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INTBAU / Everything Old is New Again

Fiona Mckay

INT Congress 18 Single-03.png

It is the aim of the AIA UK Board of Directors to offer sufficient CE credits to satisfy the diverse interests and requirements of the Chapter’s membership.  In 2017, the UK Chapter organized events, lectures, tours, etc., generating 48.5 CES credits; in 2018, 49.5 CES credits - and there are constant efforts to better that record.

In 2018, the Board undertook a survey to investigate event preferences and is taking efforts to implement the results - a Super Saturday was reintroduced for those who cannot make weekday events; efforts are being investigated for joint recognition of events with the RIBA; and other organisations will be promoted for self-reporting opportunities in 2019.  And then – in late 2018 – an AIA approved event just came out of the blue and supplemented the Chapter’s CES credit total.

Ethan Antony, AIA, from the AIA Central Massachusetts Chapter, recognised that the INTBAU World Congress was holding its biennial forum in London on 27-28 Nov 2018 and brought the event to AIA UK’s attention.  Thankfully, he also did the legwork that achieved AIA approval for 6.0 CES credits.

The INTBAU World Congress ‘brings together global perspectives and knowledge for discussion and debate of pressing issues and difficult questions facing the built environment in communities around the world’.  Given that it works under the patronage of its founder, HRH The Prince of Wales, it has a clear agenda ‘to support traditional building, the maintenance of local character, and the creation of better places to live’.

INTBAU / Contexts Session

INTBAU / Contexts Session

And, yes – as to be expected – the Congress - with its formal sessions on Contexts, Materials and Identities - did have a strong emphasis on academic research and the topics of vernacular architecture, conservation and traditional materials.  However, there were also multiple presentations on the relevance of such topics to today’s architectural profession. The various presentations kept the overall programme not only balanced, but wide-ranging in its appeal. See full Congress programme HERE.

Linking discussions on traditional craftsmen and materials to the Congress’ title ‘Everything Old is New Again’, there were lectures on the joys and potentials of modern mud construction and the use of CLT wood construction to speed up delivery of UK social housing.  

Photo Credit: INTBAU Spain and Terrachidia

Photo Credit: INTBAU Spain and Terrachidia

Sean Griffiths, professor of Architecture at the University of Westminster, then asked the fundamental question - ‘What is the nature of a natural material?’.  He then amused and stimulated the attendees with his proclamation that ‘natural is not necessarily innocent’ and his warning to be careful ‘when equating nature with ethical moral virtue’.

There were also lectures on the delivery of urban projects in diverse locations with an emphasis on creating liveable conditions – encouraging walkable communities in car-loving America via a ‘missing middle’ housing development; generating traditional housing forms in Asia; empowering communities in Oman to adapt and revitalise traditional villages; and ‘balancing resiliency, budget and beauty’ while rebuilding in disaster hit New Orleans.  

The Congress included presentations from or about the US, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Greece, Norway, Spain, France, Sweden, Palestine, Oman, Norway and Finland as well as the UK and there were opportunities at break times to engage with all the global participants.

INTBAU was also not averse to controversy and had the courage to address an issue that concerns many modern practitioners.  Phineas Harper, Deputy Director at the Architecture Foundation, discussed the ever present danger of too many people commonly associating traditional architecture with a far-right populist agenda – a topic he openly admitted that was designed to offend at least some of the attendees and participants.

Photo Credit: Lorraine King, AIA

Photo Credit: Lorraine King, AIA

For example, he linked the demolition of the Robin Hood Housing estate with analysis that somehow equated modern housing with the antithesis of traditional – and therefore supposedly morally preferable – housing.  People should not, he insisted, lose their homes over arguments on architectural style.

A following talk – perhaps designed to appease attendees and participants possibly affronted by Phineas Harper’s discourse - described the ‘architectural uprising’ in Sweden and Finland resulting from a programme to increase public awareness of design issues by – for example – letting the public express its views on the current trends in architectural awards.  The presentation concluded that ‘there are alternatives to boring boxes…’.

All in all, the INBAU World Congress was a resounding example of the potential for furthering architectural education and debate through collaboration with other organisations.  See HERE for a partial listing of organisations in the UK that provide alternative events for self-reporting, including INTBAU and the Architectural Association.  Please feel free to bring other organisations to the Chapter’s attention.

Written by: Lorraine D King, AIA

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