By Ricardo Muller
The WA SuperStudio 2018 was held at the University of Western Australia School of Design on the 22nd and 23rd of September. Seven teams were involved in the competition with students from every year of study.
The first day of the competition was devoted mostly to brainstorming and discussion around the topic of “Breathing Spaces,” with a reading of the brief and Luiz Barragan’s speech. Kate Hislop (Dean/Head of UWA School of Design) opened the competition by raising some points around the wellbeing of architecture students. Her remarks included how breathing spaces are crucial to our health, and that having the ability to pause and reflect during the architecture student’s frenetic lifestyle is invaluable. She also encouraged students to think about when to stop working in order to rest up and refresh, a shift from busyness to idleness, to “the calm before the storm.” Among the groups, students then proceeded to share personal experiences of hardships from the relentless and exhausting quotidian that architecture can pose, as well as how they would manage the stress arising from these living conditions. It became an exercise of identifying the sources which create and feed this cycle of being perpetually busy at the expense of health, whether it is the workload, the school’s high expectations, a desire to do the best they can, comparing their work to others, etc. Besides having various sources from which this issue arises, soon it became apparent that there were also various solutions. Students revealed they had different ways of breaking out of this cycle to breathe and destress, such as exercising, playing games, going for a walk or exploring uncharted destinations. These were activities and places which occupy the mind with thoughts disconnected from the work, allowing them to breathe, fostering observation and interaction, stimulating the senses, and sparking new ideas in the midst of a busy working period. This was ultimately a day of contemplation and realization, becoming conscious of why we may act and feel the way we do as students, a foundation to begin work production the following day.
The second and final day comprised primarily of producing the work and content for presentations. Some ideas pitched by the students involved a meditative garden with a Swan inspired sculpture at its centre which spouts water from above, a symbol inspired from the University’s emblem and the proximity to the Swan river, a shrouded and serene experience. A similar idea was explored by a group who projected a gathering space for reflection and discussion, a concept which encourages students of various disciplines to meet and share their situation with others, understanding they are not alone when times are tough, and that there is more to life than architecture. Another proposal revolved around an organic folding sculpture which manoeuvres around a series of site elements and begins enveloping the user in a graceful and relaxed manner, creating diverse pockets of contemplation that are protective yet connecting to nature, where students can find comfort and leisure throughout their day. One of the teams proposed a playground-like intervention, involving open, dynamic and energetic spaces between existing buildings to introduce an aspect of fun that contrasts with the rigorous and confined classroom and computer lab environment. The idea of using recurring elements of varying qualities to constitute an experience was present across two of the teams involved. The first team’s presentation was around overlapping circles in plan, where each zone created within denotes gradations of transparency, resulting in spaces of divergent exposure to the public, nature, and the intensity of lighting, thus enabling students to select spaces which cater to their preference of a “breathing space.” The second team’s concept of expressive cubes, each providing a unique sensory experience, which can be combined and arranged as desired to create place specific installations within the ALVA campus. The teams’ responses were compelling and their stories relatable. The student perspective on the issue as well as how it could be addressed architecturally was made evident from the diverse proposals communicated in this two-day National architecture competition.
By Samantha Dye
Congratulations to Isaac McCormack, Sara Muna’am and Jin Zhang on winning this year’s WA SONA SuperStudio on the theme ‘Breathing Space’. It was a great effort and a very entertaining presentation to the jury. Well done also to the other students who participated in the competition held over the 2 days. SONA Western Australia hopes everyone has gained some valuable experiences and inspirations over the SuperStudio weekend!
SONA Western Australia likes to thank the Australian Institute of Architects, especially the WA Chapter, the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, and SuperStudio Creative Directors Thom McKenzie and Naomi Stead, the SONA team and all the WA SuperStudio participants! Thank you to our mentors, guest speakers, and jury members for their valued time and support SuperStudio 2018. Without the support of the local architecture industry and community, Western Australian SuperStudio would not have been possible!
-Maria Gillman, Director of Bos architects
-Amanda Hendry, EmAGN WA Chair
-Suzie Hunt, Principal Architect of Suzanne Hunt Architect,
-Jurg Hunziker, Director of TAG Architects
-Adrian Iredale, Director of iredale pedersen hook architects
-Beatriz Perez, Senior Architect at sphstudio
-Kelly Rattigan, Senior Architect at sphstudio
-Michael Woodhams, Executive Director WA Chapter
-Dr Kate Hislop, Dean/Head of UWA School of Design
-Suzie Hunt, Principal Architect of Suzanne Hunt Architect, and President WA Chapter
-Dr Kate Hislop, Dean/Head of UWA School of Design
-Neil Cownie, Director of Neil Cownie Architect
-Katherine Ashe, Director of vittinoahse, and Lecturer at Curtin University School of Design and the Built Environment
SONA Western Australia also want to thank Tyran Hanlon, Julia Xu, Yeong Wong, and Felicia Fatu for their much appreciated assistance during the SuperStudio weekend.