In 2016, Bark director’s Lindy Atkin and Steve Guthrie were appointed by the Australian Institute of Architects as Creative Directors for the second Regional Architecture Conference which was an honour and indeed a privilege.
Our chosen theme for exploration was ‘evoke – the art of Architecture’ which sought to celebrate the nature of evocative architecture, art and landscape that exists when designing atmosphere’s for human experience.
International and national speakers were curated from personal experiences with architects and architecture travel and drew on Lindy and Steve’s personal and intimate experiences of architecture over a recent decade.
Taking cues from the inaugural regional conference, Spirit of Place in 2013, ‘evoke’ aimed to set a memorable benchmark for a regional but no less globally connected national AIA event conference experience, held in Townsville, North Queensland.
Below is Bark’s introductory welcome address to conference attendees by Steve Guthrie, which framed the ideas behind ‘evoke’.
“Good morning everyone and thank you for coming!
As Creative Directors, the genesis for our theme ‘evoke’ has developed from our travels in architecture over the last 15 years or so.
When setting the course for how ‘evoke’ could ‘play out’, we recalled our memorable experiences in architecture during our travels in Scandinavia, Europe, and particularly in Japan over the years.
We have planned ‘entire trips’ around the exquisite buildings of Corbusier, or Zumthor, Aalto , and Kuma , and reflecting on those memories, became the catalyst for curating our speakers for you.
So ‘evoke’ is all about evocative experiences offered by architecture, that authentically connect people to ‘time, place and landscape’.
The memory and feelings of places can have lasting effects, such as the ‘light and shadow’ forming the edges and volumes in Corbusier’s Ronchamp, in France.
I distinctly remember an overwhelming feeling of joy and sorrow, at the same time, being in the sacred spaces inside Ronchamp.
Up until then, I had probably underestimated the power that some architecture has to move us emotionally.
We have all had memorable experiences in architecture that make us ‘feel something’, and it’s the architect’s ‘ability and process’ to orchestrate this emotion that we really wanted to ‘tap into’ with ‘evoke’.
Zumthor’s baths in Vals, Switzerland is an absolute feast for all the senses – it feels like floating in a dream.
Those moments in evocative architecture, which are so rich in emotion, tap into all our senses to heighten the human condition.
The ‘art of architecture’ in ‘evoke’s’ title, actually refers to the architect’s ability ‘to mould space to create emotion’ as the ‘ultimate’ art of space making.
On the way to Theme Vals, in Switzerland, we had been fortunate enough to meet with Peter Zumthor in his Haldenstein studio, where he showed us models and drawings of some future projects.
One of them was the Witchcraft Memorial in Vardo, in Norway which became one of the destinations on our next trip to Scandinavia a few years later.
Our pilgrimage to Zumthor’s Witchcraft Memorial in the Arctic Circle, was a journey to ‘evocative architecture’ in an ‘epic remote landscape’.
The atmosphere orchestrated by Zumthor here is fully charged with emotion and it is so embedded in the memory, culture and landscape of the place.
Aalto and the Scandinavian design sensibility has always been inspiring since its introduction to us by Brit Andresen at the University of Queensland.
In Finland, we experienced Avanto’s work en route to the 2012 Aalto Symposium during an ‘Aalto’ trip, where we met architect, Anu Puustinen who was speaking at the Symposium.
Last year we met Shimul Javeri Kadri when we were both invited speakers at a design conference in Hyderabad, India.
We have stayed in Tim Hay’s Storm Cottage within the epic landscape of Great Barrier Island, New Zealand.
So, we set out to draw personal connections into ‘evoke’, the threads of our own experiences in design, so that this regional conference could be a really personal and intimate event celebrating architecture.
In 2014, we gave a talk about our regional practice, Bark, at the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik, and it was here that architecture and art were side by side in adjoining studios, that made us reflect on the crossovers that exist when ‘thinking about’ or ‘teaching’ architecture as an art.
The collaboration between Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Henning Larsen Architects at the Harpa Opera House has made an extraordinary building for this Nordic city.
Harpa deploys exquisite light, colour and movement for sensual engagement and dramatic experience.
‘Japan’ has always held our heart and imagination, traditional Japanese architecture and the aesthetic notion of ‘wabi sabi’ resonates with us during every visit – ‘it’s addictive’.
Katsura Imperial Villa represents an outstanding example of seventeenth century Japanese architecture and in some ways perhaps the first modernist building.
According to Bruno Taut in 1933, It is “…so beautiful it moves you to tears” and “you savour it deeply with the senses”!
It was the Horai Onsen in Atami, Japan where Lindy and I first came in contact with the beautiful work of Kengo Kuma, 10 years ago, and the ambiguity of dark spaces in his Nezu Museum in Toyko, more recently, that encouraged us to try and bring Kuma San to Townsville.
After an ongoing correspondence, we met with Kengo Kuma at his studio in Toyko in July this year.
Our discussion touched on the sensory aspects of his architecture, as well as the ‘edge’ between nature and building, which has so much potency Kuma’s contemporary projects.
As well as the relationship between ‘water and the body’ in Japanese bathing ritual.
Actually, Water as a ‘medium’ in the experience of architecture will be a common thread with a few of our speakers.
Once Kuma san agreed to speak at ‘evoke’, our amazing lineup of speakers became such a complimentary and natural fit to the overall theme of ‘evoke’.
During our session teleconferences across timezones , we have been really excited by the synergy between our hosts and all the speakers, as well as, the common threads and connections that have been emerging over the last few months.
Our main desire is that you leave ‘evoke’ feeling inspired by the passion of the conversations which are about to unfold today and tomorrow, about evocative space and architecture that really makes you feel something!
It is these sorts of ‘global’ inspired conversations grounded in ‘regional’ place that may ensure regional architecture in Australia remains evocative and relevant to its culture and place.
Thank you all again”.