Finding links amid diversity

For Connectivity takes many forms including Australian and Chinese design ideas contributing to globalisation and to rediscovering cultural identify

Finding links amid diversity

By Deborah Singerman

What is shaping changes in design forms? While designers themselves are contributing to the transition, Paul Peng believes “the invisible … more decisive hand of globalisation” is at least as important an influence. As General Manager of IAPA (International Architecture Platform Australia), Peng has worked within Australian and Chinese architectural practice. During the last two decades neither “party has escaped from globalisation that has been constantly transforming our perspectives, reshaping the condition of modernity (or post-modernity), blurring the boundaries between traditional and contemporary, as well as western and eastern culture”, he says.

Yet two forces are at work. “Globalisation brings in ideas and knowledge exchange at an unprecedented scale and speed. At the same while we find it fascinating to set sail on a journey of rediscovering our own cultural identity, not intending to indulge ourselves with nostalgic fantasy of the past but to bestow new life to traditional value by design works. With rich symbolism and modern building techniques applied in our works, we attempted to bring back the beauty and order of traditional Chinese aesthetics, as to restore diversity in contemporary architecture society.”

With globalisation seemingly making “the content and form” of art and architecture from different countries more homogenous, Peng in contrast insists they are “context-sensitive”. As such, “our urgent task is to unveil the beauty rooted in vernacular cultures and translate that into modern design languages”. In addition, we cannot ignore ecology, which has led to a “great amount of techno-innovations as well as design thinking and techniques”, nor the influence of culture, which “will introduce … distinguishing features to new architecture from different regions and countries”.

With the Chinese economy slowing down and the real estate market there “being scrutinised, it is time to think about saying goodbye (to) obelisks (namely tall skyscrapers) and to turn to China’s own culture and traditions”. This is not to forget how important it is to show new techniques and products to Chinese clients, offering a platform for Australian design professionals and acting as a catalyst for Chinese investment in the Australian market.

The Australian Institute of Architect’s Foundation first Droga Architects in Residence for 2015 are Johannes Molander Pedersen and Morten Rask Gregersen from NORD in Copenhagen. They will be working on different projects that will reflect the importance of alliances between the public, civic and private sectors in such areas as health, education and urban and community development.

Internal collaborations are more important than ever as a result of ever more flexible workspaces where people from different professions and backgrounds are co-working in all sort of hubs, collaborating to generate ideas and also, possibly, to counteract the potential loneliness and isolation of working on your own.

Liberated Work by Caroline McLaren Principal CoActiv8 featuring Brad Krauskopf, CEO Third Spaces Group discusses new, more flexible workplaces for people “who want conveniently located work close to home or social activities (and) and with opportunities to connect and collaboration”

Overall findings show that “people come for the desk but stay for the community”. The Hub Australia impact survey, October 2014, shows that 54 per cent and 48 per cent of businesses respectively believe collaboration and connections are the most important aspects of new forms of work, best served by having a “café, a learning lab and meeting rooms”.

Liberated Work argued that this new style results in productivity and profitability improvements. It also challenged “real estate groups to deliver on these new expectations. The property groups that proactively address these demands through initiatives like on-site work hub facilities will ensure they continue to attract and retain large corporate tenants while also capturing the shifting demands for workspace in suburban locations”.

The report from the National Association of Women in Construction 2014 International Women’s Day scholarship winner, HASSELL researcher Michaele Sheahan, also covered connectivity, this time in hospitals. Walk, Talk, Work looked at the importance of pedestrians and public space for collaboration in hospital knowledge precincts. Sheahan visited hospitals, clinical care and biomedical research facilities in Australia, the UK, US and Sweden.

Important elements of connectivity were:

  • Proximity to mixed use activities and related institutions, giving reasons to walk, which also helps “promote ideas, innovation and collaboration);
  • Interaction, for instance, in formal and informal paths, and gathering spaces ‘”allowing incidental conversations to occur”; and

Quality: “places and links that look good, are safe, and comfortable encourage people to walk”.