From August 3rd, the International Union of Architects (UIA) will once again host their World Congress, a triennial event that focuses on one critical topic in our architectural culture. Whereas the Tokyo 2011 Congress was focused on the future, this year's congress in Durban will concentrate not on a different time but a different place: the "otherwhere", or as they put it, the "anywhere-but-here". The Congress will explore ideas about how connectivity might shape our experience and alter the course of our social progress.
Read on for more about the themes of the 25th World Conference and the Keynote Speakers...
This "otherwhere" also suggests Africa, which might offer us alternative ways of living with nature and with other people. "The ideologies we have lived by in the last 100 years have done their time and failed", states the conference brief, asking if we might look to different (less Western) ways to fight for social progress.
To explore these themes, the UIA has lined up an impressive set of expert speakers from both African countries and beyond:
- Diébédo Francis Kéré, born in Burkina Faso, is the founder of Berlin-based Kéré Architecture. His work in his home country is often focused on simplicity of materials and a design and construction process which involves and engages local communities.
- Joe Osae-Addo is the CEO of Constructs R+D and Chairman of ArchiAfrika Foundation, a non-profit organisation engaged in the promotion of African design and architecture.
- Sindile Ngonyama is the principal director of Ngonyama Okpanum and Associates, a South African Firm focusing on Education and Healthcare projects, and is the current President of the South African Institute of Architects.
- Rahul Mehrotra, architect and educator, works in Mumbai and teaches at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University where he is Professor of Urban Design and Planning and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design.
- Cameron Sinclair is the co-founder of Architecture for Humanity where for 15 years he has championed and promoted architecture that supports humanitarian causes worldwide.
- Susannah Drake is the Principal of US firm dlandstudio, a firm that reinvents and retrofits urban infrastructure to make it more ecologically productive.
- Gerardo Salinas is a partner at Rojkind Arquitectos, a member of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), and a member of the Mexican College of Architects.
- Wang Shu established the Amateur Architecture Studio with his wife, Lu Wenyu, in 1997, and won the Pritzker Prize in 2012. His work is often described as a foremost example of the principles of critical regionalism.
- Dr Mongane Wally Serote is a writer and was an activist within the Umkhonto We Sizwe, which worked to end the apartheid government in South Africa. He now holds a number of prominent positions, including Associate Professor at UNISA, African Renaissance Foundation chairperson and as CEO of Freedom Park in Pretoria.
- Toyo Ito is a leading Japanese architect and the winner of the 2013 Pritzker Prize.
Parallel sessions that will focus on specific areas of the themes of the conference include investigations into the role of Built Environment Professionals in Spatial Transformation; Sustainable Human(e) Settlements; Housing and Healthcare - especially creating sustainable architecture under conditions of change; Open Building; and Addressing Informality through Design Education and Practice.
The conference will also act as a launch pad for a series of urban regeneration projects around Durban: the creation of a pedestrianized public space on a section of Pixley Ka Seme Street to provide residents and workers in the city a high quality environment for relaxation and exercise; arts and culture initiatives and exhibitions will be run in the Rivertown Precinct to show the opportunities that exist for bringing investment, sustainability and vibrancy back to the area; and 'pocket parks' will be created in spaces throughout the city to bring nature into the city and provide recreation spaces to Durbanites.
Finally, the conference will also play host to a variety of fringe events, such as exhibitions, film screenings, tours and walkabouts, cultural events, social and networking activities. It will also host a public trade expo in the Durban Exhibition Centre (DEC), offering insight into the latest product developments and technological innovations.