Members of the SEED ESD team attended PechaKucha Brisbane Volume 56 as part of the 2019 Asia Pacific Architecture Forum. The theme of the evening was “Transect – Impact and influence in a local context”. After our recent projects in Papua New Guinea, in which we observed the strong impact of local lifestyle and culture on the built environment, we were intrigued as to what embodies Brisbane and its surrounds.
PechaKucha has a unique 20 slides per presentation and 20 seconds per slide with the aim of keeping the presentation lively and to the point. It gives the opportunity for local architects, designers, and innovators to tell their story and the influences from the immediate surroundings that gave them inspiration. The format clearly works, with no one in the audience nodding off or leaving for the restroom during any of the 5 presentations given.
The talks began with Stephen Long from Architectus, who gave a valuable insight into the process of the refurbishment and exhibition in the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery. He emphasised that it was important to allow pieces to occupy their own space, as opposed to the space occupying them. He concluded that by doing this, it allowed the PNG community to come and talk about the collections, as opposed to reading about them like we often do in Australia. The sense of connection was obvious and animated as elders came and described the pieces to the next generation of Papua New Guineans. The connection was even more obvious in a building very different to the norm of the area.
A group from James Davidson Architect presented their recent works in restoring heritage buildings post-flooding and redevelopment. One of the biggest flaws with the modern built environment is that it has lost its character and areas of heavy development have become disconnected with the city they represent. James Davidson Architects work in removing features that covered the Elizabeth Picture Theatre and the old Red Hill Skating Arena to restore it to its ‘former glory’. When you don’t know what suburb you’re in, but you say “I’m five minutes away from the graffiti roller skating rink” then the sense of place has well and truly been established.
This sense of place and belonging was also very strong when Jared Gilsenan from Designworks spoke about their work on the Queen’s Baton for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The process of design was to embody the spirit and essence of the Gold Coast through an immersion into the environment. The result was a piece that not only reflected, but belonged on the Gold Coast, embracing nature and lifestyle.
All three of these talks showed strong elements of influence from the surrounding local context, but the two other speakers took a more ambitious approach. Samantha Seljak from Seljak brand and Michaela Chin from QAGOMA presented products and productions that were aimed to impact on the local context as opposed to gaining influence from it. Their efforts to change the way we think about our culture and society drive our cities and communities into another phase of cultural and social evolution. In many ways, this is a Ying that the other three speakers drew their Yang from.
SEED’s own motif is to encourage sustainable design, something which is most effectively done by embracing as much of the local context as possible. Not only is this an effective and impactful method of building and services design, but it influences and enhances the local culture.