Aquarius Redux Symposium : Environmental Keynotes

Tuesday 5 July 2016
6.30PM - 8.00PM

This event has passed


The Wilkinson Building - 148 City Rd, Darlington, NSW


Rethinking Architecture’s Counterculture

The Aquarius Redux symposium examines how more nuanced accounts of counterculture can inform the history, practice and discipline of architecture. Given the burgeoning global interest in the history and continuing influence of alternative architectures, such as radical ecological, and activist design practices as well as aesthetic experimentation for contemporary environmentalism branding, the symposium is especially interested in tracing the broader geographies and discourses of this activity.

‘Made and Born—Countercultural Bricoleurs & Design Ecology’

Abstract: By working with the material world “at hand” and taking their scientific training out to the field, countercultural bricoleurs of the 1960s and 70s grasped the complexity of the nature/culture relationship in a way that the wilderness-based environmental movement often obscured. Their humble early efforts at events like “Alloy” and in the communes and urban neighborhoods where they lived and worked ultimately helped shape American environmentalism and set the stage for the still-unfolding, twenty-first century wave of concern for environmental “sustainability.” Both rural and urban pioneering Hippie Bricoleurs by necessity looked to the land and resources immediately around them for solutions to problems and in turn constructed buildings and objects that were of and from their place. Logically there was a role for the human animal in this scheme. In their willingness to see the natural in the cultural and the cultural in the natural, they were making do with what was at hand—the messy mix of made and born that surrounded them. The counterculturalists who adopted this age-old method challenged the tenets of progress and infinitude on which twentieth-century modern industrial design was founded—not through a rejection of the material world but through a shared desire to be makers of better stuff in touch with place, ecosystems, and individual needs. Thus, for countercultural bricoleurs, invention of ecologically sensitive or beneficial technologies, buildings, and objects in service of sustainable living became a part of a broader desire to protect and sustain nature everywhere, in cities as well as the countryside. It would be difficult to understand our twenty-first-century environmental culture, green design enthusiasms, and natural capitalism without a closer look at the counterculturalists who “with cunning and resource” ransacked the ready at hand to “create something new . . .based on the continuous reworking of the received elements of the world.”

Andrew Kirk’s research and teaching focus on the intersections of cultural and environmental history in the modern U.S. with a special interest in the American West. Multidisciplinary interests shaped UNLV’s public history program. He specializes in innovative cooperative federal and regional research partnerships. Current projects include: an eight-year partnership with the National Park Service to research the historic and cultural resources of Western National Parks, The Nevada Test Site Oral history Project, and the Autry National Center Fellowship that tracks graduate students through a special material culture program culminating with a research residency at the Autry National Center in L.A. He also founded Preserve Nevada a statewide cultural research and preservation group. Preserve Nevada’s unique research and advocacy efforts linking cultural preservation and environmental sustainability have been featured in publications like; The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Preservation Magazine, Public History News, Docomomo-US, Preservation Forum, and The Chicago Tribune. 

‘Recycle a town/Recycle a house’
Rob Garbutt

Abstract: It is common to set the 1960s and 1970s as temporal limits for the Counterculture, or to chart continuities by considering the translation of countercultural ideas, practices and styles into the mainstream. In this paper we consider a case study that requires a different approach because of its distinctive location in village of Nimbin in northern NSW. Nimbin was the site of Australia’s pre-eminent countercultural event, the 1973 Aquarius Festival, and since that time the village maintained a highly visible and evolving countercultural ethos. While the reasons for this continuity are many, the ‘style’ of the Festival drew together many who were inspired to put countercultural ideas into practice and who remained in the village to do just that. This included university architecture lecturers and students who were key to the Festival’s aim to ‘develop new styles in community organisation […] in harmony with the natural environment’ using ‘creative technology’. Sydney University Architecture lecturer Col James’ vision to ‘recycle a town’ into a festival venue and to experiment with sustainable solutions was integral to the festival’s success.

Our case study explores how those initial Aquarian ideals of grass-roots social, cultural and technological experimentation are being adapted in a contemporary context. With echoes of Col James’ vision we examine the recycling of a derelict 100-year old cottage into Nimbin’s Sustainable Living Hub. Just one aspect of the Sustainable Nimbin Community Plan, this project focuses on affordable architecture and reuse using collaborative design. The Hub builds on 40 years of practical and mindful experimentation in and around the village. We present an example of countercultural continuity rather than disruption, where openness to cultural and technological innovation continues to produce affordable and sustainable living solutions with contemporary global relevance.

Rob Garbutt is an Associate Lecturer in Cultural Studies and Writing at Southern Cross University, Australia. His PhD thesis, ‘Locals Only?’, a study of the idea of being a local, was completed at Southern Cross University in the field of cultural studies. He has published on the topics of place, identity and belonging, as well as equity in higher education. Prior to his postgraduate studies, Rob completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in Chemistry at the University of New South Wales, and followed this with a Master of Adult Education from the University of Technology, Sydney.

Also presenting:

Greg Castillo is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the College of Environmental Design at University of California, Berkeley.

Greg is a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in Australia; he has received fellowships from the German-American Fulbright Commission, the Getty Research Institute, the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Ford Foundation. He is author of Cold War on the Home Front: The Soft Power of Midcentury Design as well as numerous articles focusing on interwar and postwar America and Europe.

Greg hold a BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Master of Architecture and Ph.D. in architectural history from Berkeley.