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Open Agenda turns five; expands advisory group


Established by a group of students from the School of Architecture at the University of Technology Sydney, the Open Agenda Architectural design research competition will mark its fifth anniversary this year.

Open Agenda is a competition and research platform for early career architects from Australian and New Zealand, aimed at exploring new avenues in architectural research through design and speculation.

“There was no space or support for the emerging generation of Architects in Australia at the time,” says Professor Anthony Burke, chair of the competition. “We wanted to build a platform that would give this generation financial and moral support and a place from which to speak about the issues that are important to them, and the way they see architecture broadly contributing to culture.

“Most students are concerned about their job prospects as they finish university. We are interested in supporting those that are equally concerned with larger ambitions for the discipline, and are looking to carve their own version of practice out of their interests and the critical issues of the time.”

In 2012, the competition was opened up to include recent graduates from New Zealand.

Open Agenda awards three winners a sum of $2000 annually as seed funding to help develop their architectural research through design and creative speculation. The winners also get a chance to exhibit their work as part of the annual Architecture Festival in Sydney.

Last year’s winners Lucy Warnock, David Neustein and Samaeh Moafi used their award money to explore and exhibit work that ranged from the political use of architecture in housing settlements in Iran (Moafi), to the response of architecture to a society of electronic surveillance (Warnock) and to a self assembling and reassembling installation exploring the impermanence of architecture today (Neustein). The winners also presented their work at the Sydney Opera House 40th Anniversary Architecture Symposium.

Bob Perry, Director at Scott Carver and principal sponsor of the competition since 2012, believes that “the way this competition opens up new avenues of research is as important for practice as it is for the discipline generally. I’m constantly impressed by the intelligence, rigor and depth of consideration of the entries we receive. I think Open Agenda is growing a leading class of architects in Australia and New Zealand who are not afraid to innovate and to work outside the box of traditional practice.”

The advisory group, which also judges all the anonymous competition entries, includes practitioners and academics from the UK, US, Hong Kong and Australia.

This year, the advisory group has expanded to include Michael Holt, Editor of AR Asia Pacific (and Media Partner); Adrian Lahoud, Course Director Urban Design, Bartlett UCL; and Prof Charles Rice, Head of School, School of Art & Design History, Kingston University. They join Marissa Yiu of Chinese University of Hong Kong and Nicolas de Monchaux, UC Berkeley, along with Australian practitioners and academics from Monash, RMIT, UNSW and UTS.

This year’s event also features a gallery of winners who have taken on international teaching positions, PhD’s and practice-based roles.

Burke adds that there are plans to expand Open Agenda beyond the scope of an annual competition. “I’m interested to see if we can capture a similar innovative spirit in other areas of Architecture. We all believe in the importance of giving space for ideas to flourish that are not mainstream and supporting our future architectural leaders and their ambitions for our discipline.”



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