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    On trend: inventive uses and re-uses of buildings, shelters and vans

    Deborah Singerman

    Invention won them over at the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2016 National Architecture Awards with the judges praising how many of the projects worked within limited means to demonstrate “architecture’s value in delivering a public benefit” and contributing “to our cities and regional centres”.

    For jury chair Jon Clements, staples such as environmental and social sustainability were just the start of “solutions that explored invention in favour of fashion.”

    “It was an inspiring and refreshing experience,” he reflected.  

    Adaptive re-use such as the State Buildings in Western Australia (Kerry Hill Architects and Palassis Architects), urban renewal with Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods (Woods Bagot and Tridente Architects), and the transformation of a former 1920s packing shed in outback Queensland into a regional art gallery (PHAB Architects) illustrated that more than ever nothing needs to stay the same.    

    The-State-Buildings-WA-by-Kerry-Hill-Architects-and-Palassis-Architects-Photo-Angus-Martin.jpg
    The State Buildings by Kerry Hill Architects and Palassis Architects received the Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage at the 2016 National Architecture Awards. Photography by Angus Martin

    The-Condensery-Somerset-Regional-Art-Gallery-QLD-by-PHAB-Architects-Photo-Manson-Images.jpg
    The Condensery - Somerset Regional Art Gallery by PHAB Architects took home a National Award for Public Architecture at the 2016 national Architecture Awards. Image: Manson Images 

    An antique furniture store for some 20 years in Sydney’s blossoming suburb of Waterloo is now an art and events space. It recently held the Other Art Fair for artists who fair director Laura Richardson describes in the Sydney Morning Herald as being “great” and who she hopes “go on to be really successful. Artists benefit from being a rose in a bed of roses rather than a rose in a bed of weeds because they are surrounded by equally talented brilliant people where connections are made.”

    Refurbished early 20th century tramsheds at Harold Park in inner-city Sydney stray far from their original purpose, and are now a vast concrete and glass expanse of retailers and providores of multifarious dishes.

    Scientists at CSIRO and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have designed what they call the Nightmare Machine which uses algorithms to convert normal images into ones designed to terrify humans, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Delightful! Can machines identify, in a creative way, something that is going to be scary? they ask.

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    An image generated by the Nightmare Machine. Image: Digital Trends 

    "We aren't taking this too seriously, we want to have fun with it," MIT’s Dr Cebrian said. "But underneath is something very serious. Emotions are something that machines could learn very easily to instil in humans.

    "If these could be positive emotions – trust, warmth – it could signal 'Work with me, I want to help you'." Not so scary after all.

    TRANSFORMATIONS CAN GIVE CONFIDENCE

    There are other transformative ways to reassure too. In Croatia, a local council has installed a feed and change bench on which mothers can change nappies and breast feed their babies, out in the open but under discreet cover.

    Architecture students from Sydney University and the Institut Teknologi Bandung worked together recently to design, prototype and build shelters for street vendors after talking to them about their needs. Two of the resulting umbrella-like bamboo structures, called Bunga (blossoming flower) Bandung were still standing weeks after they were installed. They are made to fold away when not in use.

    And the mobile laundry service, Orange Sky Laundry set up in 2014 in Brisbane, won Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett 2016 Young Australians of the Year. There are now 10 vans around Australian metro areas, according to Sydney University’s Business Briefs, fitted with washing machines and dryers, a clever idea to enable homeless people to wash and dry their clothes.

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    The mobile laundry service, Orange Sky Laundry. Image: Indooroopilly Laundromat 

    More than 600 volunteers work with the laundry, and the next plans are shower vans and vans in places recovering from natural disasters. For the founders, the most heartening result of their endeavours is that while the machines go round and round, people do not waste time. Instead, they talk to each other.

    Deborah Singerman runs her own writing, editing and proofreading consultancy specialising in the urban built environment and community. @deborahsingerma

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