Just as my cellphone needs regular recharging, my creative juices need replenishing.

Every two years our Institute arranges presentations for us, from an array of local and international architects.

They inspire, entertain, agitate and impassion us.

Between the 10th and 13th of February last, this event happened at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland and it was brilliant.

It’s great to learn how different cultures respond to design issues common to architecture, especially those dealing with urban intensification that we are only just beginning to experience.

There were a number of local speakers, inevitably better known and understood.  All very jolly but nothing new.

Of the internationals, for me, the following were the standouts .


Sou Fujimoto from Japan.

He is fascinated by boundaries, so he devises all sorts of amazing ways of dissolving them.

His Serpentine installation – almost gaseous.

And then he showed us what is possibly the world’s largest single loo enclosure.

It sits cheekily, elegantly and transparently in its own field.

(The ‘occupied’ sign is many metres from the actual potty)

Sou enjoyed the irony of what has become a tourist destination, in which bus loads of bladders not able to use it one at a time, have a bank of conventional toilets located near the entrance.


Libby Farrelly, the architectural critic of the Sydney Morning Herald.

She stretchingly parallelled Frank Gehry’s new Sydney UTS building with Kim Kardashians derriere.

She went on to associate Nouvel’s Central Park One apartments with Clint Eastward’s flinty face.  Surely not his projecting cigar a metaphor of that buildings heliotrope?

Its an unfair comparison, of course, in that Gehry’s building is not layered apartments, but a university building.

Gehry does stack his apartment designs up more rationally (refer New York tower and Battersea housing in London)

Also John Nouvel goes bonkers with concert halls.

Libby’s preference would not worry Gehry, who never confuses critics with creatives.

He is normally asked by his clients to startle and he rarely disappoints.


Andrew Maynard from Melbourne

A lively free spirited suburbia hater and urban infiller, who’s careful and responsible development of tight city fringe sites is exemplary.

His proposal for giant liposuction fuelled suburb-eating robots, the typical larrikin subversive scheme we have come to expect from lucky country architects.


Sam Jacob from England.

A BBC grade articulate intellectual. His firm FAT, an architectural Goon Show reminding us that buildings, just because they are solid objects, can’t be wittily amusing.

I’m sure he hangs out with those other London comics Bill Bailey and Boris Johnson.


Kunie Adeyami from Nigeria.

It is truly inspiring that such a poor and crowded country should be building so marvellously.

Kunie optimistically noted that human ingenuity is the most important capital of all.


Adrian Wilke and Phil Harris – the other lucky country architects .

Despite the president of the RAIA president being a guest, they explained how their firm’s proposed name ‘Troppo Architects’ was rejected by the authorities until they threatened to go to the deed poll office to be renamed Adriane and Phil Troppo.

Just as Thom Maines California building designs anticipate what effects might arise from earthquakes, Troppo’s anticipates what cyclones might do with corrugated iron roofs.


Vo Trong Nghia from Vietnam was the last show stopper.

His first up graph shows that Ho Chi Minh has the lowest ratio of green space at 0.7m2 per person of Asian Capitals ( Singapore the highest )

This leads him to propose a large tree ( or sometimes several ) be planted on the top of every building he designs.

He builds in either concrete or bamboo, due to the shortage of wood.

In the case of one extraordinary Vietnamese version of St. Gigimano house, bamboo was used as shuttering.


He came with us on the outing to Waiheke Island, where I’m sure he will still be recovering at the experience of its ratio of 7000m2 of green space per head of population.

But that trip is another story.