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Bubble and Speak Breakfast Seminar Series 2011 – Stephen Cameron (Hassell) + Joost Bakker (Joost)

August 17, 2011

A big welcome back to, Katie O’Brien (Interior Designer, BVN Architecture and design writer), who brought us a number of reviews of the DIAlogues Seminar Series as guest blogger earlier this year. The monthly Bubble and Speak Breakfast Seminars at Brisbane’s Emporium Hotel is also part of the Design Institute of Australia‘s (DIA) annual program and is absolutely worth every bit of the effort to get up, showered and on the blocks at 6.45am for a spot of inspiration from creative industry professionals. There are only four in the series and Katie ponders the first in the 2011 set so read on…

Seminar 01 kicked off on Wednesday 11th of July with two stellar performances.

First up was Architect Stephen Cameron of Hassell fame. Now, I’ve had the pleasure of dining with Stephen over sushi before (courtesy of a mutual friend) so I’ve had one conversation with him in total – I’d now like to think of him as my BFF. But to look at the guy, without knowing him, you’d assume he was one of ‘those’ architects. You know, the guy that wears no socks with dress shoes, has perfect hair, a smarmy white smile and occasionally appears as a guest judge on popular TV renovators shows? Yep, he looks like one of those architects. Except, THANK GOD, he’s a funny guy! Not thigh slapping gold, but enough to get the crowd laughing at 7:30am, which is always a hard feat.

Stephen opens up with some memorable recollections of architecture in his home town of Toowoomba and how modernist architecture took a while to get there. Annnnnd is still getting there. Whilst waiting for its arrival, Stephen stumbled upon the concept of Architecture. Not so much out of viewing amazing forms, and being moved by it, but rather, he saw as a young boy, how an architect works – faffing about a studio, dressed immaculately well and appearing to do no work at all. And hello…an architect is born.

We are shown nostalgic sketches of Stephen’s own home floor plan drawn from heart. He invites us to do the same, go home and draw our childhood home from memory and be surprised at the level of detail we can achieve with relative ease. A little commentary on the longevity of architecture and the emotional connections we develop with it.

He then jumps into a project he completed in Canberra… His Dad’s partner’s house and renovations to this typical suburban dwelling. It’s a humble extension to a single level home, which actually results in the home being smaller than when the project started – the irony of which gets the crowd laughing. The projects clean lines and humble additions/deletions result in the architecture fading into the background thus allowing the inhabitants to show. Which is something of a rarity in today’s world where built environments are often emblazened with the signature elements of well known designers/architects desperate to create a recognisable brand language that often override the design itself.

We are then shown the familiar ‘Lightspace’ in Light St Fortitude Valley – from his own Studio in the day Ark. Lightspace is a local Brisbane institution well known for being a great shared studio spaces and events venue. An interesting challenge for Stephen given that the existing warehouse was old but not old enough to be interesting (a curse of Brisbane architecture considering most of the good old stuff has been ‘burnt down’ or demolished). But it was this in limbo age of the structure that meant it wasn’t super new either, so the work that was carried out in transforming the space was done so as to not burden the building with this air of ‘newness’ – a nice nod to the balance of the form in its surrounding environment.

With that, Stephen shows us his soon to unveiled project, the highly anticipated restaurant of chef Ryan Squires – Esquire. It looks interesting and layered. Not super avant-garde, but resolved. And it’s refreshing that Stephen shows us sketchy progress photo’s he’s taken himself, rather than the glossy architectural pornography we are all use to. Once again a nice little reminder that Stephen isn’t one of ‘those architects’ – although I do check to see if he’s wearing socks as he leaves the podium to sit down.

Answer – yes.

Quote of the day – Borrowed by Stephen… ”Only an Idiot can be brilliant at Breakfast” – Oscar Wilde

Joost Bakker is one crazy kid. Not crazy in ‘here’s Johnny’ kind of way, but rather a ‘nutter’… A ‘nutter’ with all the right intentions!

To label him as an Eco warrior is incorrect, and one can assume that this term would not sit well with him. Instead, he’s just a back to basics guy. He’s not into politics, he has no secret agenda, he just takes crap and gives it another life. And he does this through ‘Greenhouse’- a series of restaurants that the concept of an organic restaurant to the next level, and then shoots that out of a cannon into the stratosphere.

Beginning in 2009 as a pop up restaurant in Melbourne’s Federation square, and later extending to permanent locations in Sydney and Perth, the Greenhouse concept is simple, build a restaurant from recovered materials, keep the food fresh and they will come. Biblical sounding? Yes. Biblical impact? Well, what Joost is doing should be classified the new scripture.

So how do we do this Greenhouse thing? Let’s break it down into nice organic little chunks for you. Welcome to Greenhouse 101. Straw bale construction for walls keeps things thermal, furniture made out of old packing crates and irrigation pipes gives a second life to landfill bound materials, finish the floors in old conveyor belts that otherwise would never decompose. Upholster chairs in off cuts of leather, serve drinks out of jam jars, and clad the structure in a product called magnesium oxide board. Magnesium what? I hear you say. Yes, MGO. A by-product of iron ore, it’s one of the most used cladding products in China. It’s non-toxic, inhibits mould growth, cheap as chips and when mixed with charcoal acts as a massive filter wall and guess what? It’s not certified in Australia yet. Shame on us! However, Joost’s good friend, Mark Thomson from the Schiavello group vowed to provide it if the market wants it’s so speak up industry professionals and get this amazing product on some facades over here.

After being blown away by this alternative approach to construction, we were the delighted by the business model of the restaurant. Create everything in house – where physically possible. Have composting machines on site, grind wheat fresh in the kitchen (with the walls of the Sydney venue covered in a lyrical rant by joist about this process), serve only the cuts of meat and fish no other restaurants will buy, limit the daily menu to prevent waste, make uniforms out of old political campaign t-shirts but revamp them with screen printed phrases like ‘Corn not Porn’, and make your own cola for Christ’s sake! And none of this soda stream rubbish, but with imported natural cola beans and home brewed tonic water! Like seriously, what has this guy NOT thought of?

And the only thing that sprung to mind was good wine. Apparently the chemical free wine served at the venues tastes a bit naff, buy they’re working on this but I’m sure JC’s first batch wasn’t the best either.

And it is this mental, tireless attention to simplistic detail that is going to see Joost and his Greenhouse restaurant concept extend to more locations, hopefully in Brisbane, and eventually in London. Not bad for a guy whose whole life has been about crap.

Quote of the day – Joost’s opening line … “My whole life has been about scrap – or ‘crap’ as my brother would call it.”

Thanks Katie for another great review and to the DIA for allowing me to reprint it on my blog. Stay tuned for the next review and get yourself some tickets to these inspirational events!

Images courtesy of the DIA Flickr Stream: Top – Stephen Cameron, Centre – Joost Bakker, Stephen Cameron and DIA Qld Branch President – Scott Bagnell, Bottom – Bubble & Squeak Badges

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