It is very satisfying to report that the ArchiTeam inaugural conference was a great success, very well supported with an almost full venue and lots of invaluable information and insights shared in a collegial atmosphere.
The one-day event held on Saturday 26 August at Museum Victoria explored the concept of Small Practice in Community through a diverse program of presentations and one-panel discussion.
Speakers travelled from as far afield as the United Kingdom and Malaysia to participate. They included two high-profile, maverick architects with a social conscience – Jeremy McLeod (Breathe Architecture) and Kevin Mark Low (Small Projects) – and creative business facilitator, Caroline Cole (Colander).
First up we heard how Jeremy’s then-small firm took on Australia’s developer- and profit-driven housing market with The Commons and Nightingale projects; then Kevin discussed stepping out of corporate architecture to become a one-man band committed to what he considers our professional raison d’être: making peoples’ lives better, rather than just producing alluring forms and patterns. To this end, the pair shared motivations, war stories, strategies and – sometimes, liquid-papered – drawings (Kevin).
While Jeremy and Kevin challenged and inspired us in philosophical and ethical ways, Caroline ran us through the nuts, bolts and imperatives of setting up good business practices, arguing that we need to treat this as seriously as any fee-paying work.
In very different ways, each speaker encouraged us to resist contemporary pressures to overly focus on ‘pattern-making’ and ‘styling’ – suggesting that content (a design’s ability to solve real problems) and the work of running and growing a business should be viewed as having, at least, equal value.
The panel discussion explored what innovation can look like, in big and small ways, and how it differs and overlaps with invention. Each panel member has made particular innovative contributions in the architectural community, be they establishing a support network for new architects (New Architects Melbourne), an alternative housing development model (The Commons and Nightingale), or a fresh philosophy and approach to working as an architect (Small Projects).
ArchiTeam Director, Rosemary Ross, aptly summed up the day by saying, “We’ve had our consciences, minds and souls fed today.”
In all, the day was another wonderful opportunity for new and veteran members to share experiences, resources and stimulating ideas true to the ArchiTeam mission.
And we’re already looking forward to the next conference!
By Susanne Kennedy
Susanne has profiled design, architecture and performing arts projects and themes since the year 2000. She recently returned to Australia after two years working in Central America, and is currently studying a Masters in Cultural Heritage.