23 June, 2012
A new exhibition shows the sky is the limit for Melbourne architects.
Picture this: row upon row of boards, each bearing images of a building, hanging on white gallery walls. Sounds boring, doesn’t it?
The Victorian chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects thought so too. That’s why, this year, the 236 entries for its annual architecture awards will be displayed in an innovative exhibition designed by Monash University students and aimed at luring a broad audience, beyond the architects-only viewers of A2 boards on a wall.
The institute has hired both galleries at fortyfivedownstairs – the performing and visual arts space housed in a 19th-century Flinders Lane rag trade building. In a break with past practice, it handed over 236 boards plus extra images of the 124 shortlisted projects to Monash University’s faculty of art design and architecture, challenging students to design an exhibition for the industrial-style gallery spaces.
”We’re waiting to see what they come up with,” awards co-ordinator Libby Richardson says. ”We are trying to find a more engaging way of presenting to more than just the architecture community.”
Ms Richardson envisaged architecture students taking on the project, but in an interesting twist, Professor Callum Morton and design lecturer Warren Taylor involved six design students and five fine-arts students in creating ”an immersive environment” – a boundary-crossing endeavour that Morton says typifies the way the faculty wants to work.
He concedes they have had to tone down some of the more radical ideas for an institute taking first steps away from boards on a wall.
”We thought that because the whole subject was architecture we would get the design and art students involved – an interdisciplinary approach,” Mr Morton says. ”We thought it was necessary to get another sort of conversation, getting artists engaging with architecture, which doesn’t happen enough, something they won’t normally do.”
The students gave up part of their break to work with Mr Morton, Mr Taylor and graphic artist Matt Hinkley, producing a brochure and a walking tour map of the shortlisted projects with information about each.
The fine-arts students shot film clips featuring entries selected by them, with a very different perspective from the usual ”heroic” view of the architectural photographer, Mr Morton says. Describing these as ”much more hectic”, he speaks of ”reality hidden behind trees”, for example.
The students have also filmed all the boards. But will the boards be there or, as Mr Morton prefers, ”representations of the boards”? You will have to see the show to find out – Mr Morton and the institute were in talks until the last minute.
”We tried to get away from the boards,” he says. ”We are interested in opening up a dialogue and another way of looking at it.
”We are respectful of the boards, all the boards are in there and going to be projected, larger probably than they would be just as the boards, but we are not averse to including the boards.”
He concedes that some of the students’ ideas were a little too avant-garde: ”The brief was to do an interesting show,” he says. ”We had much more radical ideas than what’s out there, but in a sense it’s a bit of a go-slow on that.
”The institute have an idea of what they have done in the past and want to pay tribute to the boards. They should ditch the boards and open it up to other ways of presenting it. We went in thinking we will just use the digital files. I think it is fun; I think it is engaging.”
Richardson says the institute is talking to the Robin Boyd Foundation about a program of floor talks. ”We are trying to be more involved with the public, we would like to reach the general public in a way that we have not done before.”
The award winners will be announced on June 29.