NZIA IN:SITU Conference 2019

Every two years New Zealand architects have their conference.

I really look forward to it, and after weeks of anticipation, the two days of it were over in a flash.

I needee to comment on the last conference and I need to comment on the significance of this one.

It was the largest ever, with 1300 attendees. Morning , lunch and afternoon breaks were so socially intense that I actually looked forward to getting back to the auditorium to sit quietly and listen to the amazing line up of very special speakers.

Hearty congratulations for the Institute for organising such a stunning world-class lineup.

They probably began their work as the last conference was finishing. I can see the effort involved in considering and selecting such a stellar line-up would reasonably take at least two years.

To me the stimulation of the big picture projects we saw, brings to mind the famous graffiti somewhere in New York that says ’how can you fly with the eagles when you are stuck on the ground with the turkeys?’

Every attendee as a result of exposure to the 10 enthralling speakers, has to be a little better at their architecture when they come back to earth.

The interlocutory role was played by Christopher Hawthorne, who was the architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times at the 2017 conference and is now, in 2019, the Chief Design Officer for the city of Los Angeles. From journalism to action.  Marvellous progress.

Among the brilliant speakers , two especially stood out for me.

The first was Jo Noero, from Capetown, who at an incredibly young age, and as a Marxist-Leninist, was commissioned by Bishop Desmond Tutu to design 50 churches in South Africa. Desmond didn’t want one grand cathedral, but rather sought to engage right across South Africa with more intimate smaller places of worship, in which his church came to the people rather than the reverse.

The integrity of his architectural morality in serving the people of his community was so worthy.

The other standout was Gloria Cabral from Paraguay, who was so charming and so humorous, despite her struggle with English. Her firm won the best in show for their pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2018.

Never has gesticulation crossed so many boundaries. The chap seated next to me asked me what the Spanish for ‘will you marry me?’ was.

Following the conference I attended an architectural function in Wellington, where a sales rep said that after listening to Betsy Williamson from Canada, she had decided to become an architect.

The last speaker, Ma Yansong, from China didn’t have a project less than a billion dollars. Stupendous stuff, from China to California.

Sadly, I couldn’t go the day 3, tours of Waiheke Island, because I had to return to my reality at home, but the stimulation of the conference is with me still and hopefully will be until the next one in 2021.


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