Archive 2012

Volunteer Recruitment Information Evening


Ever wonder how we conduct our weekly tour program to promote architecture to the public? The answer is that we have a dedicated team of volunteer tour leaders who share our passion in the art of architecture.

We are accepting new intakes for the 2013 volunteer tour leaders training program. You don't have to be an architect to join the team as you will be trained to conduct our tours with full narratives. Soon you will learn about design features of the most interesting pieces of Sydney architecture and be equipped to preach out your love for architecture.  This training program will be from January to March 2013.   We will be training our new volunteers to lead one of the following themed or district tours: Sculpture Walk, Walk through Time, Redfern Walk, Surry Hills Walk and The Rocks Walk.

We will be holding a Volunteer Recruitment Information Evening on 5 December 2012 at the CATC Design School in the Rocks.  To register to come and know more about the program, please register through the link below.

If you know anyone who might be interested in volunteering for us, please forward this webpage to them.

In the meantime, please take a look at our "Becoming a Volunteer" page for some more information.

AAA Black Talk 7 - Ken Yeang


In celebration of the Sydney Architecture Festival, the Australian Architecture Association hosted two very special Black Talks by one of the fathers of ecological architecture, Dr Ken Yeang. Speaking in both Sydney and Melbourne, Dr Yeang provided an insight into the thinking and theory that shaped his ideas on architecture and urban planning.

Almost forty years ago, the Malaysian born architect was one of the first to undertake a PhD on the subject of ecological design at Cambridge University in the UK. His completed dissertation was later published under the title ‘Designing With Nature: The Ecological Basis for Architectural Design’, and was received within the design community as a radical new way of looking at architecture and in particular at how to approach tall building design in a sustainable way.

The talk began with an outline of the key criteria that feature in his work, humans plus nature plus the built environment. In his eyes all are inextricably linked to one another and inform the way a building or urban environment should be shaped.

Beginning with one his earlier projects the Roof Roof House (1985), in Ampang Malaysia, Ken explained how this project was an opportunity to explore in built form, his ideas about how to address regional climatic conditions. He highlighted how the lessons learnt from less successful elements of the house informed the refinement of detailing for later larger buildings.

Continuing on with further examples the audience was able to trace how each work refined strategies for how to address issues such as solar access and shading, the capture and direction of wind for natural ventilation and how increasingly Ken Yeang was seeking to create built systems in large buildings that emulated ecosystems in nature (bioclimatic architecture).

Yeang went on to explain how his work has increasingly incorporated integrated greenery. This not only improves air quality, it also supports biodiversity by creating habitats for local flora and fauna, as well as providing a visual link for the building user to the surrounding environment.


Much of the thinking behind Ken Yeang's built and competition work, developed out his studies of urban design concepts such as place making, linkages, vistas, creating communities, figure ground relationships, spaces between buildings and greening or landscaping. He wondered how these concepts that work across a ground plane in an urban environment, could be flipped vertically in a tall building.

Through early examples such as the IBM Plaza (1985) and Menara Boustead (1986), both in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, and the more recent DiGi Technical Operations Centre (2010) in Shah Alam Malaysia, we could see how Ken has experimented with ideas about bio integration. One of the lessons learnt from the DiGi Technical Operations Centre was that vertical green walls required high levels of maintenance, fertilisers and were energy intensive for water propagation. He commented that he would not choose to incorporate large-scale vertical green walls into his future projects. Instead  their experiments in integrating greenery have led to the understanding that continuous integrated green ramps alleviated many of these problems. Continuous green ramps emulate a more natural integrated system of greenery, drawing parallels to a green corridor in urban planning.

A recently completed project in Singapore, Solaris (2010) is his greenest completed building to date and clearly demonstrates the refinement of Dr Ken Yeang's ideas developed over the past few decades.

What Yeang made very clear in his talk was that mechanistic strategies like integrating active systems such as solar, energy and water technologies are not enough on their own to address the creation of a truly ecologically sustainable building. They need to work in symphony with design that incorporates an understanding of the need to address the local climatic, ecological, sociological and economic conditions in which they are built.



At the end of each talk, participants had a chance to ask Dr Yeang questions. One of the common themes of audience questions addressed the financial cost of developing ecological buildings. Ken responded that the average green building would generally cost between 4% to 8% above the cost of a standard building. He felt that the longer-term advantages derived for the environment, the developer and end user, far outweigh this marginal rise in design and construction costs.

