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The Machine Stops: The Allegorical Architectural Project

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An exhibition of architectural drawings curated by Daniel K. Brown.

With works by Connor Aislabie, Hamish Beattie-Craven, Alice Charles, Adam Clark, William du Toit, Travis Hinchliff, Thomas Jackson, Jonathan Morrish, May Myo Min, Rory Patterson, Michael Weir, Ryan Western, and Nicholas Wilkey

The Machine Stops features a selection of drawings and models by thirteen graduate students and alumni of Te Kura Waihanga Wellington School of Architecture at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. These were all generated through the ‘Narrative Architecture’ stream of the Master of Architecture programme initiated by Daniel K. Brown, Professor of Design Studio. Brown set his students the challenge of developing architectural representations that are generated by bringing narratives from oral, visual and literary traditions together with actual and imagined sites to produce what he calls an ‘allegorical architecture’.

The Allegorical Architectural Project draws on environmental, societal and cultural tales by a range of artists and authors – from E.M. Forster to Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Māori cultural narratives, Burmese superstitions, and more – to connect with and represent aspects of the natural and built heritage of Aotearoa. These drawings and models invite us to consider how tragic stories and scarred sites can be remembered as important lessons for future generations. As Brown puts it:

Tales of environmental devastation are visible to all of us. Cataclysmic events from centuries ago remain as permanent scars upon the landscape; culverted streams remain forever visible as open wounds upon the land. As James Joyce wrote in the margins of his novel Ulysses, ‘places remember events’. A tree branch cracking in the wind, fragments of stone tumbling down a hillside – the natural environment calls out its tale in whispers and whimpering groans, its unique form of storytelling audible to us all. We have only to pause and listen.

The resulting architectural representations are a form of temporal and spatial imagining. They address issues of cultural loss and environmental degradation at the same time proposing speculative means of rejuvenation and remembrance. Demonstrating great inventiveness and remarkable technical skill, The Machine Stops proves the power and utility of visual story-telling as we grapple with the detrimental effects of environmental devastation and envisage new ways of living in this place.

In August 2021, Brown’s Allegorical Architecture Project featuring seven of his students’ work was selected for a special edition of AD [Architectural Design]: Emerging Talents/Training Architects. Edited by Neil Spiller, the publication set out to explore new initiatives in architectural education, including pedagogical strategies that mix the virtual and the actual. Student work from twelve ‘forward-looking architecture schools worldwide’ was identified and introduced by their teachers and applauded by AD for ‘pushing the envelope of architecture in extraordinary ways’.

The Machine Stops has been generously supported by the Faculties of Science, Health, Engineering, Architect and Design Innovation, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

Image: Jonathan Morrish (Ngāti Ruanui) Haeata/Beam of Light, Sunrise, 2021, digital collage, pen and ink on paper, digital colour and textures

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