the babel fiasco
letters to the editor
The National Centre for Synchrotron Science (NCSS) by Bates Smart, in the outer-Melbourne suburb of Clayton, is a new building representing the public face of the Australian Synchrotron – an advanced third-generation 3GeV light source with a high-quality, low-emittance, stable electron beam. The synchrotron is a machine that accelerates charged electrons to create an electron beam that travels at close to the speed of light. Travelling in orbit the electrons release intense radiation – synchrotron light – which can be filtered and directed down “beamlines” for non-destructive, high-resolution, rapid, in situ, real-time imaging and analysis techniques. It creates the conditions in which to see.
Kristen Whittle of Bates Smart says, “NCSS has been designed to offer the visitor a series of new and exciting experiences of light.” Here, we might recall Le Corbusier’s foundational passage in Towards a New Architecture (1923):
“Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light. Our eyes are made to see forms in light; light and shade reveal these forms; cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders or pyramids are the great primary forms which light reveals to advantage; the image of these is distinct and tangible within us without ambiguity. It is for this reason that these are beautiful forms, the most beautiful forms. Everybody is agreed to that, the child, the savage and the metaphysician.”
But what has the light revealed – beauty or savagery?
The NCSS is a glowing building: square in plan, it forms a pigeon pair with the circular synchrotron. The polycarbonate facade has been hand painted with a dichroic finish, giving it a pearlescent sheen that shifts with changing light conditions. The interior is tall and monochromatic; within is a shimmering cella clad in acrylic sheets that receive and refract daylight from a hidden source above.

It is one in a string of glowing pearls that continue to appear in the design pages all over the world, each as beguiling, translucent and blank as the next. Whittle says, “The absolute mantra of the project is to create meaning through reduction – paring back the detailing and the finishes – so that the sole experience for the visitor … is the quality of the light, nothing else.”
There is more here, another story. What is the source of this architectural glow and what meaning might it create? This story is barely a silhouette on the polycarbonate scrim.

The archetypal glowing box is the New Jerusalem depicted by John the Apostle (or maybe John of Patmos) in The Book of Revelation. The New Jerusalem is a vision at the heart of Christian eschatology, the philosophy and theology that is concerned with the final events of history – the end of the world. The New Jerusalem is shown to John as a glowing golden cube; “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:10–11); “The City was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide” (Revelation 21:16); “The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass” (Revelation 21:16).
This is the city at the end of time, a vision of a city where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

