The 5th Auckland Triennial Lab

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Filed Under: Sarosh Mulla

The 5th Auckland Triennial, “if you were to live here”, has just come to a close. After months of exhibitions, performances, lectures, debates, workshops, panel discussions and parties, the largest art event in Auckland’s calendar is now over. Billed as an opportunity for artists to reimagine Auckland, the Triennial was this year curated by international superstar curator Hou Hanru.

Hanru, who has recently been appointed Artistic Director of Rome’s MAXXI Museum, posed questions around regional identity, cultural specificity and the prosaic aspects of day-to-day occupation of a south pacific city. The social specificity of the production of art and architecture was also addressed through collaborations between architects and artists. The Model Home, a paper worker’s house expertly created by paper aficionado Prof. Andrew Barrie in collaboration with a skilled team of young Auckland architects, Japanese architects Atelier Bow Wow and Tokyo born artist Michael Lin, was a prominent example of the blurring of disciplinary boundaries throughout the Triennial.

Further to the artworks exhibited, the Lab, a kind of interactive studio and discussion hub, was also actively engaged in fleshing out Hanru’s provocation. These rolling architecture and design studios looked at significant issues around Auckland’s future from a predominantly architectural standpoint. It is worth noting that this is the first time in the event’s history that such a format has been included.

The Lab was equipped with a set of display and occupation systems designed by Michael Davis and Sara Lee. These systems could be rearranged to tailor the space to the diverse research outputs of each studio. The material used to construct these elements was itself collected from the various institutions supporting the Lab, thus taking on a kind of collective institutional memory. As a collaboration of the University of Auckland, AUT and Unitec, the Lab dealt with issues as diverse as high density housing and recovering the usefulness of Auckland forgotten rivers. Aside from the great many important social and architectural issues raised with the Lab, it is the format itself, which deserves some attention.

Led by architects who straddle the often vast divide between professional practice and academic architectural research, the Lab was an opportunity to show what can be achieved when academic research outputs and tangible architectural problems are aligned. Demonstrations of what can be achieved with small but thoughtful policy changes, alongside provocations to the profession, as well as the public, were seen within the context of artistic critiques of our ways of living here.