Natural Artifice – Day Two

What is with architects and symmetry? Whilst the speakers were different on Day 2 of the 2011 National Architecture Conference they very much continued on a theme from the first day of speakers. Like the day before we started off with those working in the digital architectural realm who were followed by some Latin American landscape architects. After lunch we were again treated to an entertaining Iberian and finished the day off with a master in his field. Not that I am complaining because as I noted to a friend afterward they were no real misses in the whole conference.

The second day kicked off with an introduction and position statement by Anthony Burke, Head of the School of Architecture at UTS who was followed by Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott of San Francisco based firm, IwamotoScott. The blurb in the conference program described them as experts in the theories and practices of digital design and sought to demonstrate this to the audience by taking us through a series of their installations and speculations.

Whilst I will readily admit that the work of IwamotoScott isn’t my cup of tea the rigour of their work definitely impressed me, especially in the case of their installations. Particular impressive was Voussoir Cloud (pictured below) where they looked to take a natural phenomena and transfer into a digital medium to produce a stunning piece of sculpture. Not quite as in your face as the opening session the day before definitely a good way to start the day.

Voussoir Cloud

Next up was Peter Walker whose position statement took the form of an explanation of what is taken place at the controversial Barangaroo project in Sydney. Following Walker was what one would define as the “wunderkids” of the whole conference, Sebastian Mejia and Luis Callejas of Colombian landscape architecture studio, Paisajes Emergentes.

These young, vibrant landscape architects took us on an exciting and refreshing journey through projects in the UK, Ecuador and on their home turf in Colombia. They were an excellent counterpoint to the subtlety of Teresa Moller the day before, not only in the scale of their projects but also in their approach. Nevertheless the resulting projects from the two Colombians were just as interesting as the aforementioned Moller. Dare I say it but I think the two sets of landscape architects may have shown the other architects up in this conference.


The penultimate session of the conference saw Owen and Vokes provide the position state whilst Portuguese architect, Manuel Aires Mateus of Aires Mateus gave us the inspiration through a glimpse into a number of their projects. All set in the Portuguese landscape most of these projects were amazing in their simplicity and starkness with the material usage being something to behold. I know it is probably not the case but many appeared to be carved out of solid material. The importance of materiality was evident throughout and as Manuel Aires Mateus stated: “You cannot define a space without materials.” Even though I was having troubles keeping my eyes open this was definitely not down to the projects that were on show.

The Furnas Monitoring and Investigation Centre

And then finally we came to the final session named after the title of the conference itself because it contained the inspiration for the conference, Finnish architect and theorist Juhani Pallasmaa who was more than capably introduced by Sean Godsell. Anything I write here probably wouldn’t do Pallasmaa, who was described in the conference program as arguably one of the most original and architectural thinkers of our time, any justice at all. All I can say was that it was a pleasure to hear him speak even if I had trouble taking it all in.

On day two of the conference I did manage to stick around for the Q & A session, although I was a little disappointed by the fact that no questions came from the audience. The main topic of conversation was clients with Andrew Mackenzie making a point of the fact that they hardly mentioned at all throughout the conference. This caused much debate amongst the assembled panel but it was Sean Godsell who summed it up perfectly by saying (I may be paraphrasing a little):

“We are taking a break from our clients for a couple of days, that’s why we are here. Come Monday our clients will again be at the forefront of our thoughts.”

And I think that is the perfect way to end what was a thoroughly enjoyable conference that gave me much to think about. Now back to the daily grind on Monday.

Photos taken from, & dezeen

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