That revelation is a vision of the end times, not of scientific infrastructure. John’s vision of the crystal city is recalled time and again in Western architecture, from the Gothic cathedrals to the modern day. The Australian Synchrotron, too, seeks an enlightenment utopia; it is seeking cures, the “synchrotron light of high brilliance, ranging from infrared to hard X-rays is supplied at the end-stations of beamlines enabling advances in treatments for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.”
Bates Smart isn’t shy about its goal of manifesting in architecture the hopes of synchrotron science. “We wanted to match the revolutionary calibre of scientific research that’s being done at the Australian Synchrotron with a building that, through its materiality and poise, would make light and the work of the research manifest in the material fabric of the building,” says Kristen Whittle. The NCSS reflects and refracts the eschatological dreams of a new earth without illness, free from dementia.
But the world is not like that, is it? The world is savagery and beauty in equal measure. What is it that this beautiful light reveals? Wherefore the glow box?
The oft-deployed pearlescent glow of the NCSS should not be mistaken for a mere quality. Architecture is not a science and it is not a problem for science – it is a problem for philosophy, for art, for politics and for building. The glowing box, like so much in architecture, is at once ancient and contemporary, sacred and profane, and both ephemeral and violent. The relationship between science and modernity swings from utopian to cynical and back again. The nineteenth-century hope for a mechanical paradise turned to despair after the Great War; the birth of the internet age has brought revolution and paranoia. Architecture can contain this gyre of meaning. It can create the conditions in which to see.
At the dawn of the modern era Francisco Goya painted the midnight execution of resistors to the Napoleonic army. The picture is The Third of May 1808 (1814), a night beyond redemption. Between the victims and the mechanical firing squad is a lantern, a glowing cube: it is impossibly bright and at once reveals and is witness to the pitiless brutal violence. It is an image of singular tragedy but also of modernity gone awry before it has even begun. The lantern is pure surface but it irradiates the scene. The light, here, is not the subject or object, it is the means. It creates the conditions in which to see.
In 1971 Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange irradiates the image again. In the opening scenes the blue-black silhouettes of Alex and his droogs applaud the slumped but songful wino before administering “a bit of the old ultraviolence.” The viciously backlit scene reveals no form, only shape and shadow; there is no “magnificent play of masses brought together in light”; rather, this light creates the conditions in which to see. Each picture creates the urge to look away.
The beneficent bloom of the NCSS may appear to be a far cry from Kubrick’s unflinching portrayal of human psychopathy, but the historical foundations for this building are ankle deep in blood. Architecture is a typological art form and the NCSS is a temple. When the Greeks and Romans looked at temples they saw blood. The NCSS doesn’t have columns, frieze or pediment, and there are no bone-shaped triglyphs, but it’s a temple nonetheless.
In classical temples the columns formed a kind of screen between the common man and the cella, God’s dwelling place within, dividing the sacred from the profane. The NCSS has replaced columns with a double layer of concrete wall and polycarbonate screen. The layers have been lit and apertures have been cut in the concrete wall to create the impression of the cella or another kind of space within the glowing external skin. The “windows” cut in the inner concrete layer of the facade give the impression of rooms and spaces, of levels to which the windows correspond, creating an incidental relationship with the facade. This is true of the office spaces on the first floor but the “windows” are otherwise arbitrary, an impression or shadow rather than a reality.
Inside we find a peripteral plan, very much like a Greek or Roman temple. In the centre of the main space we find the cella at the heart of a building. It also glows, but this time, with daylight pushed into the space by skylights fitted with a magnifying sheet of lenses, a rainbow sheen refracts across the acrylic panels that make up the surface. We might be reminded of Bruno Taut’s exquisite Glass Pavilion for the Werkbund Exhibition of 1914. Paul Scheerbart’s inscription on the pavilion read: “The joy of colour/Is only in glass-culture. /Larger than a diamond /Is the glass-house’s double wall.”
The cella in the NCSS is not the house of God, but a lecture theatre, no longer the sacrosanct domain of a select few but now the future forum for countless lectures, debates and discoveries. In the grey felt dampened room the ceiling lights hover like halos waiting for the elect and the curious, a fitting appropriation for contemporary architecture.
We began at the end of times but now we turn to the beginning; in the blinding moment of creation: the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the wind moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:1–3)
Chaos and void are divided from light; in the beginning God did not create form but the conditions in which to see.

First published in Architecture Australia – January 2013 (Vol 102 No 1)
'Why is a raven like a writing desk?'
They're not, but we'd like them to be. We like the riddle; we want there to be a revealing and amusing answer. We want to be entertained and in being entertained, delivered a cute and digestible insight into the mysteries of ravens and writing desks.
'Why is art like architecture?'
They're not, but we'd like them to be. We’d like to be able to prepare taxonomies of each to find their shared genus and species but in the end that would be pretty futile, really.
So it’s more than a little disingenuous to be writing this, not knowing, nor possessing membership of the disciplines about which I’m writing. Not possessing the necessary erudition, not having easy insights or witty revelations. I’m like a twitcher discussing the joiner’s craft.
What architecture and art do share is us – you and me. Like teapots, hats, and clocks, like writing desks (though not ravens) they are things we put into the world, things we use to augment and interpret the world around us. These things we make and describe are intended to help us see and move through the world a little differently. Art and architecture (more than hats and clocks) are intended to be transformative, redemptive even. A big show like Melbourne Now offers up a survey of transformative potential. The show’s Melbourne-ness and its Now-ness can be contested and argued, that’s for others to tackle. Even the architecture in the show is for others to worry over; I’m pledging my time to just a few pleasures now.

