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Asia Pacific Design Library

UQ Architecture Lecture Series with Kieran Wong

By Anita Lewis | 7 April 2016

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Our speaker at the next UQ Architecture lecture will be Western Australian architect Kieran Wong on Tuesday 12 April.

Kieran Wong is a co-founder and Director of CODA. Readers may be familiar with Kieran as the home he shares with wife, and practice partner, Emma Williamson and their three children was profiled in the popular Australian Homes section of the Design Files blog last month.

Today, we'll learn more about Kieran, about the practices and architects he admires and the principles which inform his work.

Tell us a little about your background, and what originally led you to architecture?

I grew up in Perth – both my parents were school teachers originally, and there wasn’t anyone in my family that was connected to design, so not sure what pathway led me to architecture, except for some reason I always wanted to be an architect. My parents instilled in me a strong sense of social justice, and I guess this foundational value has been a key driver for our practice.

Can you give us a little insight into what a normal work day looks like for you?

No day is the same. It's one of the things I enjoy about my life. Emma and I have three kids, so getting them off to school is part one. Part two usually involves drinking strong coffees in Freo, followed by a frenzied day of meetings, phone calls and emails. Site visits, presentations to clients or council, facilitating workshops mean I can have a few late nights a week. Otherwise I get home around 6 – by then the family is in full swing! Dinner, homework, preparation for the extra-curricular activities of the week – the usual working family drill - followed by (hopefully) dinner and a debrief with Emma! Bed by midnight.

What are some daily office rituals or habits you employ to enhance your productivity and creativity?

I am terrible at rituals, and I have no good habits to speak of…

For me, design is done through talking with other people. I don’t have a strong formal position; our architecture could be described as ‘lazy’ in this respect. I am interested in how the work we do can make connections, be opportunistic, leverage potentials – imagination and discourse are what I see as our practice strengths.

What principles inform your work?

Our practice is based upon four core values that we bring to both our projects and the way we work – joy, usefulness, generosity and stealth! We believe good design can influence in the development of our cities and communities, we place people at the forefront of our thinking, and work to be both responsive and critical to our clients and their stakeholders. That all sounds quite serious, doesn’t it? We do try to have fun along the way!

Where do you go for design inspiration?

I like to meditate, whilst sitting cross-legged on the combined monographs of Louis Kahn, Robin Boyd and le Corbusier….

What has been a career highlight for you so far?

As a practice that Emma and I founded straight out of university, CODA has been intrinsically linked to our own life. It's hard to separate 'career' from 'life' sometimes! There are always highs and lows in this sense. Personally, I’ve always been pretty chuffed when projects are inhabited, utilised, engaged with or used to leverage better outcomes for the city – these could be building projects, planning projects or community engagement processes that we’ve led.

Which Australian or international architecture people, practices, designers or similar do you admire?

We’ve been lucky to make some great connections over the years across Australia with other practices and practitioners. Rachel Neeson is always inspiring in her focus to the craft of architecture and how it can engage and uplift the people it services. Paul Pholeros was a beacon to architects that design could be used to rethink bureaucratic approaches to poverty and poor health. The practice of Lyons is one that both Emma and I admire deeply. Closer to home we have been influenced and inspired by the rigour of Donaldson + Warn and learned from Brian Klopper and Stephen Neille.

What are your top five favourite design books?

This was so tricky! In the end I just went down to our library at CODA and looked for some books with the most worn-out spines…so, in no particular order:

City of Quartz by Mike Davis

Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte

Sauerbruch Hutton by Archive

The Idea of the City by Architectural Association, Robin Middleton, Ed.

A Handful of Productive Paradigms by Bolles Wilson

What can attendees to your lecture expect to hear and see?

Short Answer:

I am 6’1” tall, half Chinese and have a deep voice.

Longer Answer:

I am going to talk a little about CODA, and our process and approach. We have been evolving and changing for almost 20 years now, and being able to reflect on the good and not-so good decisions we’ve made is sometime useful. I’ll be talking mainly about our work in the context of emerging western communities where we work (like the Pilbara and South West of Western Australia) and the places where occupation has carved very different marks upon the land – from Fremantle (our home city) to Groote Eyelandt in East Arnhem land. And, I promise to show some nice slides…

When: Tuesday 12 April  - 6pm for 6.30pm start

Where: SLQ Auditorium 1, level 2, State Library of Queensland

Cost: Free

Register: Eventbrite

Architectural professionals who attend the series will be eligible for two formal continuing professional development points (CPD). This event will also be livestreamed.

2016 UQ Architecture Series is presented by the University of Queensland School of Architecture and the Asia Pacific Design Library.


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