India, China and Australia

Ahmedabad, India

Studio leader: Blair Gardiner & Hannah Robertson

Following its independence in 1947, from the 1950s to 70s India underwent a period of rapid change with the simultaneous reclamation of a national Indian identity and the striving for inclusion in the western economically developed world. These forces coalesced in the architecture at the time, which simultaneously sought internationally modern characteristics but with reverence to the distinct Indian climate, cultural modes of occupation and available materials and technologies.

Ahmedabad is a city that bears a living vestige to some of the most prominent Indian modernist buildings of this time including those designed by internationally acclaimed architects, such as Le Corbusier’s Mill Owner’s Association Building (1954) and Louis Kahn’s Indian Institute of Management (1974). Likewise, the old city of Ahmedabad has a traditional fabric of courtyard houses with small alleys and secret pathways built from local materials that contain rich domestic modes of occupation particular to the city. Integral to this were innovative infrastructure support systems, such as those related to water management dating to the 1700’s. While Ahmedabad has iconic modernist and traditional architectural and urban planning typologies, the majority of the city’s structures built from 1950-70 neither contain the ingenious technologies derived from their context, as witnessed in the old city, nor the scale of Corbusier or Kahn’s grandiose modernist structures. This begs the question of what was contributed to the built fabric and identity of Ahmedabad? And how is this adapted to enable and support the 21st century needs and aspirations for the rapidly growing metropolis of Ahmedabad, a city whose population has doubled in the last ten years and now faces a housing availability crisis.

This studio offered students the great opportunity to learn, alongside their CEPT university peers, about Ahmedabad’s modernist multilevel residential typologies and the craft/trade-based systems and technologies that were adapted or discarded within this period of architectural transition. The purpose of the studio was to undertake research into a selection of crafts, trades and technologies that supported Ahmedabad’s modernist housing; and to survey, analyse and design/document the eventual restoration of one of these residences to reflect the values of its original construction in a contemporary context. The proposed case study site is a multilevel house designed by a builder for a traditional joint family structure that is constructed in 1960s-70s Ahmedabad modernist concrete. The house included features such as site made blockwork, extensive stone surfaces, and encaustic wall finishes, all of which are becoming less dominant in the 21st century’s increasingly prefabricated and standardised construction. Using a case study enabled students to develop understandings of a fledgling modernist construction industry and the interaction between design and construction in the post-independence modern regionalist era. It also offered the opportunity to investigate what happened to that industry and whether it was still economically, socially and environmentally possible to design and build utilising local craft/trade-based systems today.

Shanghai, China

Studio leaders: Dr Marcus White

The studio was an intensive design studio focused on the rapid urban renewal, pedestrian connectivity and accessibility of Chinese cities, in particular, the city of Shanghai.

Shanghai is a growing city with a population of roughly 24 million. Like many cities in China, Shanghai is undergoing radical growth and change and is grappling with challenges of retention and engagement with its ancient and recent history, dramatic increase in car and e-bike ownership, conversion of traditional walkable Chinese urbanism to car dominated and increasingly un-walkable and un-cycleable urban environments.

Students will begin research design projects in cross-disciplinary groups in Melbourne before embarking on the travelling component of the studio with a series of speculative urban design and architectural proposals focused on increased connectivity, accessibility and urban comfort. In Shanghai, students will engage in detailed site analysis assessing the existing urban form and land use and attempt to weave current urbanism into their own propositions. Students will work at the Tongji University with lectures and feedback from Tongji staff and will work with Tongji students.

Wadeye-Northern Territory, Australia (Bower)

Studio leaders: Dr David O'Brien

The multi-award winning Bower Studio has been running for several years and has teams of students travelling to remote and marginalised communities to consult, design and construct community infrastructure projects. To date we have designed and built projects ranging from early learning centres for Indigenous kids in the Pilbara, computer centres in Indigenous 'town camp' communities in Darwin and Alice Springs, through to composting toilets for coastal communities in Papua New Guinea.

The 2017 Bower Studio returned to the Northern Territory to work with the Thamarrurr Aboriginal Corporation and Wadeye community on Stage 1 of the Wadeye Culture Hub. There are at least seven languages spoken by the people living in the remote Daly River region which also locates various traditional clan based arts and cultural practices. The Wadeye community (formerly the Port Keats mission) is a hub for these clan groups and cultural practices, but does not have any formal arts or culture space. The community had invited Bower Studio to work with them and develop a new Culture Hub.

The development of a new culture precinct would be kickstarted by work on the Media Box, a facility that include a broadcasting space with seating, stage and projection screen. An existing steel pavilion would be rejuvenated by the Media Box, helping to facilitate conversations about how to best celebrate the rich culture within the community.

Please see the Bower Studio website for further information.

See all past travelling studios

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