Architecture for the future at AUT

27 Mar, 2019
Charles-Walker updated
Photo: Jane Ussher

In 2020 AUT’s new Architecture and Future Environments programme will welcome its first students.

Head of programme Professor Charles Walker says there is increasing demand around the world for new approaches to architectural education, research and practice.

“We are at a point where we can see fundamental changes in how we live. Climate change, new technologies, social and cultural transformations are occurring at pace, and we need to consider holistically what kind of society, what kind of communities, we want to build.

“If you think, for example, of how the industrial revolution led to radically new ways of living and working, as well as to unprecedented transformations of our natural environments. We saw factories, offices, dense housing, and new political and cultural institutions – schools, hospitals, railway stations, museums, city halls, public parks – but also human and environmental exploitation.”

AUT set out to create an innovative, future-focused and student-centred programme to address what might turn out to be an even more radical shift, and to collectively design our future environments – built, natural, virtual, social, economic – to be in harmony with nature.

Central to the study of Architecture and Future Environments at AUT will be the city itself. Auckland is a city of the South Pacific, and the programme will reflect both the role of mana whenua in designing the future city, and Pasifika understandings of place and environments. Māori design collective Ngā Aho has been heavily involved in developing the ethos of the programme, embedding indigenous environmental knowledge and Te Aranga Māori principles in its processes and outcomes.

“Auckland is a wonderful city with many many challenges,” says Dr Walker. “Housing affordability, transport, migration, cultural diversity, inequality – are all global problems. That allows students, wherever they are from, to experience local, real-world issues, and work hands on with industry and community partners, while also being able to understand the global context. Our graduates will be ready to apply their knowledge at home and around the world.

“That could be looking at new approaches to problem solving, or at sustainable infrastructures, or the environmental impact of artificial intelligence as well designing and detailing new kinds of buildings.”

Dr Walker goes on to say that some ways of working in architecture, engineering and construction have remained static, while society has changed around it.

“The beauty of Architecture and Future Environments at AUT lies in its unique connection to other innovative programmes in engineering, computing and data science, as well as art, design and media studies. While our students can learn from the past, and from existing environments, about good design, they will not be hidebound to what has gone before. Instead, through their knowledge of new materials, design processes and ability to tackle problems in a collaborative, multidisciplinary way, they’ll learn how to lead their industry into the future.”

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