PRS Australia 18 – 22 October 2017

The Practice Research Symposium features public examinations and work-in-progress presentations from Higher Degree by Research candidates in RMIT’s School of Architecture and Design.

Eight public examinations by PhD candidates Michael Banney, Campbell Drake, Jaffer AA Khan, Mehrnoush Latifi, David Pledger, Toby Reed, Nicholas Williams and Leanne Zilka will be held from Wednesday 18 to Friday 20 October.

Research candidates across Architecture, Industrial Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Spatial Information Architecture and Fashion & Textiles as well as candidates within the DAP_r partnership will present work-in-progress reviews in a public forum on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 October.

– Various social and creative events will also be held during the PRS.

– Venue: RMIT Design Hub, Building 100, corner Swanston and Victoria Streets, Melbourne.

For further information please contact:

PRS Dates (2018)

30 May–3 June

17–21 October


2009 – 2017

PRS Examinations – PhD (Architecture and Design)

Leanne Zilka
Floppy Effects: Experimenting in the territory between architecture, fashion and textiles

(Please arrive 15 minutes before exam start as strictly no late entry.)

Wednesday 18 October, 10am – 12pm
Project Room 1, Level 2, Design Hub

Examiners: Prof Anthony Burke, Prof Sarah McGann
Chair: Prof Leon van Schaik
Supervisors: Prof Vivian Mitsogianni, Prof Martyn Hook

This PhD is a reflection on a body of work that represents my practice as it developed prior to and during the PhD. The driving interests of the PhD are in the ‘architecture’ of fashion and textiles, and how the concepts, aesthetics, techniques and construction of this architecture might be understood and used to design and fabricate objects and space differently. I investigate how seemingly diverse disciplines can be used as to traverse from the scale of material and garment to that of rooms and buildings.  A key concept I develop in my PhD is the Floppy. I define the Floppy as a quality in material that requires extraneous support to produce architecture. Floppy generally refers to fabric but can also refer to any material that fails when there is not enough support, as is the case with sheet materials when the span between supports exceeds a certain length. During the PhD I have worked to define and redefine the term Floppy, to assist in distilling the large body of work in the material field, the material palette and the relevant techniques. The PhD is about the potential of material, and understands material as having intrinsic qualities that can be exploited. I don’t take a condition to the material, but rather look for the condition in the material.


Toby Reed
Black Hole Architecture

(Please arrive 15 minutes before exam start as strictly no late entry.)

Wednesday 18 October, 2.30 – 4.30pm
Project Room 2, Level 2, Design Hub

Examiners: Prof Dorita Hannah, Prof Michael Keniger
Chair: A/Prof Pia Ednie-Brown
Supervisors: Dr Marcelo Stamm, Dr Michael Spooner

Buildings are like black holes within the urban fabric, channelling us through to alternate realities, helping create a universe consisting of multiple view-points or worlds. These worlds or realities are formed by each individual’s perception of, and interaction with, the physical environment. Architects design buildings to fit into, or help manifest the world as they see it, or as the possibility of the world (or fragment of reality) they see could exist, or does exist, but is often hidden. We do not build representations of a reality. We build reality. Our buildings change what our reality is.

Each building becomes a mini reality-monad in this heterogeneous reality of multiple shifting points of view, like a screen-vortex in the urban fabric. This is what we design and build, intentionally or not. This is the situation our design actions are inserted into, like space junk landing in the urban sprawl. The buildings we design and build allow people to heighten their experience and awareness of their relation to reality. When designing we intuitively work with hidden spatial structures that guide the sub-optic architectural experience.

The writing divides into a series of investigations in relation to my design practice: how do we experience and design (architectural) reality; how do we experience and design architectural space and surface, both conscious and sub-conscious.


Jaffer AA Khan
The Infinite Essence – Manifestation of Bindu and Mandala in Architecture

(Please arrive 15 minutes before exam start as strictly no late entry.)

Thursday 19 October, 10am – 12pm
Project Room 2, Level 2, Design Hub

Examiners: Prof Sarah McGann, Tony van Raat
Chair: To be confirmed
Supervisors: Prof Martyn Hook, A/Prof Mauro Baracco

In the Indian context, bindu and mandala form the inner core of this cultural identity. The principles that unify bindu and mandala are universal, but the knowledge of unifying these principles in the contemporary world architecture serves to provide a more meaningful existence on this planet. This PhD is an attempt to unpack this spatial intelligence and to reveal the manner in which this information may be manifest in contemporary Indian architecture; particularly in my work of more than 30 years through my practice, Jaff Design Studio.

