WHEN: A Tale of Two Cities By Billard Leece Partnership. Image attribution: FloodSlicer

9 July 2010 – There was a strong note of optimism at Wednesday night’s launch at Admiralty House in Sydney of the stunning imagery that will represent Australian architects at the Venice Biennale later this year.

Although only glimpsed through a few select offerings it was clear that the “Now and When” exhibition from the Australian Institute of Architects would be both spectacular and somewhat audacious.

Key was that the designers of our urban centres, the architects, have visionary imagination, technological inventiveness and determination aplenty to at least attempt a vigorous response to the challenges of the future, especially with climate change.

Guests, hosted by the Governor General’s  partner, former architect Michael Bryce, and later joined briefly by the Governor General herself, Quentin Bryce, donned 3D glasses to view images of our country’s major urban centres as they have never seen them before.

Co-directors of the competition, well known architectural photographer John Gollings (for the  “Now”) and innovative architect Ivan Rijavec (for the “When”) said that 3D had the potential to alter the way we design our cities because it could provide such a powerful virtual view of what was possible.

The technology they said, was  “spectacular – a new way of looking at spaces in full dimensionality. Clients will have a super-realistic view of a design before it is even built.”

The “Now” part of the exhibition showed amazing images of our major cities as they are currently, but taken from strange angles by helicopter and through the magical prism of the 3D technology.

The “When” component featured “imaginary extremes” of existing and future urban clusters as they might be in 2050.

Mr Rijavec said that across the board entrants assumed a future Australia would not have the option of  the “sustainable population” flagged by new Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Instead entrants designed for “massive” population growth, assuming that Australia would be required to carry its share of the burden in a world of failing ecological systems, and for rising sea levels.

NOW: Sydney Opera House by John Gollings

Among the entries were reconfigured coastlines, inland lakes and huge urbanised centres housing up to 50 million people along with ideas for “subversive redevelopment,” as Mr Rijavec put it.

Despite the threatening potential, the message was energising.  Shift the perspective – open the shackles of conventional views and we can seize the future and shape its possibilities, the images seemed to say.

Instead of maps for the future, the images ought to be seen as “allegories,” Mr Rijavec said,  “visionary extremes” from the “sharp thinkers” in the nation who might provide pathways to imaginative responses.

The point of the exposition was “that in setting [the time frame] in the deep future we wanted to get people thinking about it in a way that is not [shackled] in the current rational ceiling.”

Currently, people were “sitting on the edge of the cliff” in relation to climate change: “Will it happen? And if does happen the rate of change will be astronomical.

“Whole cities will be have to be left behind, or defended. So in setting the competition for ‘When’ what we wanted to do is open a Pandora’s box on Australia’s urbanism …and do something about changing our identity.”

In doing so, it was important to identify that the key take home characteristic of a city, the idea that stays with people when they visit and love a city, was “not its neighbourhood character, not the iconic buildings…or the concrete reality,” of a city, rather it was the “sensibility of the place, the spirit.”

Winning entrants were selected from more than 100 contestants from all over the country involving collaboration between architectural practices large and small, and with related professionals. They are:

  • Sydney 2050: Fraying Ground, RAG URBANISM, Richard Goodwin (Richard Goodwin Art/Architecture), Andrew Benjamin, Gerard Reinmuth (TERRIOR)
  • Symbiotic City, Steve Whitford (University of Melbourne, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning) + James Brearley (BAU Brearley Architects and Urbanists, Adjunct Professor RMIT)
  • The Fear Free City, Justyna Karakiewicz, Tom Kvan and Steve Hatzellis
  • A City of Hope, EDMOND & CORRIGAN, Design – Peter Corrigan (everything), Realisation – Michael Spooner (and support)
  • Mould City, Colony Collective, Madeleine Beech, Jono Brener, Nicola Dovey, Peter Raisbeck and Simon Wollan
  • Sedimentary City, Brit Andresen and Mara Francis
  • Aquatown, NH Architecture with Andrew Mackenzie
  • Multiplicity, John Wardle Architects & Stefano Boscutti
  • Ocean City, Arup, Alanna Howe, Alexander Hespe
  • -41 + 41, Peck Dunin Simpson Architects, Fiona Dunin, Alex Peck, Andrew Simpsons in association with Martina Johnson, Third Skin, Eckersley Garden Architecture, Angus McIntyre, Tim Kreger
  • Survival vs Resilience, BKK Architects (Tim Black, Julian Kosloff, Simon Knott, George Huon, Julian Faelli, Madeleine Beech, Jane Caught and Steffan Heath) Village Well, Charter Cramer and Daniel Piker
  • Terra Form Australis, HASSELL, Holopoint & The Environment Institute, Tim Horton, Tony Grist, Prof Mike Young, Ben Kilsby, Sharon Mackay, Susie Nicolai, Mike Mouritz
  • Island Proposition 2100 (IP2100), Scott Lloyd, Aaron Roberts (room11) and Katrina Stoll
  • Implementing the Rhetoric, Harrison and White with Nano Langenheim, Marcus White, Stuart Harrison and Nano Lagenheim
  • How Does it Make You Feel (HDIMYF), Ben Statkus (Statkus Architecture), Daniel Agdag, Melanie Etchell, William Golding, Anna Nguyen, Joel Ng
  • Loop-Pool / Saturation City, McGauran Giannini Soon (MGS), Bild + Dyskors, Material Thnking, MGS – Eli Giannini, Jocelyn Chiew, Catherine Ranger, Bild – Ben Milbourne, Dyskors – Edmund Carter, Material Thinking – Paul Carter
  • a tale of two cities, Billard Leece Partnership Pty Ltd