Tonight was the start of the national Emerging Architects Tour, and I went along to listen to Michael Gay and Anthony Balsamo talk through their emerging architectural journeys. Both lovely speakers, coming at their journey in similar ways, with a calming creativity that belied their obvious significant skill and expertise.

I know Michael through our past few meetings of the WA GET, but I have not heard him speak in public before. It was really refreshing to see the mountainous adventure of architecture, family and hard work, reflected through the climbs, troughs and plateaus of life. There was a lovely feeling of not having everything figured out yet, and that that is ok – we don’t have to know where the trail is going, we just have to keep climbing.

I enjoyed hearing about the development of Michael’s journey which led him to starting his own firm. He gathered experience from many different places which helped inform the kind of projects he wanted to do, in the kind of practice he wanted to do it in.

Reinforcing that the best architecture comes from empathetic, understanding individuals trying to make the world a better place, Michael also spoke on his commitment to improving gender equity and consideration of mental health issues within the industry. Stemming from his own experiences, this approach to make a safer, more considered, better industry is so commendable. I feel like most architects believe our industry can change the world through the creation of effective built environment solutions. But it can also change the world through its leaders and their culture, and their understanding of people. I appreciated the honesty Michael showed by sharing his adventures with a young family, mental health struggles, running a business and crafting a career, reiterating that so many of us go through the same challenges, and we’re all just human. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of that.

I first met Anthony Balsamo, the 2017 National Emerging Architects Prize winner, for about five minutes in 2006, when I worked on a Young Professionals Project with Walter Brooke in Adelaide. He must have just been a recent graduate and he created these lovely renders to convey the community education plan we were presented at a conference. So it was lovely to see him present his work over that intervening time.

In between displaying an amazing array of work, Anthony shared his ‘other’ creative pursuits – design festivals, a not for profit organisation, the New Architects Group, collaborations with councils and artist groups. Plus his own home renovation. It’s very interesting how he can even fit so much in to his time. Surely some people must find a loophole in the space-time continuum..

One of the concepts Anthony discussed which I need to learn more about is ‘constructive laziness’ ie only doing the required work and therefore completing tasks more efficiently. This is a skill I definitely need to learn. He also espoused the concept of ‘acting with positive cautiousness’ by taking calculated risks and grabbing the opportunities that come your way.

I love hearing from people about their passions and the journeys that got them where they are. Both of today’s speakers were really engaging and delivered some important messages. Both young fathers, it was good to also visualise the benefits of young family life and how that changes your priorities, and apparently your time management skills!

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