There’s something typological about the tense objects that make up Bridie Lunny’s This Endless Becoming. They lay dormant, imploring elaboration, as if complete but primitive, as if fully described but lacking interpretation. Like the stones of a cathedral not yet enlivened by ornament, or like an idea of a house but not a home. They feel like pure form at the edge of sensible intuition. A tiled wall with steel frame exposed, a suspended rope, a second skin, a hanging ring, a disc and a weight. The objects themselves suggest performance not use; I think it was Immanual Kant who said that “to construct a concept is to present the intuition corresponding to it a priori” or something like that. Lunney’s sculptures feel like concepts that have their corresponding intuition latent within. They suggest themselves to us as equipment, as apparatus or contraptions, they suggest resistance and counterbalance. In some sense we’re frustrated by them, wanting to touch and pull, wanting to grip and drag, to yank and dangle, to feel the resistance of space and form, to feel the stuff of sinew, fat and bone; wanting, waiting, longing even but never allowing ourselves the satisfaction.

Bridie Lunney This Endless Becoming Melbourne Now NGV 2013

The work of elaboration is inscribed by performers; their bodies fulfilling the latencies of these forms. I never saw the performers (except in photos) so it’s just me and the objects watching other gallery goers wandering and weaving around. I imagine that what I see is the performance, these bodies carefully choreographed to inscribe complex interactions, their design and meaning unknown to me, the tension between object and body somehow unfulfilled. I wonder if architecture could ever be like that.

In Daniel Crooks dark projection room watching An Embroidery of Voids, I found myself sailing down a laneway (in the space between again) this lane had been sliced and spliced with another lane hanging inexplicably within the first, I floated through the portal into the next and then another, and another, and another all fitting with monocular precision within its predecessor; together they form an uneasy whole, a bizarre labyrinth behind homes and high streets.

Daniel Crooks, An embroidery of voids 2013. Colour single-channel digital video, sound, looped.
Animated GIF by http://carpediem4lifeandlove.tumblr.com/

Daniel Crooks treats time like a material. In previous works he’s been slicing time vertically, revealing in thin slices of vision the strange dance of objects in space. This work, however, slices space as we travel into it, thickly slicing the space within the image. It is both an affirmation and a disassembly of monocular vision; the perspectival construction forced by the medium and by the laneways themselves is undermined. The camera is set close to eye level, a horizon line and vanishing point clearly defined by the fence-lines, these orthogonal armatures leading to a vanishing point we can never approach. Each frame offers an alternate universe as if in our sailing we might travel with each alternate self, each parallel universe.
In the final frames two chefs perch like figures from Rodin’s Gates of Hell, the laneway(s) turn back on a dead end, a black fence consumes our vision and I felt a little pang of grief. I watched and watched again, but each inexorable journey ended in death before beginning again. I wondered if architecture could ever be like that.

So it was that moving through Stephen Bram’s sculpture Level 3, E29, NGV, 2013 I couldn’t shake the feeling of being in a chapel or tomb. The body removed, the reliquary long since stolen. It reminded me of Kurt Schwitters’ Cathedral of Erotic Misery – maybe that's just me – and also of Bramante’s San Pietro in Montorio. It is an object contained by but pressing beyond the walls of the gallery.

Stephen Bram, Level 3, E29, NGV, 201

A steel cube provides the outer armature for a stud framed Gyproc skin, within the skin is a space, a room. Within the room, you try to find a restless spot for yourself, raising your eyes the whiteness is full of concavities and hollows, trajectories and folds, a flat glare traps you. We have walked into a drawing. It is a room of orthogonal and transversal lines made real, a room at the intersection between vanishing points, points beyond our reach and outside this cranky grotto. It’s then I hear a catastrophic reverberation from without; heard from within it becomes the voice of an unknown god. It is terrifying, a physical shock, it reminds me I’m alive (which is nice) but also that one day I’ll be dead. I wondered if there was something I missed in that storming white noise. I wondered if it contained frequencies intended for some chosen prophet, some word I should have caught, but it is a sound without song, without architecture or liturgy, a savage and scarlet sound. It is the punk racket made by Marco Fusinato’s Aetheric Plexus (Broken X) the sound accompanied by a burning flash.
Of course, it’s not just the noise that matters – all that sound and fury – but the silence before and after; the blissful ignorance or painful anticipation. And after; relief, a sigh, and a smirk of survival, perhaps we’ve witnessed revelation and been entertained after all. Architecture should be like that.

