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Architects conference attracts top global talent

Eleven leading international architects will address the New Zealand Institute of Architects’ biennial conference in Auckland next February.
The Institute’s President, Auckland architect Tim Melville, said the lineup of speakers will be one of the strongest rosters of architectural talent to appear in New Zealand.

“The presenters will cover issues and topics that are relevant wherever architects work, including innovative responses to changing demographics, adopting contemporary technologies, observing sustainable principles – and designing buildings that work for their users and enhance the public realm of cities and communities.”

“Some of our speakers are from big practices, and others are from small firms,” Melville said. “What they have in common is a determination to make the most of the architectural opportunities they’re presented with.”

The speaker programme is led by Reinier de Graaf, a partner with Rem Koolhaas in the influential Dutch practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).

De Graaf is the architect of numerous significant projects, including large-scale buildings in Western Europe, Russia and the Middle-East. His recent book, Four Walls and a Roof, is an informative, revealing and witty account of his experience as an international specialist in multi-unit housing, airport design and urban master-planning.

Sadie Morgan is a director of the British practice dRMM which in 2017 won the UK’s top architecture award, the Stirling Prize. In the same year, Morgan’s contribution to important national infrastructure agencies was recognised in her being selected as New Londoner of the Year at the New London Awards for her work in “championing the importance of design at the highest political level”.

Ma Yansong, the founder of the Beijing practice MAD Architects, is one of the leading figures in a new wave of young Chinese architects. The Yale graduate, who is often credited with bridging Eastern and Western design values, has designed some extraordinary projects in his homeland and is one of the first Chinese architects to win significant commissions in the United States.

South African architect Jo Noero has designed more than 200 buildings since starting his career in the early 1980s when he designed schools, houses and community projects in townships such as Soweto. His post-apartheid work includes commercial offices and public buildings, as well as buildings in the townships.

Aljoša Dekleva and Tina Gregorič are partners in a practice based in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. From there, they have built enterprising careers that include designing houses and urban spaces and reworking heritage buildings in Slovenia, teaching in Europe and Central America, and participating in international exhibitions such as the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Wolfram Putz is a founding partner of GRAFT, a highly innovate practice with offices in Berlin, Los Angeles and Beijing. The practice’s work encompasses architecture, urban planning, product design, branding, music and, it proclaims, the “pursuit of happiness”. In 2018, GRAFT co-curated Germany’s national exhibition as the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Canadian architect and Harvard graduate Betsy Williamson is co-founder of Williamson Williamson, a Toronto practice with a strong record in residential architecture, including housing for older people, and urban design. Williamson is vice-chair of the Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel, and an outspoken advocate for the advancement of women in the architecture profession.

Gloria Cabral is a partner in Gabinete de Arquitectura, a practice based in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion. The practice has a strong commitment to community projects and is used to working with modest budgets. This has not handicapped their design ambition: in 2016, the practice won the top award – the Golden Lion – at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The London practice led by Amin Taha, which operates as an employee cooperative, has won several British and international architecture awards, including one for his own building that the local council controversially is seeking to demolish. Taha writes, teaches and lectures on architecture, and acts as an independent consultant to property-related research groups and funds.

Christopher Hawthorne was architecture critic for The Los Angeles Times for 14 years before crossing the road to City Hall early in 2018 to take up a position created for him by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti as the city’s Chief Design Officer.

The 2019 New Zealand Institute of Architects Conference will be held from 14-15 February at Spark Arena, Auckland.

The presentation by Reinier de Graaf on 14 February is open to the public, as are three breakfast sessions, with Reinier de Graaf; Gloria Cabral, Sadie Morgan and Betsy Williamson; and Christopher Hawthorne. (A booking fee applies to these events.)

Members of the public may also book conference tickets. For information and booking details go to


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