It’s December and in Australia that means summer holidays, something I still find difficult to grasp as a native of the northern hemisphere. One of the benefits of teaching at a university is that “school’s out for summer.” But before everyone hits the beach, we must first celebrate and reflect on the work that has been done over the past year.
Architecture programs around Sydney have recently held events to showcase the talents of their best students. In architecture school, it is a rite of passage to exhibit your work. Late nights with little or no sleep become the norm. So much strategic thought and energy goes into every single line drawn on a page. Often much of that hard work can go unnoticed so these venues become a way to showcase the dedication and sophistication of the next generation of architects and their committed teachers.
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) School of Architecture, where I am on the faculty, has hosted its end of year exhibition, INDEX, for the past couple of years. Celebrating the work of students and faculty across all five years of architecture, from first year bachelors to graduating masters students, the show itself has become a substantial event for the city of Sydney and specifically the architectural community. It is a venue for critical discussion and debate on issues of contemporary architecture and urbanism; a way to start a conversation with the community about the state of architecture today.
Occupying a network of laneways lined with abandoned terrace houses and peripheral industrial style buildings, Anthony Burke, Head of School, and Tarsha Finney, INDEX Director, along with six curators, created a spectacle of architecture. The event was lively and energetic, attracting thousands, with an abundance of canapés and drinks, a sausage stand, live music, dancing and site-specific-custom street furniture (designed and constructed by the first year students). From the architecture aficionado to the curious passerby lured in by the crowds of people and sounds of music in the distance, the laneways were bursting with Sydneysiders engaging in architectural thinking.
Four industrial spaces along Kensington Street, at the edge of the Jean Nouvel designed Central Park Development (currently under construction), became a backdrop for the work. Each curator produced a distinctive environment. The Kensington Street Warehouse included custom designed tables positioned at different vantage points providing strategic viewing for drawings and models. The more intimate Kensington Gallery paid homage to John Soane, wallpapered with a mix of printed canvases composed against the raw industrial space.
The work represented a diverse range of critical thinking and speculation on architecture and the city. This included large-scale models of islands depicting possible futures in a drowned world next to proposals responding to the solar decathlon brief. There was work that used computational techniques along with new technologies in precast concrete. From urban agendas to research to fabrication and lots of making, INDEX 2011 exploited the city as a stage to engage architecture in a larger conversation. For one night the students and faculty were the center of attention, as the multiplicity of work was celebrated in Sydney’s streets.
Now off to the beach”¦
William Feuerman is a New Yorker (via Los Angeles and San Francisco) who is currently living in Sydney, Australia. He is the principal of Office Feuerman, a Sydney based design office, and is faculty at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). You can follow him on twitter @OfficeFeuerman.