Two Talks and a Conference

Over the past three weeks I’ve had the privilege of being able to continue my work from home. Fortunately, adjusting to life to home was also quick but in short, I’ve found that it’s not how much extra time you have, but the uninterrupted stretches of time that are valuable. 

To fill these stretches some content has, paradoxically been more accessible than ever. I went to a conference and attended two architecture talks – and the talks and the conference are still available for viewing!

Digital WorldBike Conference

With great timing, a small group of bike advocates had been planning to host the world’s first online bike conference this year – and it went off with only minor issues. I found out about the conference just before midnight, and within that hour I was registered and attending the first talk. The choice of platform was unexpected and its first impression will likely leave you a bit skeptical:

Everywhere and Nowhere

I haven’t seen such a modestly, yet earnestly rendered setting since Mavis Beacon but the more you dig in the more there is to like. The background flickers from one city to another, complete with a reveal of the Matrix in between, and isn’t that what these same-ish, sparsely populated conference facilities around the world are *all* like? At a squint it could be the Melbourne Convention Centre, or the riverbank. 

Irony aside the setting worked unexpectedly well as a ‘conference’ – I ‘saw’ someone I indirectly work with but have never met at the ‘cafe’, and stopped to talk to a YouTuber I followed a few years back. 

In the faux ‘conference’ centre the program is divided into three themes, hosting a total of 21 speakers discussing cycling under the lens of either Mobility, Sports or Tech. Being there primarily for ‘Mobility’, I found it delivered exactly the talking points I came to hear about concerning the delivery of mobility infrastructure, including cycling and walking infrastructure and getting a better understanding of the demographics that use them. 

Raluca Fiser, president of the World Cycling Alliance takes the prosaic theme ‘Trends in Urban Mobility’ and turns it into a world spanning, inspiring history of social mobility on two wheels.

Self-professed ‘Cyclist Thinker’ Marco te Brommelstroet opened with a talk on the importance of language in shaping perceptions of what mobility could be. He calls out a discussion that is often overly focused on speed and optimisation of travel time, and advocates expanding the notion of mobility to include the general social utility of being in public. 

Putting a name to ‘Indirect interactions’ (what you get when you stop at a bike box with other cyclists) made me miss city life, but it also names the social quality of seeing everyone during isolation rediscovering their local neighbourhoods, parks and trails.

The Digital WorldBike Conference is available for viewing until April 30.

The Architect’s Bookshop Talks: Angelo Candalepas

This series of streamed talks hosted by a small architecture bookshop in Sydney was organised out of necessity, but as a result has been drawing far larger audiences than expected across all states. 

Angelo Candalepas’ talk was rescheduled this week in order to move it to YouTube for a larger audience. Candalepas Associates’ portfolio doesn’t shy away from large, commercial projects but they manage to do so with a distinct aesthetic, which is inexplicably a throwback to more romantic brutalist buildings of the 50’s and 60’s. 

However the talk centred on what is perhaps Candalepas Associates’ most famous commission, the Punchbowl Mosque. Alongside Glenn Murcutt’s Australian Islamic Centre which is currently in progress, they reflect a conceited effort from Australian Islamic communities to express architecturally a new hybrid identity by working in conjunction with famous Australian architects. 

For me, Candelepas’ presentation was a throwback – despite his disdain for it – to architecture history lectures at uni, taking the audience through a chronological study of historical mosques that inspired the final built outcome. What seems to be his mind early on, as it really is for everyone in the community at the moment – is the inherent sociality of gatherings, under any occasion.

He tied this notion beautifully to his project beginning with a historical byzantine depiction of the first church ‘ecclesia’ – a meeting of worshippers, sans building around a central figure forming a tight architectural square, with strong visual resemblance to the courtyards that would eventually define mosques throughout history. 

Vokes and Peters

In a way Vokes and Peters also have a mid-century aesthetic to their work, but the pool of references spans from the historical giant to the scalloped timber details of Queensland suburbia. They apologised for a ‘didactic’ interpretation of their work – but delivered a great presentation that not only showed the buildings but processes behind each individual project and the themes that they explore. 

There were plenty of pencil sketches and notes to pause and delve over. When adding to a house in Queensland, you can’t go wrong with removing the tacked on extensions and condensing the private spaces together – leaving an open, inviting public realm to the house. 

Indeed the ‘publicness’ of the house was a recurring theme, and the architects actively encourage thinking not only how the spaces of the house (both exterior and private) can contribute to the streetscape, as well bringing the qualities of the streetscapes. 

Specifically this was broken down into eight themes: the Narrative Brief, the Public Nature of Private Buildings, Manner and Detail, Building as Backdrop, Room Overlooking a Garden, Stair as Garden Furniture, Go West and Practicing from a Position.

If the books that flashed on screen were anything to go by, this position has the construction of conviviality at it’s core – a useful concept when designing a building with a healthy appreciation of the limits of what the building can do for you (and what you do for the building), but also in expressing the intangible quality that make some gathering spaces work and comfortable to socialise in.  

The Architect’s Bookshop ‘Isolation Talks’ are weekly, and continue with the work of Mel Bright (Studio Bright) next week.

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