Marco Fusinato, Aetheric Plexus (Broken X), 2013,
Melbourne Now, NGV (International)

In 2012 Working Drawings of the RMIT Design Hub came into my possession. Without obtaining permission from Sean Godsell I removed the title blocks from the drawings and posted them on this website as illustrations and as a download accompanying a short review of the then incomplete building.
In doing so I may have breached the AIA code of conduct which stipulates obligations for ethical behaviour, equality of opportunity, social justice, aspiration to excellence, and competent professional performance. Sean Godsell has also suggested that I may have breached the Intellectual, Copyright and Moral rights of his office.
The reproduction, distribution and publication of any architect’s work should be done with the permission of that architect out of respect for their authorship and simply as a matter of courtesy. It is imperative that we actively maintain the highest possible standards in this regard. In doing so we serve the profession by ensuring that the value of our work is not diminished by unfettered distribution.
This article first appeared in Architectural Review Asia Pacific #126: Architecture and Infrastructure

It was subsequently on the Australian Design Reviewwebsite

For many city dwellers, the defining urban experience is the repetitious blindness of the road. 10 x 5 x 48 = 2400 in/out, often solo, but punctuated by drive-time traffic reports, call-back, screaming bloody ads and Top40 euphoria. Familiarity breeds contempt. Road repetition breeds myopia such that the road is a non-place between origin and destination. We do not see the city beyond the road; our minds already turning over the day’s actions, or the next delivery, or what’s left in the fridge and whether or not it constitutes a balanced meal. It is rare that the city can distract us from these deep musings but on occasion, when the light is right, the city can surprise.

The CityLink Melbourne Gateway is one such surprise. Designed by Denton Corker Marshall (DCM) it opened in 2000 and has since then elicited countless analogies from locals and visitors alike. Its scale, vivid abstraction, and primary colours present a bright target for many a droll Australian wit. Architecture is a slow-moving target for mockery, affectionate or otherwise, but big public infrastructure projects may as well sit up and beg.

Melbourne in the 1990’s proved fertile ground for DCM. Victoria had suffered through the economic doldrums after the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. The Labour party were in power and limped through to the 1992 election battered and bruised in full expectation of a landslide loss. Jeff Kennett and his Liberal/National Party Coalition took to the State with a whip and a branding iron. In their first term they retrenched 50,000 public servants, closed 350 government schools, privatised the Victoria’s electricity and gas utilities, the ambulance service, and several prisons. The State’s largest protests since the Vietnam War were in opposition to the Kennett Government. Kennett also embarked on a massive rebranding exercise. With help from old mate Ron Walker Melbourne poached the Formula 1 Grand Prix from Adelaide. The Kennett Government approved the $1.85 Billion Crown Casino development, added another private football stadium, undertook the sale and redevelopment of the Melbourne Docklands, resurrected the discredited 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan and created the Melbourne CityLink authority.

From this political, economic, social, and cultural maelstrom DCM managed a singularly productive architectural purple patch. In the Kennett era, they became instrumental in the rebranding of the city and the state. Independent from the quality or intentions of the work DCM’s distinctive style and motifs became synonymous with Jeff Kennett, his style, and his politics. Many have covered this ground, and many have relied on those now tired, lazy, and inaccurate analogies from a period of real political rivalry and social upheaval. DCM’s work that stemmed from that period warrants reflection for its quality and for the skill displayed.
The suite of urban elements constitutes an uncommonly sophisticated urban architecture.
The gateway is kinetic without being animated. It is sculptural but resists the pitfall of becoming flotsam and jetsam in the city. It sustains a massive scale but is open and dynamic. It operates at 100kmph. The gateway is not just good urban form but proof that architects are experts on the city, that it is architects who understand urban scale and are able to curate and deploy form and void in the city. The Gateway is an argument for architecture.

