Futures Fair '10

Seminar Summary

Richard Wentworth – Sculptor in conversation with Tom Emerson – 6a

Richard Wentworth and Tom Emerson discussed the importance of recognising your culture’s past when thinking about contemporary design. Both expressed a fluid view of time, with Wentworth saying ‘it’s very funny how the future becomes the past very quickly’, and Emerson expressing a similar statement, saying: ‘the future, like the past, exists in the present’.
They explored the cedar-burning traditions of Japanese architecture and how designers are continuing to use this ancient method when creating modern, mainstream architecture that maintains strong ties to Asian culture. The burned cedar cladding is used on the outside of the building from the first floor up, with both designers expressing an appreciation of the process of wear and tear, and the suggestions of a past, present and a future for the material. It was questioned how we can get continuity within design between past, present and future, and if it was more important to maintain the spirit of a culture, rather than recreating old working methods. The relationship between a building and its surroundings was explored through 6a’s Peckham gallery, which aims to be open and inviting during the day, yet ‘like Fort Knox’ during the night due to its location and its relationship with estate with management- this was considered a paradox representative of contemporary urban life.

Julian Hakes – Hakes Associates

Julian Hakes represented a timely illustration of the evolving role of the architect, describing his recent shoe design inspired by his practice’s work with bridges. Taking a creative de-tour, Hakes found himself asking: ‘when was the last time the flip-flop was reinvented?’, and after exploring weight transference across the foot, and much rapid-prototyping, a wrap-around flip flop with a sole only on the heel and ball of the foot was created. The design received global press coverage fuelled both by innovative design and a refusal to allow anyone to be photographed wearing it. By working in a different medium to usual architectural practice, it was possible to reinterpret footwear, calling the piece ‘a reaction against a style applied to a foot, [and] more about a process of support and materiality.’ On the current climate for architects, Hakes believes ‘You can’t wait for the clients, you just have to do your own thing’, an attitude encapsulated perfectly by his footwear design.

Gabby Shawcross – Jason Bruges Studio

An architect with a background in set design, Gabby Shawcross further demonstrated the broadening of contemporary architectural practice with his work involving responsive light installations. Tasked to create an untraditional, interactive lobby space, a wall of light containing cameras that respond to the movement of the body and colours in the environment was created. A visitor’s movements within the lobby affect the motions of light, and the colours of clothing begin to seep into the displays. A similar installation using cameras and lighting was designed for the V&A, as well as a touring pavilion which displays a panoramic time-based image with movements based on the interactions of those nearby. This particular project took on an even larger audience- streamed in real-time on the O2 website.

Further discussion suggested that the broadening of architectural practice could only be a positive thing, with responsive architecture dubbed ‘the future of architecture’. The collaborative approach on display from all four speakers was also praised, as was the pragmatism shown by Hakes during the design of his shoe. However, this also led to a bigger question: are architects being driven to different industries out of a desire for instant gratification that the architecture industry can’t give them?

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