The 2009 National Architecture Conference teed off this morning with a table talk session for students, allowing them to pit their design questions to heavyweight industry professionals.

The 27 tables, chaired by Karl Fender, John Wardle, Brian Zulaikha, Sou Fujimoto and Peter Corrigan, among others, had two sessions each with students who were generating a healthy debate.

The conference will cover six thematic sessions, each built around two speakers who will open with a 40 minute lecture and a discussion panel.

On Friday, sessions will cover the diverse topics of media, politics and ‘young guns’. Aaron Betsky, former head of the NAI and currently director of the Cincinnati Art Museum and Geoff Manaugh will lead the session, which will discuss the role of the media in disseminating architectural theory and practice.

Founder of Foreign Office Architects, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, and Veronika Valk will tackle the question: “What is the political agency of architecture?”, which will be followed a discussion chaired by cultural critic and philosopher, Slavoj Žižek.

The ‘young guns’ session will showcase the work of younger architects working in Australia within the public realm. Sou Fujimoto is well known for his unbuilt work and a range of public proposals coming to fruition. Sou will be joined by Tatiana Bilbao to discuss the pitfalls of learning as you go, while also revealing something of their ambitions for our future.

Saturday sessions will cover themes of collaboration and Slavoj Žižek will be speaking about the cosmopolitan.