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Architecture, but not about rich people’s architecture

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2019


An exhibition that looks at new ways of practicing architecture offers a glimpse of how architecture could and should change people’s lives, not just the lives of rich people.


Making Ways is the curatorial vision of Dr Kathy Waghorn, a senior lecturer in architecture, University of Auckland, and showcases an unusually inclusive approach to architectural practice.

We need to find new ways of architectural practice she says to, among other things, better address the politics of space and place, to imbue knowledge of tikanga and to be more engaged with Māori communities.

“We also need to design buildings that create less waste and use less energy, and begin to tackle the pressing issues of housing affordability and access, both here and abroad.”

To do this we need to expand the practice of architecture away from a sole focus on building, and find more collaborative ways of practicing. That means expanding the concept of who the client is, and developing skills in working with the wider community, including children and youth.

The exhibition, at Objectspace, Ponsonby, features four different practices doing things their own way. “Architecture that is socially engaged with people, a broad range of people,” says Dr Waghorn.

The exhibition is staged as a rolling event, with each practice having one week in the exhibition space. The first week will feature the work of Unit Y, a Trust set up and led by architect and School of Architecture senior lecturer, Dr Mike Davis.

Unit Y brings current students and new graduates together to work in small teams on projects for community clients.

It enables students to work on real-life projects for real-world clients. It also opens up architecture and architectural expertise to groups of people who don’t usually get a chance or have the budget to work with architects. “But mainly it’s a way to give students a chance to see their designs actually being built,” says Dr Davis.

Unit Y has worked on a number of projects over the years, including the Huia Settlers Museum, Newton Central Primary School and Our Lady of Fatima church in Meadowbank.

For Making Waves, the Trust will present a real-size model of a small house designed by former Masters of Architecture student, Ayla Raymond-Roberts.

Her thesis presented designs for nine small houses, and Dr Davis (who was her supervisor) has taken on one of her houses as a potential project for Unit Y. “She showed me her design, and I thought, ‘we should build that’”.

Costs have conspired against building a real building just yet, but Making Ways includes a life-size model made of wood and fabric — four metres tall by eight metres long and three metres wide. “We’re hoping that someone might come along and see it and commission a build,” says Dr Davis.

If not, it should provoke discussion about the potential of the really, really small but exquisitely formed house.

“We want to provoke discussion, about the potential of the small house, and also the barriers to innovative forms of housing.”

Making Ways will also feature the work of ĀKAU, a design and architecture practice based in Te Taitokerau, Northland, which places people and community at the heart of their projects, creating ways for taitamariki to be involved in the design of projects in their community.

Makers of Architecture will feature in the third week, and show how contemporary customisation technologies are bridging the gap between architecture and building.

The fourth week features Hatch Workshop, a design-build duo from New Zealand who are collaborating with NGOs to improve the quality of housing for worker groups, recently in India. “They are a couple whose goal is to bring dignity to the conditions of people who are often overlooked,” says Dr Waghorn.

Making Ways is about young practices who trying to reinvent the way architecture is done, she says. “They are outsiders reinventing architecture, but with insider knowledge.”

Making Ways: alternative architectural practice in Aotearoa
Objectspace, 13 Rose Road, Ponsonby, Auckland.
14 September – 13 October, 2019

ends

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