Melbourne was fortunate in procuring fine designs for road infrastructure prior to DCM’s Gateway. The geometric concrete bridges and elegant central lighting of the F19 Eastern Freeway, Desbrowe-Annear’s Chapel Street Bridge, the brutal sweep of the Westgate, and Cocks Carmichael’s staccato graphic on the Bell Banksia Link are all testimony to the excellence of design in Melbourne. In fact, the procurement of great design has little to do with fortune at all but rather the sustained efforts of successive generations of architects, urban designers, bureaucrats, and politicians committed to developing architecture and design. The pride and tenacity of advocates Robin Boyd, Neil Clerehan, Peter McIntyre, Dimity Reid, The Halftime Club, Rob Adams, Leon van Schaik, Ian McDougall, and Jeff Kennett(!), amongst many others have been vital to developing and sustaining a vibrant architectural culture. Several Australian cities are following suit; Brisbane, Hobart, Perth, and Adelaide are all getting serious about the design of infrastructure and are implementing procedures to procure serious design.
So, when the consortiums bidding for nigh on a $1billion worth of infrastructure fronted the Melbourne CityLink Authority in 1995 without an acceptable design strategy, they were told to go away and find one.
There is a sad irony here. The CityLink project has its genesis in the Kennett Government’s resurrection of the 1969 Melbourne Transport Plan; a document that presents a heavily road reliant urban methodology. Successive governments have followed with EastLink, Peninsula Link and North-East Link. The 1969 Melbourne Transport Plan represents a US post-war urbanism, exported globally, that continues to promote the garden city and urban sprawl. In greater Melbourne it has been used, with great effect, to stimulate the economy, turn productive farmland into unproductive suburbia, delay the necessity of investing in the existing public transport network, and spread Melbourne ever thinner into the countryside.
Nonetheless, it has provided opportunities for some excellent architecture.
DCM joined the Transurban consortium to develop a new threshold for the city. The Gateway is the primary marker of arrival for nearly all interstate and international visitors to Melbourne it must therefore present an arresting experience and a clear brand. DCM’s approach was to take advantage of a predetermined trajectory and deliberately compose a procession of abstract forms; one yellow beam, 70m long, cantilevering at 30° out over the road; 39 red sentinels bolted to pile caps extending into the ground; an aquamarine horizontal beam; a skeletal tunnel; two colossal silver towers, and 500 metres of yellow concrete ribbon.
The approach from the north brings you around a gentle right hand curve, the yellow ribbon is on your right and a yellow beam dangles over you like the sword of Damocles. A red wall dissolves into a stand of red sentinels, the aquamarine line appears to mark the horizon before you enter the Soundtube, closed in on your right, the tracery overhead flashes across the bonnet and windscreen; then it’s over, the Bolte Bridge is obscured in the distance, to your left a billboard whispers fcuk®.
Welcome to Melbourne.
The Bolte Bridge was not originally part of the brief but DCM identified the location as an orienting marker in the city, part of the internal map Melburnians keep in their mind’s eye, it was designed as part of the Gateway project and there is a clear and consistent intent to curate the driver’s experience around urban form. In this case, two great concrete shafts rise by the crest of the bridge. Set apart by six lanes and strangely independent from the road, they look back to the towers of the CBD, one has the sense of travelling along the top of a great viaduct or city wall beneath an ancient abstract colossus.