A further theme of questions was how he felt we could repair the damage we have done to the environment. Ken feels that address the issue we need to change the way we teach architecture and design. In particular we have to re-examine our attitudes to the way we use materials. We cannot continue to use and throw away; we must re-use, recycle and better understand the life cycles of materials that we use.

While Ken does not dispute the usefulness of green building rating systems such as BREEAM, LEEDS or Green Star, he does question why building designers and urban planners do not seek to better the bench marks set by these systems. It was clear that he felt architects and designers could do more, that these technologies should not be a means to an end for ticking boxes. Instead these benchmarks should be viewed as a bar to exceed.

Overall questions asked by the audience highlighted the impression that Ken Yeang has an optimistic view of the role designers can play in ensuring that our impact on the environment becomes increasingly benign. He claimed that the truly green building does not exist yet. He envisages a future in which design will naturally incorporate a sustainable agenda. He feels that the challenges are not insurmountable and the next generation of architects and designers will be increasingly equipped to address them.

The impression gained from both listening to his talk and his responses to the audience, is that Dr Ken Yeang is man of humility, with strength of conviction that compels him to question the status quo. This is not an individual who seeks architectural stardom through the creation of iconographic buildings. Rather he is a man with a mission - to inspire and encourage innovation and demonstrate within his own body of work a commitment to making the world a better place to inhabit.

The AAA would like to thank Ken for giving both Sydney and Melbourne design enthusiasts an insight into his ideology and for providing us with a chance to examine some of the challenges we need to address in ensuring a sustainable future.

We would also like to thank our supporters; the Australian Architecture Association Fund, the University of Sydney, the Sydney Architecture Festival, RMIT University, Sanctuary Magazine, Wiley Books and AAA volunteers.

  • Article by: Vanessa Couzens
  • Images by: Vincent Lam

The 13th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice (Venezia) Italy

Over the period of the 29 August to the 25 November 2012, Venice is hosting the bi-annual event, the Biennale Architetura. Every two years an architect or architects of note are invited to create an encompassing theme for a vast selection of individual and group exhibitions that celebrate the art (and business) of architecture. This year the exhibit of all things architectonic, was creatively directed by UK architect Sir David Chipperfield1.

Annette Dearing and Vanessa Couzens of the AAA decided to take time out from the realities of every day commitments and set out for Europe, to explore the hype and hyperbole of what is arguably one the worlds most prestigious architecture festivals.

Before the exhibition opens to the general public, the preceding two days are set-aside as preview days. During this time Venice becomes a city besieged. This time, not by Germanic, Hun or Lombard forces, no, this invasion is one by the architectural fraternity, dressed in designer black, seeking to showcase their talents, network and generally shoot the breeze with their contemporaries!

With our Vernissage passes (press passes) hot in our hands, we found ourselves facing a quandary – limited time (two days), two major exhibition venues, which included the Arsenale buildings (Artiglierie, Corderie, Gaggiandre, Padiglione Italia and Sale d’Armi) and the Padiglione Centrale Giardini (with 30 permanent national pavilions), as well as exhibitions and events spread across Venice and a cluster of the surrounding islands. (Do we need to say that the Venice biennale is not an event for the faint of heart?) After planning our strategy for seeing as much as possible, we felt equal to the task of planning a small military coup! And yet, what is it they say about the ‘best laid plans’? Expect not to follow that carefully laid out strategy! Instead take a breath, shrug your shoulders and continue that conversation with your long lost pal from Zurich, or president of your sister organisation in Chicago… You’d be surprised by just who you’ll bump into or rub shoulders against in the press of the crowd attending a pavilion opening event or wandering the medieval halls of the Arsenale.


First cab off the rank on day one had to be the Australian pavilion. Theirs was the first pavilion opening to be held in the Giardini and it seemed fitting that the first national opening should be in the pavilion hosting it’s last exhibition. The temporary (?) building designed by Philip Cox completed in 1988, is to be retired and replaced by a new one designed by Denton Corker Marshall (slotted for completion in 2015).

