discuss risk and reward in terms of intellectual capital and financial capital. This discussion went on to highlight how design is often seen as something that costs money rather than something that unlocks value.
“An idea has to make sense in diagram, drawing and model”
As the talk pivoted to talk about SHoP projects it was based firmly in the story of how the architects used their expert knowledge to unlock value both for their client and themselves. Perhaps the most amazing of the projects was the Barclays Center which SHoP successfully steered away from the metaphorical cliff that the clients were heading towards prior to their engagement.
In this project the innovation extended to SHoP designing a smartphone app which could be used on anyone working on the construction project from the executive level all the way down to the labourers on site. This App could track in real time any one of the thousands of individually unique Coreten weathered steel panels required on the project.
SHoP are clearly an amazing architectural practice doing inspiring work at the very pinnacle of excellence.
Caroline Bos – [UN Studio]
Next up to the podium was Carolin Bos from UN Studio. Her presentation covered a collection of their works from Asia and Europe. The work was packed with fluid form making, crisp lines and dynamic spaces. It was however less obvious to draw connections with this work back to the overarching theme of risk. Bos raised the risks of complex bureaucracy in the project jurisdiction and the relationship with the client as issues. What was less clear was how these projects related to those issues. .
Camilla Block [ Durbach Block Jaggers Architects], Paul Morgan [Paul Morgan Architects] and Cynthia Davidson [Anyone Corporation]
After a short break the conference split into three groups for a series of discussions led by different contributors. This was a risk taken by the creative directors to hopefully generate more discussions within and between the groups.
In dialogue 2 Camilla Block shared the idea that the corollary to risk is trust. This was discussed through an example of client architect collaboration where from a simple sketch of an idea the architect had won the trust to complete the project. The client aspect of risk is one that is very important to the discussion.
“We don’t mind innovation, as long as it has been done before”
Client comment to Camilla Block
Camilla was followed by Paul Morgan who brought up his project The Trunk House as an example of dealing with risk of technical building performance. This then led into a panel type discussion led by Cynthia Davidson. She questioned the tension between the ‘secret language of Architects’ sometimes called the Archi-speak and the need for architects to gain the trust of the public. The free flowing conversation provided some memorable quotes and some challenging ideas about public architecture.
“Architects are the most optimistic people because they think every day about the future”
Planning and Architecture : Lost in Translation
John Daley [Grattan Institute], Gregg Pasquarelli [SHoP Architects], David Gianotten [OMA], Mitchell Silver [City of New York], Cheong Koon Hean [Singapore Housing and Development Board]
After the lunch break saw a unprecedented joint session with the Planning Institute of Australia. On the stage were two architects, a planner and Cheong Koon Hean who has been involved in projects in a variety of capacities including architect, planner and developer. The discussion was chaired by John Daley from the Grattan Institute.
The session drew a packed audience to witness what was a free wheeling discussion with some excellent points made by all speakers. In particular Gregg Pasquarelli and New York City Planner Mitchell Silver had some wise words of warning about where our cities were going wrong and the importance of getting them right.
On prescriptive planning:
“For the fear of making one horrible building they make everything really mediocre”
On mistakes we are making with cities:
“Where we got it wrong was an over-reliance on sprawl”
On what we need to get right in cities:
“Parks are core pieces of infrastructure, not just a nice amenity. Density and open space go together; you can’t have one without the other”
Deborah Saunt – [DSDHA]
After the conclusion of the discussion sessions for the day Deborah Saunt took the stage to present what would be a refreshingly honest account of her journey in architecture and urban design. From a humble starting point DSDHA progressed to bigger and bigger projects through producing high quality results and then maintaining a reputation among council planners for delivering excellent built outcomes.
“We’ve placed ourselves in the path of luck.”
This talk was particularly inspirational to the emerging architects in the audience who face significant challenges in setting up and establishing architectural practices. Saunt reflected upon significant struggles of her practice to hold on to jobs that were under threat from risk averse clients. On two occasions this resulted in the interior of the project being fitted out by a separate architect much to the frustration of DSDHA. As Saunt mused it was incredible that the exterior facade and base building was acceptable for their practice to undertake but the ‘kitchens and bathrooms’ were considered to much a risk.
David Gianotten – [OMA]
The final speaker for the day was David Gianotten from OMA the practice made famous by architect Rem Koolhaas. Gianotten’s humorous and unapologetic presentation focussed on the economic and financial risks and realities of large architectural practices. From excessively rising insurance requirements to the impacts of global events such As September 11 and the Global Financial Crisis OMA have overcome some incredible challenges to remain a viable practice.
“We want to be profitable, but not profit driven”
David Gianotten’s Presentation was an excellent conclusion to a jam packed day of architectural discussion.
Architecture is for Everyone