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Architectural speed dating, car park transformations and open-source practices: The 2018 Festival of Architecture has it all

Photo: Simon Wilson

New Zealanders are well known to be lovers of design, so it’s no surprise that the country’s second Festival of Architecture has pulled out all the stops. From laneway design competitions, to speed dating an architect about your budding design idea, to ‘flash’ exhibitions in elevators and lobbies, there is a lot on offer – and most of the events are free. Read on for a breakdown of what to expect.

The festival runs from 14 to 23 of September and has been organised by the New Zealand Institute of Architects. It aims to explore how architecture is improving Kiwis’ quality of life in different cities across the country, with Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson, Tauranga and Hamilton are all confirmed as cities hosting events.

This year’s festivities have been curated by Jeremy Hansen, the former editor of Paperboy, who brings 15 years’ experience writing about design, social issues and architecture to the fore.

One of the main events in the programme is World Park(ing) Day, which will be held Friday 21 September. The event is a global one, with public car parks in cities across the world being taken over by architects and designers who’ll demonstrate how to transform spaces reserved for cars into people-friendly environments.

Hansen says the purpose of the event is to promote healthy urban habitats to the public.

“An outsize proportion of our urban space is dedicated to private vehicles, while the need to allocate quality space for people often gets overlooked,” Hansen says. “World Park(ing) Day is a unique opportunity to start a conversation around that, and to look at ways to make our cities and towns work for people, not cars.”

In New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, there is are a whole lot of events going down: on Friday 14 and Saturday 15 September, Women in Urbanism are leading a tour called Janes Walk which shows the city through a gendered lens. Meanwhile, Hansen and Auckland City Mission chief exectuvie Chris Farrelly will be talking with architect Nicolas Stevens about a new building proposal to house the homeless on Sunday 23 September, while an exhibition called Disrupt is a labyrinth-like demonstration of how to counteract the massive waste produced by the construction industry.

In Hamilton, the Speed Date an Architect event taking place Tuesday 18 September allows the public to get up close and personal with an architect and enjoy a 10-minute mini-consultation about the project they’ve been pondering, with prompts such as photos, plans and DIY disasters encouraged to be brought along.

Further south in Tauranga, residents are invited to have an opportunity to help shape the design of their future city with a design competition for laneways, while local firm Ignite Architects are also presenting a Virtual Reality Workshop at the Art Gallery on Thursday 20 September, where three local projects will be shown in VR.

In Wellington, some of the windy city’s most beautifully designed homes will be opened to the public, including Spacecraft Architects’ home in Strathmore and architect Sally Ogle’s house at Island Bay, as well as Roger Walker’s Park Mews apartments in Haitaitai and Geoff Fletcher House in Aro Valley on Sunday 16 September.

Another event in the capital organised by Humbugaa, an art and architecture collective, will feature a series of fast-to-pack-up and fast-to-pack-down exhibitions that will be happening around he city, from corridors, to bus stops, to elevators, to building lobbies.

In the South Island, Australian comedian and self-confessed ‘design nerd’ Tim Ross will be performing his show, How Much for the Green Chair with the Wooden Legs? At the Centre of Contemporary Art in Christchurch, while architect Nik Kneale will lead a tour of the refurbished Victoria Square on Saturday 22 September.

Another highlight is Allison Arieff, San Francisco-based urbanist and design writer for The New York Times, being announced as the festival’s international guest, and will present at the event.

Hansen says she is an excellent addition to the festival, which already has a talented array of speakers.

“Alison Arieff is one of the world’s leading champions of how good design can change all our lives – not just in our homes, but in our cities and towns too. She is progressive and articulate, and will be sharing many of the lessons she’s learned in observing the design of American homes and cities with audiences when she’s here.”

Overall, Hansen says the festival has something within for everyone, with so much to see and do nationwide.

“[The festival] celebrates the past, present and future of Aotearoa’s architecture and design. We look forward to as many people enjoying the festival with us as possible,” he says.

Check out the full line-up of events here.  

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