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Bubble and Speak Breakfast Seminar Series 2010 – GEAR & Pattersons

October 4, 2010

I’m delighted to present Katie O’Brien, Interior Designer at BVN Architecture and budding design writer as guest on the Making Place blog today, to tell us about the recent Bubble and Speak Breakfast as part of the 2010 series. Now firmly part of the Design Institute of Australia‘s (DIA) annual program, these monthly breakfasts, held at The Emporium Hotel, Brisbane, are a real treat for the imagination as design industry professionals and creatives share their practice and process.

Take it away Katie…

Seminar 03 of the DIA Bubble and Speak Seminar Series was a clash of the opposites as we saw Bike Vs Building with the rise of the uber cool courier come trendy wendy cycles pitted against the new wave of New Zealand architecture, eh bro.

First up was thick accented Eric Van Genderen owner of boutique (but affordable) bike shop GEAR in West End. Eric took to the Bubble podium somewhat nervously reading carefully from loose A4 pages speaking about his humble beginnings in Amsterdam. After completing a degree in publicity and culture and being the head chef at his own restaurant life was a tad dull so he bought a track bike and became a messenger. Annnnnnd BAM! Cue super mega fun life! Eric made a quick move to Brisbane and saw the niche market of bikes, messengering and street culture was running rampant in Sydney and pretentcho (pretentious) Melbourne, but relatively underground here. Annnnnnnnnnd BAM! Cue the birth of GEAR shop Brisbane.

Located at West End, half of this tiny store reflects the ‘workshop’ side of the bike culture – raw timber, wall hung bikes and frames with that mechanic feel, whilst the ‘retail’ side of the shop is more reminiscent of a European fashion boutique – minimalist and white. Jah. This store with it’s quirky mix of interiors and the uprising of the culture in Brisbane has attracted more than 450 fixed gear and single speed bike enthusiasts across our somewhat hilly city.

Eric introduced us to his sidekick for the presentation, fellow messenger, bike mechanic and fixed gear nerd Daniel Castro. Quite simply – Daniel is a nutter. He rode from Brisbane to Sydney in four and half days, on a bike with no gears, with a mate, with no training, just for the sake of it! And he forgot his IPod. He spoke to us as if chatting to his friends, not a room full of design professionals and the crowd loved the laxed attitude. He pimped the concept of ‘bikes’ as being a healthy, cheap and a sustainable mode of transport – particularly appropriate for the Brisbane climate – despite the hills.

The duo indulged us in their bike scene with humourous (dangerous) anecdotes reminiscent of thirteen year olds’ weekend shenanigans, not fully grown hairy adults. They had us gasping in amazement, showing us scenes from various messenger races held overseas where participants race against one another and weave through cities against traffic and pedestrians to meet gate points. It was all very reminiscent of the footage seen in Claude Lelouch’s 1976’s C’était un Rendezvous, thrilling car film through Paris – except these guys have no brakes, they wear no helmets, it’s all for fun – and illegal.

Quote of the day: “Brakes on bikes look ugly – you don’t need them, there are other ways to brake” – I’ll take brakes thanks. That was Daniel speaking about the passion fixed gear riders have for the reduced aesthetic of the simple bike frame. With no gears, attachments or fixtures like they give you at ’99 bikes’, this reduction of componentry actually makes you feel more at one with the bike and aware when riding which helps anticipate unpredictable pedestrians and motorists when riding through a somewhat bike naive city like Brisbane.

The prediction on fixed gear? There’s going to be a resurgence of riding purists, bike polo enthusiasts and life insurance policies around Brisbane over the next few years with couriers and fashion whores being the most seen, on the bikes, around the scene.

Check out the selection of what some may say is an accident waiting to happen and the fashionable biking gear you can wear on your way to hospital in the GEAR shop. Come on, get back out there guys… it’s just like riding a bike!

Second to the battle of Bike Vs Building was an accent we are very familiar with – although not as smooth as Eric’s, New Zealander Andrew Patterson of Patterson’s Architects stepped up to educate us on our easterly neighbours and what NZ has to offer other than a ‘Beached Az’ whale. I am told that Patterson’s are arguably New Zealand’s most internationally recognised firm, this makes me think Andrew must be Australian because all famous NZ’ers are closet Australians surely? But, their website complete with mammoth list of achievements and his thick accent assures me otherwise.

Andrew was at ease with the Bubble crowd and pitched a new name for the series called ‘Bubble and Scream’ after those crazy cats from GEAR left us with child-like smiles on our stupidly grinning faces. He began telling us about the difference that exists in New Zealand between the Caucasian and Maori cultures and how this is evident through simple naming analogies. Maori streets are not just streets, they have a history and a culture that not only dates back, but is continually referred to in modern times – not forgotten. Andrew elaborated and extended this into a casual and interesting history lesson about the way that traditional Maori buildings are built. They aren’t just buildings. They are made of people, from people, for people. They have a head, ribs, arms, spine, soul and these are all personified in the most simplistic of building and carving techniques, creating a cultural narrative passed down over time.

This led onto Andrew telling the narrative of the Mai Mai house in Auckland. He spoke of the clients, two lovers, one male: a ruthless, well know businessman who aggressively pursues his every want, and the female: a woman of fine taste, who likes to perch. A ‘Hunter’ and the ‘Hunted’. Patterson’s created these theatrical-like characters and plot, which formed the concept for the basis of the design. The house is positioned right on the hillside – a prime spot for the hunter to take aim, whilst being a perfect plot for the hunted to perch. A ‘feathered’ facade of plumed panels drapes the building’s face, with film and images projected at night to create an ever evolving dynamic.

At this point Andrew unfortunately had major technical problems and the presentation was sadly cut shot. And THANK GOD!!! Not because of his accent, but any more of these stage like narratives that feed these architectural forms and I can guarantee I would have wet my pants with excitement. The crowd was aghast with the pure simplicity of the concept and the manner it was executed.

Quote of the day “For architecture, the media is land, for the film maker – film, the painter – canvas”. That was Andrew speaking about the moral issue he had in his early career in grappling with the torment of designing buildings and placing them in a manner that detracted from the landscape. New Zealand is the perfect canvas and the firm’s Arrowtown Hills Club project overcomes his fear by carefully inserting a built form so delicately into it’s surrounding environment one would almost assume the structure was there first. It’s as if the surrounding environment wrapped itself around this angular form to stay toasty warm at night. Snuggly.

Peruse it and other amazing pant-wetting projects on their great website, which also has some of the most phenomenal cinematic architectural photography (and film bits too) that shows the best of, dare I appropriate a tourism slogan,100% Pure New Zealand Architecture. Sic az bro.

Looking forward to the last Bubble and Speak Breakfast Seminar showcasing two talented amiga’s and one brilliant amigo on 7 October 2010. Click here for speaker details.

Many thanks Katie for such a detailed and humorous write up! I think we need to have you back on the Making Place blog for future reportage!

Images: Top Right: GEAR shop, Brisbane and Bottom Right: Mai Mai house, Auckland by Pattersons Architects

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