Wednesday, 31 December 2008

informal architectures and urbanism

In my work in architectural education in continental Europe, in Mongolia, and recently in Latin America, I found in general that urbanism as a discipline is approached more integrally in architects' professional education than in the Anglo-Australian systems where I previously studied and worked. Urbanism is fundamentally cross disciplinary work. If urbanism for architects is not regarded as a separate discipline, it may be feared by traditionalists because effectively the architect's role is demoted from leader-author to one of many cross-disciplinary collaborators.

Since I taught Landscape Urbanism with Sarah Chaplin in the architecture course at Kingston University, UK, where I found it a great challenge to engage students in debate about popular politics and the 'street occupations' I was writing about, I became increasingly interested in English and continental European Do-It-Yourself urbanism movements. A major urbanism conference in Gothenburg at the time suggested there was much interest in informal movements to complement the established policy and academy. I began to study the growing practice and knowledge base. The recent AHRA conference in Sheffield expanded on the idea of Agency and launched the publications Urban Act, and Field, and the research practice The Agency.

Lately I wondered if the teaching and research approach to self-build, informal settlements and informal urbanism might be further developed, taking a multi-disciplinary approach. A model example I noticed is Vienna University of Technology's recent work in peri-urban Ulaanbaatar, studying the social mechanisms of informal settlements as well as the physical environment, with architects, anthropologists and sociologists.

Friday, 5 December 2008


The international architecture students prize programme I previously managed was presented on Wednesday in London, with 217 schools 'worldwide' now invited. The Dissertation Medal, awarded for a work on 'Rookeries and No-Go Estates', and the Part 1 Serjeant Award for Drawing winner were highlights. Hearing the term "UK and abroad" (with an Oslo project for Glasgow being the only premiated trace of the latter schools) I wondered about two respective standards of internationalisation.

The inaugural World Architecture Festival was held in Barcelona in October, a new, internationalist enterprise by Emap, with 26 media partners, and pre-recession funding. For its Student Charette, I was told last year, on enquiring from Mongolia, that only the ten 'best' architecture schools in the world would be invited to participate. Exciting, then, that of the five teams participating, the winners came from the hitherto little-known HafenCity University Hamburg, (est. 2006), a specialist University of the Built Environment "under construction".

Meanwhile, a friend now teaching at LKW in Botswana, (a former Curtin LICT student), showed interest in the architecture teacher training project in Mongolia and suggested publications...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

mongolian architecture school.. in progress

I was informed recently that the building has reached the fifth floor above ground level.


My photographs of the directors and of the graduation ceremony earlier in the year were also featured on the college website.


Friday, 21 November 2008

Architecture along the Great Wall

I recently noted this approaching conference on architecture and central asia studies (among other things) at Vienna University of Technology's Institute for Comparative Architectural Research and the Confucius Institute at the University of Vienna;

The stated goals of the symposium:
"Along the Great Wall" (now online) is an interdisciplinary forum for an exchange of ideas in the fields of history, architecture and Asian Studies.
Researchers with research areas in the fields architectural and cultural history of Asia, such as historical and political studies, Religion, art, literature and anthropology are invited.

The symposium will be held in three parts:
1) discussions with individual presentations of 20 minutes duration.
2) 20-minute discussion after each round of presentations
3) workshops with different topics are covered:
  • Historical Development
  • architectural traditiLinkons (urban and rural residential architecture, religious architecture, palace architecture, Monuments)
  • Traditional and contemporary techniques
  • Art History
  • Historic (selection criteria and technical realization)
  • Contemporary architecture, urban planning, regional planning, infrastructure
  • ecological problems, environmental problems, natural resources
  • Socio-cultural situation (social changes, ethnic mixing and minorities)
A presentation and discussion about architecture, education, access and development (viewed from the Mongolian side of the wall) would be my planned contribution.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Architecture on a Shoestring

There was some nascent collaboration between CTC and Curtin this year through the guidebook "Point of Reference", developed by Khoa Do and his students. With staff in Mongolia, we began to translate the ideas of project stages and site analysis for architecture and design students. It seemed a good idea to develop the guide further, with and for the students.

The approaching Communication by Design conference in Brussels early next year seemed a good pretext for Khoa Do and I to take the project a step further, and perhaps to inspire a burst of progress. But then, the newly announced conference in Vienna may be a better opportunity still.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Millenium Development Goals

Архитекторждийн Хяацгаарлалтгүй - architects without borders (Mongolian). After a year working in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, as an international volunteer in development in a construction college, I had a brief introduction to poverty and disadvantage. I began this page with the broad aim of investigating some things which may be done in our lifetime. For example, considering the Millenium Development Goals - it seems important to work towards 2015, starting now.

My introduction to international development in 2003 was through Oxfam, (Community Leadership Programme, India). For a very basic introduction, this is Oxfam's current international campaign to rally people toward those daunting-sounding goals.

Oxfam Australia campaign "In My Name"