Australia’s theme was Formations: New Practices In Australian Architecture and sort to showcase how architectural practitioners are challenging traditional perspectives of architects and what constitutes architecture. Taking part as exhibitors were2; The Architects Radio Show (Stuart Harrison, Simon Knott, Christine Phillips, Rory Hyde); Health Habitat (Paul Pholeros, Steven Rainow, Paul Torzillo); Richard Goodwin Pty Ltd (Richard Goodwin); Supermanoeuvre (Dave Pigram, Iain Maxwell, Chris Duffield); 2112 Ai (100YR City) (Tom Kovac, Fleur Watson) and my favourites, who were recent participants of the AAA’s special series of talks, Women: Take On Design,· Archrival (Claire McCaughan, Lucy Humphrey)3.

The exhibition was curated by; Anthony Burke, Head of the School of Architecture at UTS and Course Director for the Master of Digital Architecture; Gerard Reinmuth, one of the founding directors for the architectural practice Terroir and Practice Professor for the School of Architecture at UTS; and Eva Dijkstra and Michael Lugmayr of TOKO Concept Design.

Officially opened by the Commissioner Janet Holmes A Court, the forecourt of the Pavilion was buzzing with an impressive sized crowd, bearing champagne flutes and bedecked in red Formation goody bags. While the exhibition content perhaps wasn't as cohesive as some of the adjoining pavilions, it certainly held high ‘fun factor’ with Richard Goodwin whizzing across the canal on a tensioned wire, Archrivals’ fuss ball machine structures encouraging visitor competition and the Architect’s Radio Show reporting live from the pavilion and out and about in the Giardini.


The Golden Lion for Best National Participation went to Japan for ‘Architecture possible here? Home-for-All’. Curated by Naoya Hatakeyama, Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto and Akihisa Hirata (Commissioner: Toyo Ito. Deputy Commissioners: Atsuko Sato, Tae Mori). This was one our favourite pavilions (along with Canada).


Japan’s contribution documented a proposal to offer housing solutions for all the people who lost their homes in the great east Japan earthquake of 2011, specifically in the city of Rikuzentakata. We both felt that the exhibit offered greater accessibility to an audience wider then the architectural community. The interior space is surrounded by heart breaking images of the devastation, with models that map out the progression of thought and experimentation that went into providing design solutions4.


The Arsenale complex houses exhibits by nations without their own pavilions and a series of singular and group (including ‘Common Ground’) exhibitions. This is the section that features many of the ‘Star’chitects. There is an interesting film on Austrian architect Peter Zumthor and there are two exhibits that invite well known architects to display images and objects that explain their approach to design and sources of inspiration. Equaling this out, there has been some attempt with the curating to showcase work by lesser known designers and there is a nice mix of different media to keep things interesting and challenging.

There were also several interesting presentations and panel discussions over the preview days. I was especially keen to attend ‘Inter Cities/Intra Cities: Ghost Writing the Future’ organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and Hong Kong Arts Development Council. The forum was ostensibly about the planned redevelopment of commercial industrial area into a second CBD for Kowloon. However, I can’t help thinking that it backfired on them when they chose personalities such as Sir Peter Cook (of avant garde Archigram fame5) and French architect Odile Decq as members of the panel! I think that many of us were there just to witness how controversial the speakers could be!


Overall, reviews of the Biennale have been relatively positive. There has been some flak in the press about the accessibility of the biennale to the general public. One can’t help but agree that the somewhat ambitious ethos for Common Ground of contributing to the mending of ‘…the fracture between architecture and civil society’ may be slightly unrealistic. However, personally, I thought that the Venice Biennale was an experience worth the ‘cattle class’, twenty-seven hour flight! It is an opportunity to experience first hand the work of architects that one sees in the media and to explore the work and thinking of designers don't necessarily get the recognition they appear to deserve.


  • Article: Vanessa Couzens
  • Photographs: Vanessa Couzens





1. Sir David Chipperfield was a Black Talk speaker for the AAA in 2005. To get an overview of some of his work, watch this youtube video.·

2. For a description of the Australian exhibitors see the AAA e-newsletter archive.

3. For a description of Archrival’s Women: Take On Design talk, read our previous newsletter article.·

4. To see Sou Fujimoto talking about the Japanese pavilion exhibit, visit designboom.·

5. To find out more about Archigram, visit their website.

Sydney Architecture Festival 2012


24 October 2012 - 4 November 2012

The Annual Sydney Architecture Festival turns everyone's focus to the city's architecture and aims to engage the public in exploring aspects of the built environment.The Sydney Architecture Festival is about understanding Sydney and imagining the future of our city through its urban and built environment. SAF invites wide participation in dialogues about the future of our metropolis.

