If we ponder the national discourse placing Australia in a position where ‘innovation’ is the proposed solution to enacting an economically sustainable future – forums such as the ArchitectureAP Symposium become not only desirable but critical.

In the world of design, creative problem solving and its by-product ‘innovation’ go hand-in-hand as the modus operandi of professional practice. Therefore the need for meaningful regional discussion in this sphere is timely.

In addition to the emerging Asian century and Australia’s more locally based ‘innovation agenda’ we find ourselves inhabiting a time where many economic and global forces are at play in the formation of the built world.

With many leading nations now aligned and supporting the United Nations agenda to reverse climate change over the next 15 years, as well as the CSIRO and leading futurists forecasting significant mega trends likely to impact the globe in diverse ways, the need for constructive discussion around the development of cities and meaningful places has arisen as a pressing regional issue.

In response to these forces, State Library of Queensland recently played host to the first ArchitectureAP Symposium. With presentations from 13 industry leaders, the program provided a multifaceted snapshot of architectural practice and urban development across the Asia Pacific region.

Interestingly, within each presentation emerged the threads of larger global challenges and opportunities – subtle glimpses of the shape of things to come. Most prevalent of which was Jeff Walker’s (Director JPW), presentation on his experiences working in China, where complete cities are being built from scratch at an extremely rapid rate.

Also of note was the revelation in WHOA’s work demonstrating that green space can be significantly increased by development rather than reduced. In terms of sustainable development this outcome appears to be a very significant game-changer and no doubt warrants considerable discussion in the urban planning sphere with the potential to drastically increase green space within urban development projects.

While reflecting on the presentations, I am reminded that each speaker is in fact an active contributor to our collective future. When considered through this lens the overarching points of resonance from the symposium are perhaps as follows: that built form has the capacity to reflect and strengthen human identify, achieving (the ever-intangible) sense of place is critical, there is great value in joy and creative play in both process and outcome (as revealed by Moon Hoon) and that truly achieving economically and environmentally sustainable outcomes is profoundly complex.

While successfully functioning as a melting pot of discussion and inspiration undoubtedly the real contribution of the symposium and those like it, lies not in the day itself but in the ongoing influence on attendees and participants in the months or years that follow, as knowledge shared begins to underpin positive change and innovation.

More broadly it’s heartening that symposiums such as this have been activated locally to stimulate expert discussion and provide a unique opportunity to collectively examine and influence our emergent future. Hopefully this is only the beginning for the ArchitectureAP Symposium with many more to come.

This article is based on the ArchitectureAP Symposium held on Friday 4 March 2016 during the Asia Pacific Architecture Forum.


Asia Pacific Architecture Forum

Architecture AP Symposium

Jenni Baxter

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