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Outpost 02: Agora

Our greatest source of innovation has always been experimentation. It’s through experimenting with new materials, evolving technology, novel ideas and wide-ranging collaborations that elements of our most memorable and highly awarded projects have been conjured.

As many an architect will tell you, one of the richest periods of experimentation is during their studies. A time of imagining ambitious and fantastical structures and cityscapes before the constraints of ‘real’ sites, ‘real’ clients or ‘real’ contexts (building guidelines, budgets, deadlines) come into play.

To marry these dual passions for experimentation and education, John Wardle Architects have been collaborating with universities around Australia to run teaching studios. The Outpost teaching studios are very much a place to test new ideas, we chose its name to evoke the feeling of occupying a frontier - of leaving an established base and surveying new territory. This resonates with our ongoing engagement with issues, people and places beyond our studios. Our work spans its own outposts: Bruny Island, Somewhere Other and many artist collaborations. While each endeavour began outside our day-to-day practice, they’ve individually become central to our identity.

Following on from the success of Outpost 01, our semester two teaching studio tackled a different critical issue for contemporary society – what is the role of the court building and how will this evolve in the 21st Century. Run as part of the University of Melbourne’s Master of Architecture course, it provided the opportunity to connect to our next generation of architects. It also enabled us to open the doors of our practice to offer insight into our thinking and design process.

As a series of teaching studios, Outpost comprises many conversations that extend beyond the walls of our studios and continue in the lives of the students who embark on this journey with us.

The Brief

This studio interrogated the role that the Law Court plays as a key civic building in the heart of our cities and society. The studio encouraged students to think laterally around the way that justice is delivered in the 21st Century and the changing role that the court building plays in the identity of our city. Students were given a hypothetical law court brief set in 2050 and encouraged to think imaginatively around how the future court would change in relation to their speculation on the future social, political and technological change in store for Melbourne.

Students were required to develop an architectural design concept underpinned by their research and hypothesis of the way that Melbourne will evolve over the next 30 years. Discussion centred around a wide range of topics, from the possibility for the court to play a role in rehabilitation, the need to address environmental concerns, to the challenge of delivering justice in a future era where artificial intelligence is on the brink of consciousness. The studio fostered a culture of imaginative enquiry and often provocative debate.

  • JWA Studio Leader Ariani Anwar
  • JWA Studio Contributors John Wardle, Meaghan DwyerStefan Mee, Bill Krotiris, Andy Wong, Kah-Fai Lee, AJohn Wardle, Meaghan DwyerStefan Mee, Bill Krotiris, Andy Wong, Kah-Fai Lee, Adrian Bonaventura, Anna Caish, Di Hu, Nick Roberts, Malisa Benjamins, Maximilian Tisserand.
  • External Studio Contributors Anna Dutton (Bower Architecture), Andrew Simpson (Andrew Simpson Architects), PrAnna Dutton (Bower Architecture), Andrew Simpson (Andrew Simpson Architects), Professor Donald Bates (University of Melbourne) & Richard Stokes (Arup).
  • Architecture Students Dina Ayoun Alsoud, Fatimah Al-Ameen, Jia Jia Shen, Jiao (Alice) Shi, Juan PlanelDina Ayoun Alsoud, Fatimah Al-Ameen, Jia Jia Shen, Jiao (Alice) Shi, Juan Planells, Yashi (Leslie) Lin, Liem Joshua Halim, Nancy Williams, Omar Alonso Correo-Gonzalez, Zheng (Tirteen) Wu, Wenting (Wendy) Gan, Wenxiao (Edwin) Zhu, Xinjie (Jill) Hu, Zichao Zhu.

The Process

The studio encourages students to think beyond architecture by considering how the building they created might engage with its community. As a practice-led studio, Outpost involves workshops with JWA Principals and staff. Operating across two sites in a week – the university and the JWA Rokeby Street Studio – Outpost allows students to gain an insight into industry whilst exploring ideas that can be tested in the rich academic environment of university. Along the way, emphasis was placed on the rewards of engaging with a broader network of contributors beyond architecture.

In both Outpost 01 & 02, it’s been immensely rewarding to see the way students have embraced the conversational, exploratory atmosphere of the studio by designing both a convincing architectural proposal and a passionate argument for its existence. These projects extend the capacity of architectural drawing and model making to describe more than just a building. This attitude finds its way into practice as well: in order to imagine new forms of architecture, the conditions that make that architecture relevant need to be researched and advocated for. The Outpost teaching studios are dedicated to highlighting architecture’s role in addressing the most pressing issues facing our world. 

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