The 2012 Sydney Architecture Festival theme, Beyond Boundaries will encourage attendees to form connections across the city, encouraging a mode of celebrating, enjoying and investigating architecture that is outward focussed and collaborative.

One of the first major event of the Festival will be our Black Talk by internationally renowned green architect Ken Yeang on Thursday, 25 October.  While the Sydney Talk is a Sydney Architecture Festival event, he will also be talking in Melbourne on the following day.  For more information and to secure your ticket click here.


Learn more about Sydney architecture by going on one or more of our walks!



All walk tickets are $30 ($15 for students), for Sydney City Walk and Twilight Walk, you will get 33% off if you book more than one week ahead. As in all our other walking tours, AAA members can book online anytime and join these Festival tours for free to feel the architecture vibe!

Events for the Festival will be held across the City of Sydney and will also feature talks, exhibitions and much more. For more information on the Festival, visit

On the Road in Italy: With A Bus Load of Architects

It’s 6.30am in the morning on Wednesday 29 August. The alleys and waterways of Venice are beginning to stir into life as we down a quick espresso coffee before jumping on a vaporetto. The aim of this very early wakeup? To meet the bus for the 7.30am start of the Australian Institute of Architects ‘Italian Architecture Tour’. The reality? The vaporetto we really need is not yet in operation and we have to take the slow boat in a reverse circuit. Along the way we run into a lost attendee and then proceed to confuse ourselves entirely about where exactly we are meant to be (hmmm helps to read all the directions correctly!).

Now running late, we finally we meet up with our guide for the day, Tone Wheeler and apologise profusely for keeping our fellow travellers waiting and for setting off late (thankfully we weren’t the only lost members). The (good natured?) threat to all late attendees of having to buy drinks for all participants as suitable apology, fills me with trepidation, as I contemplate past experiences of the ability of architects to imbibe liquids of an alcoholic nature and consider my imminent bankruptcy! Despite this initial hiccup, we set out from the port of Venice for what follows to be a day of some truly inspirational architecture.

The tour kicked off with a visit to Fabrica, the Benetton Group Communications Research Centre, near the city of Villorba in the province of Treviso. Set up in 1994 as a studio, come incubator for young artists from all over the world, it’s ethos is to provide a platform for the exploration of a myriad of communication forms including design, music, film, photography, publishing and the internet.


The restoration and enlargement of the complex was designed and constructed between 1992 and 2000, by one of my personal favourites, Japanese architect Tadao Ando (b.1941). The brief for the project included the restoration of a seventeenth century Palladian villa, the Villa Pastega Manera and the provision of additional space to house study areas, laboratories, offices, facilities such as a library and an auditorium, a cinema, refreshment facilities and meeting spaces.

Ando’s design is sensitive to the existing historical villa and much of the new structure is embedded below ground level, with freestanding landscape elements and water features designed to mirror, complement and not detract from the villa (though unfortunately during our visit the reflection pools were empty of water for maintenance). As with any Tadao Ando building, there is a simplicity of architectural form and material, with a constant connection to natural light and the surrounding landscape. Ando’s design reflects his understated approach to creating timeless architecture that focuses on personal sensation and physical experience rather then showy architectural statements.


Herding our snap happy camera crew back onto the bus (a bit of a feat in itself!) we set off for the next destination the Tombe Brion-Vega (Brion Family Tomb). For me this was the highlight of the day. Designed and constructed from 1969 to 1978 this poetic complex of built form and landscaping, showcases the unique talent of one the architectural greats of the twentieth century, Italian architect Carlo Scarpa (b.1906-d.1978 - he is in fact also interned within the cemetery complex in a structure designed by his son Tobia).


