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Parallax presents multiple POVs

May 4, 2009

Slavoj Žižek takes centre stage at this year’s AIA conference.

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Despite cut-backs, retrenchments and development doldrums, a healthy audience turned out for the 2009 AIA conference, “Parallax”. Drawing inspiration from Slavoj Zizek’s self-described magnum opus, The Parallax View, the conference sought to explore the notion of the parallax, or the apparent displacement of an object (in this case the architectural object) brought about through shifts in one’s observational position. While Zizek himself naturally became the touchstone of the conference, several other speakers presented insightful and provocative presentations, from Aaron Betsky’s now familiar thesis of architecture’s elaboration beyond the building (buildings being “a tomb of architecture”), to Alejandro Zaera Polo’s on-going investigation into building envelopes (as distinct from building skins) as a profound precondition for understanding architecture. Peter Wilson, himself a long lost Melburnian, appeared as a somewhat shamanic presence. He presented a series of projects, which were in themselves fine architecture, but as a presentation failed to engage the subject of his session, “The Studio: a place of proposition”, an attempt to locate the studio between academia and the office. Geoff Manaugh was one of a number of younger presenters, taking the audience through an abrupt collision of content and ideas not unlike his own now famous blog BLDGBLOG. Other unexpected stars of the show included Estonian architect Veronika Valk and Studio Mumbai’s Bijoy Jain.
Aside from key sessions Parallax included a series of smaller workshops, allowing more interaction with the audience (the main hall’s sms Q&A experiment, while laudably intended, was rather token). The other experiment of the conference on Friday night, comically called Parallaxed, invited three emerging practices to present in front of the conference heavyweights (and a sea of quaffing peers). Duly daunted by the prospect M3, Marcus Trimble and Elenberg Fraser stepped up to the plate. With the first session more paralysed that parallaxed (despite the impressive credentials and indeed track record of both panel and presenters, neither seemed remotely charged for the occasion), the evening did heat up with Betsky unleashing a tirade of quick fire accusatory questions of Trimble and Fraser Fraser pacing nervously, between slides, to and from his rapidly diminishing glass of beer.

To read more, look out for a full review in the next issue of AR available in June.

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