The context of this research seeks to investigate the relationship between the Man and the principles of bindu and mandala, which has been a cultural continuum for several thousand years. This cultural identity and information is essential for architecture to be existential and experiential.

This research further enabled me to reflect upon and examine the way bindu and mandala are evident in various forms and interpretations, and to speculate on how these cultural influences continue to develop and inspire practitioners in contemporary and future projects.


David Pledger
Wall of Noise Web of Silence

(Please arrive 15 minutes before exam start as strictly no late entry.)
(Please note non-standard time and venue)

Thursday 19 October, 11.30am – 1.30pm
Storey Hall, Building 16, 336-348 Swanston Street 

Examiners: Dr Justin Clemens, A/Prof Ian Maxwell
Chair: Dr Ross McLeod
Supervisors: A/Prof Lawrence Harvey, Dr Marcelo Stamm

The Artist Formerly Known as David Pledger will release his first concept album


Using the moniker, dp, the artist takes his lead from all those brave artists who embraced the challenge of the concept album, from Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys through to Radiohead and Bjork.

“The concept album best serves my ambition to create a kind of knowledge in which aesthetics and scholarship operate in a complementary and expansive mode, so that argument may be understood simultaneously through the processes of thinking and feeling.”

dp is renowned for his exploratory and experimental artistic adventures that include The Austral/Asian Post-Cartoon: sports edition (1997), Blowback (2004), The Strangeland Triptych (2006-9), Ampersand et al (2010) and David Pledger Is Running For Office (2015).

Side 1 is dp’s thesis on democracy in the age of neo-liberalism through the lens of the arts.
Side 2 is its antithesis,
an atmosphere of democracy in which artistic practice is the prevailing determinant.
Noise and silence are the aesthetic frames.
The arts, society and politics provide the windows.

“On Side 1, you’ll play ‘concept’ tracks, a mini-EP and three 12-inch 45s backgrounded by the
beautiful sounds and disturbing speeches of my artistic oeuvre.
On Side 2, I take you on a journey that aspires to ‘listen’ a way towards a ‘solution’ to our deepest problem:
what to do about democracy?”

Two sides riffing off each other and a comprehensive clutch of Liner Notes that reflect on what it
means for dp’s artistic practice.

“For thirty years, my life as an artist has been
a procession of master shots of Western culture from different vantage points:
minor pop culture personality, writer, performer, director, producer, arts leader, cultural activist.
These are the band members on my new album taking the lead on some tracks,
playing back-up on others.
The most ambitious and comprehensive explication of my practice to date,
Wall of Noise, Web of Silence
poses the perfect question:
what next, dp, what next….?”


Nicholas Williams
Plugin Practice: Recasting Modularity for Architects

(Please arrive 15 minutes before exam start as strictly no late entry.)

Thursday 19 October, 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Project Room 1, Level 2, Design Hub

Examiners: Prof Sambit Datta, Prof Branko Kolarevic
Chair: A/Prof Pia Ednie-Brown
Supervisors: Prof Jane Burry, A/Prof Gretchen Wilkins

Contemporary digital design practice is reframing a creative dialogue between design and making. Empowered by an increasingly seamless interface between data and material, the domain of the architect is expanding to engage diverse processes across design and fabrication. New practices of prototyping are emerging in which architects creatively explore diverse relationships of form, material, fabrication, and aspects of performance.

This research addresses a series of prototypes, tools and techniques which span such a broad domain across design and fabrication. I focus on the workflows which enable these outcomes, demonstrating a modularity of process which operates across multiple scales, and to varying degrees. This modularity emerges in response to specific demands for resilience and flexibility and frames a practice in which we plug together diverse processes to drive design and prototyping.

The research demonstrates this modularity of process and illustrates it through diagrams. Furthermore, I frame a series of implications of this modularity of process for architecture practice, enabling us to generate and control differentiation, accentuate design exploration, and enrich collaboration across fields of knowledge. These underpin a plugin practice in which designers can interrogate the ways we calibrate process and outcome, and create and share diverse forms of knowledge.


