Thursday 25 March – Friday 30 April 2021
5.00 pm (AEST)


Design Speaks Virtual Portal
Virtual Event


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Program Info

This edition of The Architecture Symposium will explore the theme of the 2021 Asia Pacific Architecture Festival, “How new is now?”

Is there any such thing as a new idea? The cyclic nature of the world can make it difficult to distinguish innovation from iteration. Though we may think something is new, is it really new? In response to changing times, including a global pandemic, economic crisis and climate emergency, architectural and design agency has the potential to be applied in different and exciting ways. In this program, we will simultaneously learn from the past and optimistically look forward to the next decade of design with a careful balance of vision and pragmatism.

Presented over four days from 16 March, the program includes three hour-long speaker sessions and concludes with a plenary discussion. Choose the sessions that are most valuable to you, capped off with an engaging interactive live discussion, Dissection: How new is now?


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Sophia Buckle

Event Coordinator Header Image Oasis Terraces in Singapore by Serie Architects. Photography: Hufton and Crow.


  • Dissection: How new is now?
    What to make of the myriad challenges, contradictions and opportunities of this moment? What can we learn from the past and what can we expect of the future? In this session, speakers dissect the issues and grapple with the question, “how new is now?”
  • 12.20 pm Welcome
    Log in to the Design Speaks Virtual Portal
  • 12.30 pm Panel discussion
    A panel discussion with Gong Dong of Vector Architects (China), Mark Middleton, Grimshaw (Australia, UAE, France, US, UK) and Karamia Muller of University of Auckland (New Zealand). This session will be moderated by 2021 Asia Pacific Architecture Festival co-curators Georgia Birks and Cameron Bruhn.
  • 1.30 pm Plenary session concludes
    Return to the Design Speaks home page to see the full program

Panel speakers.

Gong Dong

Design Principal, Vector Architects

Gong Dong founded Vector Architects in 2008. He was elected as the foreign member of the French Academy of Architecture in 2019 and in the same year, was appointed as the Plym Distinguished Visiting Professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been teaching design studios at Tsinghua University since 2014.

Vector Architects has been invited to various major exhibitions, including the 2018 Freespace Venice Biennale. Gong's practice has earned international recognition by his representative works, including Seashore Library, Seashore Chapel, Yangshuo Sugar House, the Renovation of the Captain’s House, Changjiang Art Museum, and Suzhou Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum.

More About Gong Dong →

Mark Middleton

Group Managing Partner, Grimshaw

Joining the practice in 1996, Mark has worked predominantly on the completion of large-scale projects that successfully resolve the competing demands of complex technical requirements and stakeholder aspirations. During Mark’s six year tenure as managing partner for Grimshaw’s London studio he was responsible for a long period of growth, steering the new business strategy and the commercial performance of the practice.

More About Mark Middleton →

Karamia Müller

Lecturer, University of Auckland

Karamia Müller is a Pacific academic specializing in indigenous space concepts. Currently a lecturer at the School of Architecture and Planning, Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland, her research specializes in the meaningful ‘indigenization’ of design methodologies invested in building futures resistant to inequality. She is the project lead for the time-mapping research project “Violent Legalities,” which presents interactive maps of Aotearoa, specially developed to plot historical instances of racial violence and tracks these against a chronology of legislative changes.

More About Karamia Müller →


Georgia Birks

Associate Editor, Architecture Media

Georgia Birks is an associate editor at Architecture Media. She is a proud descendant of the Kamilaori and Dunghutti people.

Georgia completed her Bachelor of Architectural design at the University of Queensland graduating as Valedictorian. During her studies she was awarded the Santos Indigenous Prize and was selected to take part of the Momoyo Kaijima Research Scholarship in Japan. She went on to complete her Master of Architecture at the University of Queensland. Since then, Georgia has helped to deliver a range of projects across Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

Georgia currently holds a position as an Advisory Board member at the University of Queensland School of Architecture. She has written a number of reviews, participated in panels across Australia and held the role as co-curator for the 2020 Asia Pacific Architecture Festival.

More About Georgia Birks →

Cameron Bruhn

Dean and Head of School, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland

Cameron Bruhn is the dean and head of school at the School of Architecture, The University of Queensland. He is a writer, editor, curator and advocate for architecture, landscape architecture and interior design. From 2009 to 2018 Cameron was the editorial director of Architecture Media, Australia’s leading cross-platform publisher and event organizer for the built environment community.

Cameron holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Queensland and a practice-based PhD from RMIT University. He is the editorial director of Multitudes, a monograph celebrating multidisciplinary international design practice Hassell, and co-editor of The Forever House, The Terrace House and the Apartment House, published by Thames and Hudson. Cameron was a co-creative director of This Public Life, the 2015 Australian Festival of Landscape Architecture and How Soon is Now, the 2016 Australian National Architecture conference.

More About Cameron Bruhn →

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