The best and brightest architectural minds returned to Brisbane for the second iteration of the Architecture Asia Pacific Symposium.

Hosted at State Library of Queensland, attendees explored the pivotal role architecture has in shaping culture and economies throughout the region. Diversity was emphasised, with the conference hosting speakers from Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Sri Lanka, The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Highlighting innovative and transformative solutions to the problems of growing cities, the themes explored were as eclectic and diverse as the speakers themselves. Sojung Lee and Sangjoon Kwak of OBBA (Korea) initiated proceedings with a look at the ultra-high density city which is modern day Seoul. With 20% of the Korean population living in only 0.6% of the country, the implications of density on both quality of life and sustainability raised eyebrows in the context of Brisbane’s booming skyline. Next to present was Katherine Skipper (Warren and Mahoney, New Zealand), who spoke of growth, moving beyond the comfortable, and how this catalyst gives back to the individual, practice and client. After detailing Warren and Mahoney’s Australian expansion, the presentation concluded with a look at the Wellington Airport extension, a nod to the future growth of the practice.

Savinee Buranasilapin and Tom Dannecker (Thingsmatter, Thailand) undertook a fantastic examination of Bangkok; a messy sci-fi dystopia of Bladerunner meets Hunger Games, articulating that amongst the lunacy, they ‘love it’. A tongue-in-cheek examination of Bangkok’s billboard culture ended the presentation, with Dannecker explaining how when empty they advertise so little but say so much. Stephen Collier (Stephen Collier Architects, Australia) spoke of the unsettling indulgence in some architecture and provided a thought provoking look at how we as architecturally minded individuals can put our problem-solving skills to best use. Ivan Harbour (Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, UK) showcased the firm’s social ethos, their constitution and their practice structure, while detailing examples of the multinational scope of their work. Wenhui Lim (Spark, Singapore) presented Spark’s portfolio, highlighted by Home Farm, an exciting concept typology mixing aged care and commercial agriculture.

John Denton (Denton Corker Marshall, Australia) examined the design, construction and cultural nuance of three Australian embassies; Beijing, Tokyo and the recent Australian Embassy in Jakarta.

The day concluded with Pritzker prize-winning Shigeru Ban documenting his disaster relief projects. He detailed the development of his paper tube technologies and took part in a short Q&A giving attendees a glimpse into his philosophy and personality.

Milinda Pathiraja (Robust Architecture Workshop, Sri Lanka) presented a talk titled Labour, Work and Architecture. With the eyes of a current student, I was moved by RAW’s methodology, which provides an exceptional exemplar to the responsibilities and power of architectural thought. With the Ambepussa Community Library, RAW implemented a strategy which built a physical structure, while simultaneously building individuals, their skills and the community. Through increased tolerance and task based training within the design, workforce capacity was up-skilled. The knowledge, abilities and methodology garnered from the project are hoped to disseminate into the construction industry across Sri Lanka. With a sustainable approach to material and environment, the project showcased an applied effort towards quadruple bottom lines, outcomes worthy of emulation.

As the Asian century develops, new ways of thinking and new systems of tackling old problems will be vital in answering the demanding questions asked of our communities and their architects.

– by Liam Suter

Image 1 Cameron Bruhn of Architecture Media. Photo by Dianna Snape.
Image 2 John Denton. Photo by Dianna Snape.
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