Wonder world

The Dulux Study Tour offers five of the country’s emerging architectural talents the opportunity to travel the globe for 11 unforgettable days. Adelaide-based Sean Humphries was one of this year’s lucky recipients.

The Dulux Study Tour offers five of the country’s emerging architectural talents the opportunity to travel the globe for 11 unforgettable days. Adelaide-based Sean Humphries was one of this year’s lucky recipients.

When I ring Sean Humphries it’s 7am in Barcelona and he is by his own admission positively frazzled. This comes as no surprise, after all, the Dulux Study Tour, of which he was one of five Australian recipients, only came to an end the day before and it’s a safe bet to say no-one got much sleep. Humphries may be tired and jet-lagged, but he is also still buzzing with excitement from the whirlwind 11-day architecture tour of Shanghai, London and Barcelona. “One thing the study tour afforded us is access to places and people that you just don’t get under normal circumstances,” he reflects. That the group got to don hard hats and visit the construction site inside the very top of Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia is impressive enough. But when Humphries lets me know that Herzog and de Meuron personally showed them through the newly completed Tate Modern II and its underground Tanks gallery I’m just as amazed as he is. Being taken on a tour through the project’s first phase development by the architects themselves was a highlight for Humphries. “There’s an absolute art in knowing what to keep and what to take away when you’re dealing with an existing building’s fabric,” he explains. “And Herzog and de Meuron executed the work with such skill and craft; the spaces are just mind-blowing.” The renowned Swiss architects aren’t the only big names to whom the recipients were introduced. The group’s studio visits reads like a wish list that any emerging architect couldn’t begin to compile quickly enough: Zaha Hadid Architects, Carmody Groake, Foster + Partners, Studio Octopi, Neri & Hu to name a few. For Humphries, though, it was the meeting with Shanghai-based architects and designers Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu that he found particularly inspirational because as he explains it, “They have managed to grow their practice while still producing really beautiful work.” What all of these studio visits did though was reassure Humphries that architects face similar issues the world over. “What I’ll take back to my own practice is a different way of approaching familiar tasks,” he lets me know. “And a different way of engaging with a project that I think will offer a greater sophistication to my work.” Humphries was also surprised to discover that the predominant design process across Shanghai, London and Barcelona is incredibly iterative. “The use of physical models as opposed to digital models is rife,” he explains. “I was amazed to see the work that goes into the multiple iterations of a design and how you have to bear with that to get the client to understand the design process.” Humphries had hoped to expand his own personal understanding of architectural practice at the tour’s commencement, and by tour’s end it would seem that this has been accomplished. ; But it was also refreshing to hear him speak of how his experiences could benefit the profession locally. “There’s a conversation that happens between architects over in Europe that doesn’t really happen in Australia,” he reflects. “But the five of us take back an understanding of these professional relationships and how we’re not out there to best each other; we’re actually there to support each other.” When Humphries returns to Adelaide in June he may very well need to sleep for two weeks straight, but following that I’m sure we will hear much more from him. dulux.com.au/studytour  

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