What does a group of talented final year Deakin architecture students do when their usual high-profile exhibition venue, Fed Square, is no longer an option during COVID-19?
Create their own artfully designed 3D virtual space to showcase their work to the world, of course.
Deakin University’s annual exhibition PaperSpace, featuring outstanding designs from undergraduate and postgraduate students in the School of Architecture and Built Environment, rapidly reinvented itself online during 2020 – adopting a new temporary name, Paper(less) Space 2020.
Students Amy Smith, Qiaochu (Ruby) Tang, Ashlee Murphy and Ryan Lofaro have helped move the exhibition into a virtual gallery platform.
A one-of-a-kind venue
Using this technology, students have designed their own unique exhibition space – where 72 students’ highly detailed architectural presentation posters are mounted on floating cubes.
Smith says the cubes reference the architecture that exists within the A+B Studio at Deakin’s Waterfront campus, where the annual exhibition usually finishes after travelling from Fed Square.
‘We wanted to create something within that platform which doesn’t have walls or a ceiling or a floor,’ says Amy. ‘It’s a virtual space; so it could be anything we wanted it to be. As architecture students we have learnt the value of creating a space.’
Buildings with a purpose
Amy says an incredible array of student work is on show, drawing on topics relating to sustainability, history, culture and regional issues.
Her own project deals with the impact of tourism on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, specifically looking at Indigenous culture, knowledge and sustainability. In her hypothetical design, Amy transformed part of the world-famous road into a bridge that encourages visitors to slow down and engage with nature, and also helps wildlife cross safely from the hinterland to the ocean’s edge.
Fellow postgrad student Ashlee Murphy’s project, From the Broken, aims to reduce the prevalence ofdomestic violence by providing a safe haven for women on the banks of Seymour’s Goulburn River. The design, made up of many small linked buildings, is inspired by the Japanese art form of Kintsugi, where broken objects are repaired with gold.
Meanwhile Andrew Galea’s topical work, Human Habitats, offers an alternative approach to an inner city mixed-use building that integrates living, working and playing.
Other projects, particularly those presented by international students, try to tackle real-life problems around the world, in countries such as Malaysia and India.
Guest speakers from the world of architecture
The event launched with an official opening on Zoom, featuring guest speakers including Deakin’s discipline leader for urban design Dr John Rollo, James Loder, of renowned Melbourne architectural firm John Wardle Architects, and Deakin architecture alumnus and entrepreneur Saifuddin Bin Ahmad.
From there, everyone was able to explore the virtual space created by Deakin students for the first time.
Amy explained: ‘Guests were able to see all these names floating around looking at the work, so it gave a sense of: how else can you feel connected in a virtual world?’
An exhibition with no end date
Amy says many of the students chosen to display their work are international students, and running the event virtually means their family and friends overseas – along with architecture firms anywhere in the world –are able to log on.
Another perk is that the exhibition will go on indefinitely.
‘Because we’ve created this world, it will be there forever,’ Amy says. ‘So it gives a little bit more scope in terms of also being able to give exposure to people overseas that probably wouldn’t have necessarily come and seen the exhibition in person.’
Amy says the exhibition shows that many buildings are not just a building for building’s sake – instead they’re designed with a clear purpose in mind.
Of course, the event is also a fitting send-off for a cohort of final year students who’ve risen to the challenges of 2020.
‘Everybody’s had to make sacrifices this year and we just look at this as an opportunity to create something really unique and special I guess, to commemorate our last year,’ Amy says.