The Brion Family Tomb occupies an L-shaped site of approximately 2200 square metres located along two sides of the cemetery of San Vito d’Ativole near Asolo, Treviso. This sleepy little monument to the dead is truly one of the loveliest pleasures to experience. Scarpa was a modernist architect who eschewed the glass and steel boxes of his contemporaries. Instead his simple buildings and landscaped gardens reflect his Venetian training and exposure to the Sesession (Art Nouveau), with their traditions of the artisan and craftsmanship. His buildings celebrate the qualities of materials, simple understated asymmetrical built forms and the detailing of elements such openings, structure and their jointing systems.


Carlo Scarpa’s body of work also reflects his lifelong passion for history. Our third building of the day in Verona was the Museo di Castelvecchio. In his work on the citadel of Verona, which dates from the mid 1300’s and is located on the former site of a Roman fortress, he rejected traditional ideas of restoration and undertook a series of modernist built insertions, individual ‘exposures’ and judicious demolition to expose and make transparent the different historical stratas of the complex.

Designed and constructed between 1956 and 1964, Scarpa aimed to make history come alive by exposing fragments of the different ages in the building. Modern elements are utilised to draw attention to and display the impressive medieval collection by drawing in natural light. You would think that the insertion of modernist built elements would be jarring along side the simple medieval gothic style of the original buildings. It’s actually the opposite. Carlo Scarpa’s ‘new’ elements instead playfully and sympathetically frame the visitor’s views of the building, it’s materials and it’s contents.

Rather reluctantly we reboarded the bus to leave Verona for our fourth destination, the MABIC Maranello Biblioteca Cultura. Arising out of a competition for a public library in Maranello, in the province of Modena, this delightful sinuous building was designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki in association with Italian firm Andrea Maffei Architects.


Designed and constructed between 2007 and 2011, the scale of this civic building is modest and suited to it’s village environment. The interiors are linked to the exterior through extensive sections of frameless curved glass that floods the reading areas and stacks with natural light. With it’s enclosing water pool, the building appears to float in it’s surroundings. The minimalist palette of materials and white colour, allows reflected patterns of dappled light to become the ‘star’ and to play over the exterior and interiors.

After multiple pictures were taken (anyone else appreciating the irony of a bunch of Australians hidden behind camera lenses paralleling the quintessential ‘Japanese’ tourist?), we again hit the road for our final project for the day, the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari. For the motorheads among our crew this would have been the most edifying of the selections! I must admit even I drooled over the selection of automotive designs displayed.


Located in the city of Modena the museum complex comprises the 1830 home and workshop where Enzo Ferrari (b.1898 – d.1988), of the ‘fast red car with a stallion insignia’ fame, was born and raised, along with a futuristic new museum for his extensive collection of cars. The complex eventuated out of a design competition held in 2004 and won by Jan Kaplicky (b.1937 – d.2009), founder of the UK based architectural firm Future Systems. With the death of Kaplicky, Future Systems ceased practice and it’s former Associate Director Andrea Morgante (who began his own firm Shiro Studio) took over the final design and construction phases of the museum. Following and building on Jan Kaplicky’s original vision for the building, he oversaw it’s completion in 2012.


The new museum is typical of Jan Kaplicky’s somewhat unconventional approach to building design. A bermed earth mound insulates and encloses the non-linear exhibition space, which is buried below ground level to ensure that the structure does not exceed and overshadow the 12m height of the residence and workshop. Along one face a structuralist glass façade opens up the building onto a courtyard facing the original house and workshop. The streamlined aluminium roof has slots incised to provide natural light to the interiors and is intended to resemble the air intakes on the bonnet of a car. It is also brightly coloured in the yellow used on the Ferrari logo.


In the original residence and workshop an inserted structure of white columns and bracings had to be installed to meet Italian seismic regulations. Seeming to float within the interiors are organically shaped vertical leaves. These act as a metaphor for the pages of a book recording history. Interpretive panels and multimedia displays are inserted in front of and between these leaves, telling the story of Enzo Ferrari’s life and automotive work.

After we had all selected our respective dream cars, it was time to conclude the tour within the colonnaded streets of Bologna. Taking over a local tavern we discussed of our impressions over a glass (or two) of vino and a plethora of local dishes. We clutched our distended tummy’s and dozed as the bus drove back into Venice in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Many thanks must be made to Tone Wheeler and the assisting crew from the AIA for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I’m sure all would agree that we saw some outstanding architecture.


  • Article: Vanessa Couzens
  • Photographs: Vanessa Couzens