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Architectural Roundtable 2014

Game Changers: Architects on the Front Lines of Innovation, Construct Canada

December 3, Toronto – Peter Rigakos, Vice President, Reed Construction Data Canada, welcomed the audience and introduced Elsa Lam as the moderator for the 14th annual International Architectural Roundtable at the opening of Construct Canada ‘14. More than 500 people came to hear from four architects about how their visionary projects challenge traditional built form and the standard place of architectural practice.

Elsa Lam, Editor of Canadian Architect Magazine introduced the session’s four speakers: Hitoshi Abe, Rachael Armstrong, Benjamin Dillenburger and Brook Melchin, and asked, “how can architects act as leaders in this brave new world?”

Hitoshi Abe, Chair and Professor, UCL, Architecture and Design; Principal Atelier Hitoshi Abe, emphasized place and location, “architecture is a place to meet with people’, while “technology creates a different type of community. He stressed the need to bridge the virtual environment with the physical environment.

Rachel Armstrong, Senior TED Fellow and Living Architect, Co-Director of AVATAR stated, “It’s an exciting time for architects, especially young architects.” Armstrong spoke about elemental architecture with a number of examples. “We don’t have much choice in this transition…it’s a coming together of a more complex way of being in the world.” She wrapped up her presentation by clarifying the importance of building new partnerships, spreading risk and engaging community.

Benjamin Dillenburger, Assistant Professor, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, and director of the ETH spinoff-company KAISERSROT. “We can create forms without any restrictions,” says Dillenburger as he introduced the writing, printing and reading of architecture. Expressed through his example of “The Grotto” project, Dillenburger explained we’ve gone from “the scale of bricks to the scale of bits.”

Brook Melchin, Architect, AAA, MRAIC, Associate | Director Riddell Kurczaba. Melchin took the audience through his “The Swarm: Rethinking Distribution” project presentation. “Distribution fundamentally drives our urban centres,” explained Melchin, “We can drive vitality back to the centres of our cities.”

Lam continued the panel discussion with a series of questions posed to all of the panelists. A number of themes and key ideas were presented:

About the profession and where it goes from here:

“We need to expand our profession…you have to acknowledge the technology first,“ said Hitoshi Abe
“You need to collaborate with other people, build a team, (and) merge different thinking and ideas.”

“Choreography experimental opportunities to converge practices, technologies and fabrics.” -- Rachael Armstrong.

“We need to create the tools we would like to change our practices.” -- Rachael Armstrong.

“We could publish…let those ideas grow… what we should build for ourselves and generations to come.” – Brook Melchin

Do architects have a unique way of thinking?

“We are shallow, but wide. We are super generalists.” – Hitoshi Abe

“Finding uses for science…we are also socially engaged…there is a great deal to be optimistic about.” -- Rachael Armstrong.

“We can provide the visions needed and (turn them) into physical matter…I’m very optimistic.” – Benjamin Dillenburger

“We see the issues...we need to share ideas so it becomes viral.” – Brook Melchin

“There is a gap between the world of architecture: the one we’re thinking about and what everyone else is thinking about.” – Hitoshi Abe

“Design your vision, let the technology catch up.” – Benjamin Dillenburger

“Technology may change of definition of architect itself.” – Benjamin Dillenburger

“Powerfully put our profession in a space to solve problems through design” – Brook Melchin

Bill Birdsell, OAA President thanked the panelists at the closing of the session.

The OAA, Reed Construction Data, Canadian Architect, sponsored the event together with AEC Daily, Brown Daniels Associates, Bildtec, Kingspan, Thames Valley Building Materials Ltd.