13th May 2016

How soon is now?

The National Architecture Conference in Adelaide 2016

This year’s conference was two days of intense and insightful debate about what architects are doing now, and what their role is for the future. The theme may have been ‘How soon is now?’ but the conference expanded with more questions such as ‘What exactly are we trying to achieve as a profession?’ and ‘How little do we need to get on with it?’ It dealt with architect roles in growing urban cities, the importance of design in meeting people’s basic needs, and confronting the changing needs of the globalised culture as it evolves.

All over the world, the rapid growth of cities mean that architects are playing major roles in them. Many of the architects who spoke at the conference are involved in connecting communities – in London, through urban infrastructure design, green power initiatives and high speed networks for remote communities; Barcelona is implementing reactivation programs for under-utilised public spaces; while architects in Colombia are challenging the restrictive use of public space to create better places for gathering. Every architect has strong ambitions, and many have already made amazing achievements.

Kevin Low (Small Projects) presented a suite of projects that embodied simplicity, low cost, low maintenance, sustainable approaches in Malaysia that were clever and relevant, and beautifying the practice of ‘content over form’. At a global scale, David Sanderson (UNSW) advocated for more designers in the prevention of the impacts of major global emergencies, which would enable more meaningful and appropriate design solutions for humanitarian aid.

Into the digital age, architecture could let go of ‘the building’ and move towards co-creation. Thomas Fisher (UoM) refers to this as the ‘The Third Wave’ – taken from Alvin Toffler, who theorised that after civilization and industrialisation, the world would enter into the mass consumption of knowledge and experiences. People are more attracted to the ability to ‘do-it-yourself’ through mass sharing services such as Uber and Airbnb. If we are going to accommodate the needs of this culture, our profession could enter into the digital market rather than utilising it only.

Image Source: World Humanitarian Summit 2016, La Biennale di Venezia 2016

Sanderson (UNSW) urges designers to prioritise the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul before the Venice Biennale this year.

It is evident that many architects have their foot in the door now, in a diversity of areas – only requiring time to allow the process to develop. Architects need to prepare for the rapid changes in our culture and environments, working closer with the wider community towards more purpose-driven, innovative and invigorating designs for the world of our future.

For summaries of each talk visit the official conference blog:

Featured Image: At the conference – the panel (Matt Davis, Cristina Goberna, Kevin Low, Vicente Guallart and Greg Mackie) in agreeance that advocating future starts with improving education.
Photographer: Peter Bennetts
Image source: Architecture AU
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We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.