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Largest Architecture Conference Opens


Architects have been challenged to be more assertive about who they are, what they do and why they are of value.

That was the message presented to architects from New Zealand and around the world at the opening of New Zealand's largest ever architecture conference.

In an opening "provocation" to the Commonwealth Association and New Zealand Institute of Architects three day conference which gets under way in Wellington this morning, Wellington architect and Deputy Principal of the Central Institute of Technology, Tommy Honey challenged architects to engage more forcefully in promoting their skills, their profession and their role in shaping the cities in which they work.

In a hard-hitting but witty speech, Mr Honey chided his colleagues saying they were too passive in public. "Why, when the media present buildings, do they not identify the architects? Would they review a book without naming the author? But more to the point, why, when we go unidentified, do we keep quiet? Every time an architectural issue appears in the paper or on TV, we should be there, asserting our rights as the authors."

Similarly, he said, architects need to better communicate their views in urban design debates.

"The sad, sad and futile case of the Wellington Waterfront, and its capture by an architecturally illiterate group of urban dyslexics is an incredible indictment of the powers and influence of the architectural profession. It represents a signal failure of our ability to be heard when it matters. Where were the town meetings organised by the Institute of Architects, by the Architectural Centre? Where were the lunchtime meetings in the civic square, the sit-ins, the parades, the fuelling of the groundswell of public opinion, the appeals to the grass-roots? Conspicuous by their absence. A few lone and plaintiff cries that we must be heard because we are architects, because we are the experts. Self- appointed, of course."

Those ideas were reiterated by the other opening speaker Andy Bow of the London based international architectural practice, Foster and Partners. Mr Bow told delegates at the conference that they were all at the conference because of their interest in the built environment and they needed to see themselves as custodians of that world.

"On a daily basis we must ask ourselves the question: are we enhancing or damaging the existing city balance? Doctor's bury their mistakes, ours are around for a sufficiently long time and are visible for everyone to see. We are all, and must always remain, publicly accountable for our work," he said.

Mr Bow said similar issues confront every major city in the world.

"Cities need to consider their vision of the future in the global marketplace, how to protect and enhance the existing city fabric in the face of development pressures and how to revise the over - dominance of the motor car."

The conference features a line up of some of the best architects in the world with eight keynote speakers from overseas and four from New Zealand.


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