Campbell Drake
Site specific performance, the piano and the emergence of cyclical operations in critical spatial practice

(Please arrive 15 minutes before exam start as strictly no late entry.)

Thursday 19 October, 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Project Room 2, Level 2, Design Hub

Examiners: A/Prof Heather Galbraith, Dr Janet McGaw
Chair: Dr Charles Anderson
Supervisors: Dr Mick Douglas, Dr Marieluise Jonas

This research is situated within the field of critical spatial practice and examines how site specific performance can activate engagement in the spatial politics of contested urban and rural landscapes in Australia.  Carried out through a series of iterative performances, the practice-based research uses pianos as performative, spatial and semiotic instruments to explore interactions between spatial conditions, cultural practices, communities and their environments.

The research explores the cultural, ethical and political resonance of juxtaposing the piano – as a cultural artefact of western origins – within a variety of Australian sites. The practice research has evolved through two phases of project investigations: firstly, through the spatial exploration of two 19th century urban landmark buildings – and secondly, through a phase of investigative engagement with the spatial politics of contested Australian landscapes.

Explicating a conceptual and locational progression, the practice research enacts an iterative design process from which has emerged four critical spatial operations:  Inverting, Instrumentalising, Spatial Tuning and Cultural Burning.  The research offers this combined set of cyclical operations as a methodological contribution to the field of critical spatial practice, with capacity to activate new spatio-political formations and critical engagement in the spatial politics of contested landscapes.


Michael Banney
Anecdotal Evidence

(Please arrive 15 minutes before exam start as strictly no late entry.)

Friday 20 October, 10am – 12pm
Project Room 1, Level 2, Design Hub

Examiners: Maggie Edmond, Dr David Wicks
Chair: Prof Vivian Mitsogianni
Supervisors: Prof Leon van Schaik, Dr Michael Spooner

My practice is based on an anecdotal approach to architecture. By definition, an anecdote is a short story, interesting in nature. Through being receptive to such stories, reframing them, recalling past anecdotes, or inventing new ones, I am able to find an impetus for architecture.

This requires me to come into a project in a state of not knowing, so as to be receptive to what it is able to tell me. At that point, positioning is critical – posturing to become privy to things of interest, resulting in the gradual build-up of anecdotes, to the point that they yield a meta-anecdote – the most interesting short story of them all, and one that beautifully draws the others together, and offers a glimmer of architecture.

This approach is latent in my personal history, way of working and body of work. It was put to me that anecdote is a decision-making armature, beyond the normalcy of decision-making in architecture.

It is akin to building up a case based on anecdotal evidence in a legal sense – a series of anecdotes that corroborate one another, in search of a meta anecdote – an architectural conviction that operates as the basis for both projects and practice.


Mehrnoush Latifi
Skin Patterning: Towards Morphing Microclimates Through Multiscalar Surface Articulation

(Please arrive 15 minutes before exam start as strictly no late entry.)

Friday 20 October, 2.30 – 4.30pm
Project Room 2, Level 2, Design Hub

Examiners: Prof Sambit Datta, Dr Paul Osmond
Chair: Prof Sand Helsel
Supervisors: Dr Malte Wagenfeld, Prof Jane Burry

‘Skin Patterning’ is a reflection on the detailed and in-depth understanding of interactions between surfaces and their non-visible atmosphere, as two systems that are exchanging energies and consequently forming various microclimates. This research through design proposes a series of interactive platforms to bring thermodynamic and microturbulence studies into the design process of boundaries through cross-simulations and diversifying visualisation techniques and tools. To achieve this, I proposed the design of Immersive Thermal Sensing Platforms to enable and promote an understanding of the thermodynamic phenomena which result in the creation of the microclimates around the surfaces of buildings that we experience in our everyday lives. The core idea of such platforms is the physical engagement of designers with atmospheric phenomena, which could lead to greater creativity in design. The duality between empirical and digital studies, between design of small scale components and large-scale compositions, and between digital manufacturing and hand making have become the combinatory components of this dynamic exploration.

Further critical reflections on the outcomes from a series of thermodynamic investigations turned into the design of a series of innovative ceramic components for facades, 3D ceramic tiles with innovative features that enable them to act as patterned skins.