Wednesday, 27 November 2013 15:46

Up Late: California Design 1930-1965

Stuart Vokes designs dream homes for a living — the spaces that make us feel human and safe — and is the next speaker at QAG's Up Late 'California Design 1930–1965: Living In A Modern Way' exhibition.

“It's really just simple things that we find attractive and comfortable because we're human. I guess in a way, architecture can be a scholarship on humanity.

"If nothing more we can rely on the fact that there are things that humans find innately beautiful and pleasing that are cross-cultural and cross-generational. So what we're trying to do is find something that sits within that realm that isn't necessarily something that is super rhetorical or esoteric.”

Vokes owns his own architecture practice, 'Owen and Vokes and Peters', where the small number of stuff all work to make a dream house a reality. “For pragmatic reasons we run projects independently with one or two other people in the office. But because it's an open plan studio there's a constant dialogue and sharing, and critiquing of each other's work.”

The Queensland Art Gallery is currently promoting its California Design exhibition with a series of speakers with different design perspectives featured during the Up Late sessions.

Vokes himself will provide an architectural perspective to provide a context from which to critique and analyse the exhibit, a “cute hypothesis”, as Vokes refers to it, that underscores the ethos behind the work he does at Owen and Vokes and Peters. “It's not really based on any academic research, more on my own experiences. It's kind of a simplification of the local industry, a little hypothesis all Queensland architects that make houses can be divided into those who are inspired by or influenced by Marcel Brauer who was coming from the East Coast, or those who are influenced by Richard Neutra who was working in California.”

Vokes maintains that the principle role of architecture is to mediate between humans and nature. He will be speaking about how each designer focuses on the importance of nature when designing a space, but from differing perspectives that can help us better understand how nature influences and interacts with our daily lives. “There's a lot to learn about making buildings from places we find in nature that are innately comfortable and offer a certain level of amenity or a certain situation that can be replicated in build form such as a cave (which is a perfect analogy for a safe haven or a comfortable room in a building). Or standing on the edge of the cliff could be translated immediately to standing in an elevated room or a rooftop space — on the edge of the city.”

For Vokes, a home tells a story and the most challenging and important part of the job is finding the story for the home, which involves both the client's relationship with nature, but also their relationship with themelves. “It's all about storytelling. Many of our clients share stories of their lives and it's with storytelling that we actually find the greatest seeds of an idea.”

Stuart Vokes speaks at The Queensland Art Gallery Friday November 29. 'Up Late: California Design 1930-1965: Living In A Modern Way' exhibition runs until February 9, 2014.

Published in Events Arts
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 14:27

Sonny & The Sunsets: Cali Dreaming

Sonny Smith counts Siberia on his gig bucket list, but for now he’s got a date with The Sunsets in Brisbane.

San Franciscans Sonny & The Sunsets embody all that is laidback and irreverent about California. Although Sonny doesn't necessarily agree with it.

“I feel like it never had anything to do with me. I don't hang around Haight St or anything or have anything to do with that culture. People might wonder about me in connection to San Francisco, it's not exactly as romantic as people think.”

Sonny says growing up in California might position him too much on the inside to appreciate the culture. “The whole California sound, I don't deny that it's there and all that stuff,” he admits.

Very much involved with the closeknit San Fran scene, Sonny is a songwriter, novelist, comic book artist, filmmaker and everything in between. Add multi-instrumentalists such as Tahlia Harbour (the Dry Spells) and you've got an interesting mix of talent.

“I think ultimately it's better for everybody to be having lots of creative experiences. I'm supportive as much as possible until they have to miss a gig. Then I get bummed out. I say, 'Please, please I don't care if you're making a major motion picture, please remember your priorities'.”

Delving into so many creative endeavours can sometimes wear thin, Sonny admits.

“I mean hopefully it doesn’t last too long but sometimes I have a week or two where I feel overwhelmed. You have creative questioning and doubts. All the things that everybody goes through, and then hopefully the down times don't last too long but sometimes they can.”

The Sunsets’ latest offering, 'Antenna To The Afterworld', was released in June and explores dark themes juxtaposed with the band's trademark playful, retro feel.

“I often write dark or very sardonic or grim lyrics and marry them to major key music. It was always an interest of mine. It's just another chapter in that direction.”

Sonny & The Sunsets will play California Design Up Late at the Queensland Art Gallery Friday November 22.

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