After a decade of glorious isolation, the city has begun to crowd in. With ever greater pressure on the city to house a growing population, previously marginal sites are being filled. When Fender Katsalidis were commissioned to build apartments overlooking the Gateway they discussed the project with DCM. The result is a faceted blue skin, sustaining DCM’s abstract composition and completing the set of primary colours. The Gateway is now accepted as an icon and a view worth having. The old resentments and political conflagrations are fading and the city is reframing the project, its foreign abstraction now settling into a creeping urban setting. Skirting the edge, under the elevated road, urban locals walk and ride at the foundations of the Gateway, at this speed and vantage the forms become surreal, as if we have passed through the looking glass. Each element appears as a fragment of some forgotten infrastructure like some magnificent machine, its purpose long forgotten; a city wall, perhaps, marking an ancient pre-suburban demarcation.
Travelling the arterials of Melbourne we find many more pretty specimens in what DCM call ‘the string of pearls’. Some belong to DCM’s portfolio but Wood Marsh, Peter Elliot, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, ARM, and Kirsten Thompson have all made significant contributions to the infrastructure network. It may well cost you a bit in tolls but there’s a dedicated portal, www.roadtrip.org.au that will see you through your self-guided tour of Melbourne’s infrastructure pearls.
As it gets dark; and its dark early in the winter months, the Gateway emerges stark and huge in the darkness. The Bolte Bridge, lit white from its base disappears into the night. The red wedges beneath the road take a string of blue lights and, above, DCM shortened the pylon lighting and tightened their spacing to create a dotted line hovering above the road. Approaching the Soundtube again, heading north, heading home; the reflection of starkly lit steel reflects on bonnet and windscreen, no longer shadow, but irradiated glare. The striation of bright trusses against night sky enhances the sense of enclosure but not of tunnelling, for the Golden beam points at an impossible angle, seemingly from out of the road itself. The red sentinels, now beacons, no longer a ruin of some forgotten boundary, rather a blazing roadside architecture like one of Ed Ruscha’s Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations; in their vivid abstraction they are both heroic and tragic. Ruscha’s vernacular structures and roadside detritus crystalize familiar images rendering them abstract and all the more vivid. DCM’s red gash in the night has a similar effect; they demarcate and render a threshold in the city. The Golden gate, once the Sword of Damocles, now illuminating the night, marks our departure. The last flash of yellow ribbon passes on our right and we can only glance in the rear mirror and reflect on 30 seconds of architecture.

The Gateway is an oblique architecture, we approach and exit obliquely and at speed, the gateway expands and contracts with this procession; each element plays with angles and tangential curves; it is operating spatially and at an urban scale. It creates enclosure and revelation while operating as an urban landmark. This is a carefully curated architectural space. It is, however, not a shrine to war dead or sporting heroes rather its abstraction is open and democratising, it is not a fortified city wall or protective city gate, it does not protect nor defend a mono-cultural city-state, it is a thoroughfare within a polyglot and complex built environment. The Melbourne Gateway is not resisting or insisting on patriotic symbolism, it is a soft city wall just barely drawing lines in space.

DOWNLOAD: RMIT Design Hub Drawings (PDF)This resource has been removed by request.


So the building isn't open yet but that gives us the opportunity to ignore architecture for a minute and talk about the building in the city.

Melbourne is a grid city. This means quite a lot. It doesn't have axes, in the École des Beaux-Arts sense.
The grid is meant to be unyielding but permissive, democratic, pragmatic, mute.
Despite this, much has been made of the Swanston Street Axis, from the point that it nudges around the Shrine of Remembrance, to it's kink at the former CUB site. It's hard to resist drawing that line through the site, continuing Swanston Street into eternity.

Sean Godsell resisted that temptation.

His RMIT Design Hub is just another building in the city. Apparently.

So let's look at it.

The Building holds the corner. The 'front door' is off the corner on Victoria Street. Retail Voodoo (which seems to infect everything) would insist on a diagonal corner entry, denying the street as address and implying that people are incapable of finding an entry that is around the corner. So Godsell's entry affirms the streetfront as proper for addressing the street.

Swanston Street, however, is a different matter.

The mass of the building runs into the street, providing neither street front, nor formal relief. This is a wall (a nice climbable one, but a sheer wall nonetheless). This is a rejection of the city and a profoundly anti-urban gesture.
The finished floor level (FFL) at the Victoria Street entry is FFL 23.50, internally a ramp follows the natural incline of Swanston Street as it heads north. I only raise the ramp because it brings us to the northern 'servicemen's entry' to the building at FFL 25.10. Past this entry, a stair descends rapidly to the sunken forecourt.

Back on Victoria Street, to the immediate west of the building is the primary approach to the forecourt which bottoms out at SSL 19.70. The building privileges this forecourt. It has art in it.

