Archive 2012

Time For Drawing: Drawing Workshop


For the creatively inclined, AAA member Rena Czaplinska-Archer is conducting a weekend drawing workshop in Wollombi, the Hunter Valley. Taking place from 6pm on Friday 16 to 4pm on Sunday 18 November 2012, the workshop will be presented in association with Sculpture in the Vineyards.

Through the medium of drawing, beginners as well as experienced drawers, are invited to escape the tensions of daily life, awaken the senses and fine tune their perception while exploring of the world around around them.


Rena is a practicing architect and educator in design and drawing at the University of Sydney. As a lifetime student of art, her teaching method called 'Embodying Vision' is inspired by Anna Halprin's Art/Life Process and other somatic practices including Feldenkreis, yoga, BMC, CI and Continuum.

The weekend promises to be inspiring, so don't miss out as numbers are limited. The cost of the workshop of $320 ($290 for students) includes two nights accommodation. If you wish to obtain further information or participate, go the Time For Drawing website.

University of Sydney - 2012 Architecture Graduate Exhibition

Want to see a preview of the future of design in Australia? The University of Sydney would like to extend an invitation to Australian Architecture Association members and e-news subscribers to attend the 2012 Architecture Graduate Exhibition 'Transform'. The opening for the exhibition takes place at 6.30pm on Thursday 29 November at the Wilkinson Building, 148 City Road, Darlington.


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.