Lecture Series: John Patkau

NewSchool Auditorium
Street address
1249 F Street, San Diego CA
When: May 25, 2016 | 7:00PM Lecture

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NewSchool Lecture Series featuring John Patkau, Principal, Patkau Architects from Vancouver, Canada

When: May 25, 2016 | 7:00PM Lecture, Reception and Book Signing to follow.
Patkau Architects book will be available for purchase for $35.

Where: NewSchool Auditorium, Open to the public

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Lecture Topic: Work / Play

This evening/afternoon I would like to present a number of the projects in which my partner, Patricia, and I have been engaged over the last few years. I have divided the lecture into two parts; the first a series of building and competition projects, commissioned by clients, and the second a series of research projects which in the main, we have initiated ourselves. The title of my lecture Work / Play is intended to reflect the strong duality in the nature of these two types of projects in terms of not only intention but also circumstance.

Building and Competition Projects:

Our building and competition projects are characterized by a number of ongoing concerns. From the outset we have looked to what we call the “found potential” of a project as a point of departure. By ‘found potential’ we mean those aspects of site, climate, building context, program, and local culture, and the relationships between them, that facilitate the development of an architectural form which is evocative of circumstance. The result of this approach is that individual projects often take on distinct identities in response to differing circumstance, and consequently the formal relationship between our projects is loose at best. To us this is an appropriate expression of the diversity within which we live.

With time, however, we have come to understand that architecture does not arise directly and unbidden from circumstantial considerations. A synthetic act of imagination is required. This act of imagination can take many forms; for us it is most commonly an expression of cultural purpose, of environmental response and of construction and technology - the more inclusive the imagination is to the diversity of circumstances which surround the project, the more complete the work of architecture. And then there is the issue of craft: for us craft is intellectual in the first instance. It is a construction of ideas; a rigorous set of relationships which form an armature for the ongoing development and elaboration of the project. Craft is also aesthetic, the product of the sensibility of mind and eye. And finally craft is physical, the material product of the mind and hand and the hand’s extension through technology. Like the act of imagination from which the architectural project is formed I believe the more inclusive the craft, the more complete the work of architecture.

3 Houses: I will begin by presenting a series of three houses which were all designed at about the same time in 2006 - 2007. As a group I think these houses provide a clear demonstration of the principles upon which our building projects are founded. 3 Competitions: Like the houses these 3 competitions were all undertaken around the same time. In fact through the winter and spring of 2010/11 we just rolled from one into the next.

Research: To begin I should say that we have always engaged in research beyond the research that is inherent in conventional architectural practice. In the past this research has focused on questions of formal analysis. Recently, however, we have radically altered our research investigations to explore the spatial and structural potential resulting from the direct manipulation of material.

Conclusion: I would like to conclude with a quotation from Zone 1 by Kwinter and Fehrer. Patricia and I came across this quote as very young architects. It remains as meaningful to us and our practice today as it was then. “To draw a carp, Chinese masters warn, it is not enough to know the animal’s morphology, study its anatomy or understand the physiological functions vital to its existence. They tell us that it is also necessary to consider the reed against which the carp brushes each morning while seeking its nourishment, the oblong stone behind which it conceals itself, or the rippling of water when it springs toward the surface. These elements should in no way be treated as the fish’s environment, the milieu in which it evolves or the natural background against which it can be drawn. They belong to the carp itself, insofar as it is not defined as a distinct form capable of a set of movements or as a particular organism performing a series of functions. Instead, the carp must be apprehended as a certain power to affect and be affected by the world. In other words, rather than a formed and organized individual, the brush should sketch a life, since a life is constituted simply by traces left behind and imprints silently born.”

About Patkau Architects

Patkau Architects is an architecture and design research studio based in Vancouver, Canada. We explore the richness and diversity of architectural practice, understanding it as a critical cultural act that engages our most fundamental desires and aspirations. The practice is led by four principals, John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, David Shone, and Greg Boothroyd; and two associates, Peter Suter and Shane O’Neill. Their comprehensive involvement throughout all phases of design and construction consistently results in projects recognized for architectural innovation and quality. In over 35 years of practice, the studio has been responsible for a wide variety of project types, ranging in scale from art installations to major urban buildings. Current work includes the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver; the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, the Yasodhara Ashram in Kootenay Lake; the Capilano Library in Edmonton; the Faculty of Music in Winnipeg, and several private residences. The practice is also actively engaged in architectural research. Our current work explores the potential resulting from the response of materials to applications of force. A compendium of these investigations will be published in Material Operations, a forthcoming book by Princeton Architectural Press.