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Pecha Kucha, Cannes, France

Thursday 26 Mar 2009

Pecha Kucha makes waves at MIPIM

Pecha Kucha by WAN Editorial in Cannes, France
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David Taylor reports from one of the event's greatest hits 

For architects, surrounded by thousands of agents, developers and investors at MIPIM, Wordsearch’s Carlton Club always provided an entertaining night-time refuge. Now, while the Carlton Hotel looks to a refurbishment, the same communications firm has come up with a Pecha Kucha event that was just as big a hit.

Japanese for ‘chit chat’, Pecha Kucha was formulated in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Tokyo's Klein-Dytham Architecture. The MIPIM version ran at the Majestic Hotel over two nights and comprised a starry list of speakers who were invited to talk through their allotted 20 slides for 20 seconds apiece.

The presentations ranged from the specific diatribe – such as Make’s Ken Shuttleworth’s surprising paean for architects to use less glass – to emblematic discourses, such as developer/architect Roger Zogolovitch’s hymn to fish preparation and cookery. This was of course really about the potential ugliness-to-beauty development process in construction rather than the John Dory on screen.

Fellow developer Tom Bloxham of Urban Splash took the audience – of some 500 over the two nights – on a tour around his extraordinary home in southern France, a short helicopter ride away. The spectacular “Bubble House” on the Cote D’Azur was designed by eccentric Finnish architect Antti Lovag, and would not be out of place in the 1968 Jane Fonda film Barbarella, a reference to which cropped up in Woods Bagot’s Stephan Reinke’s talk.

Host Peter Murray took the cabaret-style room on a whistle-stop tour around the London Festival of Architecture – one of his triumphs – along with a few pointers about how streets should be more humane places and chewing gum was a menace to the public realm. Peter Bishop was on similar territory, arguing for the sort of better design in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and, one would hope, his New Urban Agenda.

Entertaining and warmly received presentations included those from an ebullient, highfalluting Robert Adam, aping unintelligible modern archi-speak to describe his own work and Tyburn Angling Society’s James Bowdidge, who threatened to steal the show. The latter’s eloquent quest to rediscover London’s lost rivers was so enjoyed he came back for a reprise on the second night. There were many more names besides – including Simon Allford from Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, complete with a slide of his beloved Sheffield Wednesday, fellow architects Deborah Saunt of DSDHA, ruminating on London’s love affair with pets, Joe Morris of Duggan Morris’ entertaining sketchbook and spiel, Mike Taylor of Hopkins’ appreciation of all things bicycle, and RIBA president Sunand Prasad with a poetic show on plans for a Crystal Palace commemoration.

If the Carlton Club was a place for refuge against being buffeted by the world’s property-types on their way down the Croisette, this year’s inaugural Pecha Kucha was an ideas-rich ‘happening’ – with fish, football and Fonda thrown in for good measure.

WAN Editorial

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