Adjacent to the forecourt is a low shed housing offices and archives and beyond that a vehicle ramp to carparking below. This gives us a total of 31metres of negative street front on Victoria Street, which, if your a Melburnian, you will recall isn't 5th Avenue.
Beyond the RMIT design hub is a wasteland where the brewery once stood. Grocon have been developing their interests for site over several years, NH Architecture prepared a masterplan which formed the DNA of the current development plans. Planning permits have been issued. Which is why it's a strange site to see a 5metre south facing concrete wall (it will apparently have greenery) at the northern end of Design Hub site. This wall frustrates potential connection through the site as does the archival building, sunken court, and vehicle ramp. This is articulate urban isolation, deliberate and composed.

The attitude that this might be a building in the city is a good one, and has strong arguments in favour of it over the will to axial urban design. However, this building is not one seeking to engage the street and by extension the city. It negates the messy convulsions of the city but fails to offer fresh conditions.

One can't help but wonder if Godsell wasn't hoping for something a little more...

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DOWNLOAD | Transition Vol.1,No.4, Oct. 1980

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The Pleasures Of Architecture Conference 1980: The Interviews
First Past The Post•Modernism: An Exercise In Metaphor | Neville Quarry
The State Of The Art | C. Elwyn Dennis
Glenn Murcutt's Houses | Ian Mcdougall
The Romance And Illusion Of The Architecture Of High Technology | Michael Keniger
Book Review: 'Delirious New York" | Richard Munday

Ian Mcdougall & Richard Munday

For many of the delegates at the "Pleasures of Architecture" conference, the most lasting impression was gained where they found that the less than smooth course of events inadvertently turned the spotlight on them, It was disturbing to realise that. in comparison with the Mid-Atlantic architects. Graves, Baird, and Koolhaas, they had not more than the barest notion of their own bailiwick. Also disturbing were the "Completion of Engehurst" entries from Australia's creme de la creme, trying hard but often vapid and sycophantic. And so it was perhaps that the event appeared to be not much more than an inaugural cultural ritual, staged to meet a vague national architectural obligation, rather than signifying the full-blooded emergence of architectural endeavour worthy of debate. Nevertheless it was a success in a salutary way. It tested the water and may have brought to the fore issues which are well enough appreciated but too uncomfortable to live with. Architecture in this country cannot be said to give cause for great pride, nor does the attitude of society to architecture give much cause for gratitude. This is grim, but architects cannot blame society if its expectations are low or if it is unreceptive. In this country the institution of architecture has been worn complacently and deceitfully by architects to conceal mass torpor and lack of substance. Those few who have made some contribution to architecture have eventually been feted with unbelievably uncomprehending relief, At the conference there did seem to be a softening in this attitude, a realisation that the responsibility for architecture lies with architects, that is, with themselves, and that the solution to a lack of substance could not be imported. Acceptance by architects of that responsibility is an important step, but architecture will not issue once or because it is taken. Architecture is not the fulfilment of an obligation: it contains a fortuitous element. It is a fallacy to say that if there hadn't been Bernini there would have been someone else. Architecture will not come about just because it is needed as a national totem . However, obstacles are in themselves no incentive, and while opportunities are best utilised by those who Create them ad hoc to suit their requirements, architecture would be a more realistic proposition than it is now if architects did something to create opportunities for each other, The schools of architecture in Australia could in general playa far more constructive role in architecture than is now evident. The significant contributions now being made to architecture are being made by architects such as Graves, Baird , and Koolhaas, all of whom have spent more time in universities than in drawing offices. It is of course ludicrous to regard academic involvement as some essential precondition for architecture; nevertheless it is important to realise that, because very few academics in Australia have evidenced much interest in theoretical speculations or in a serious commitment to practice, and because even fewer practising architects teach or have undertaken research , the possibility of a movement in architecture, of a type com• parable in any way to that which emerged in Europe and the United States over the past twenty years, occurring in Australia would be virtually inconceivable, There is some evidence of architects taking time off from the office to catch up on what is happening, or to do some lecturing, and this is fine, but it is hardly what is called for. Practising architects should be given access to architecture schools for the purposes of study and research , and under• take teaching as a means of reviewing their work and concerns, and extending them under these rigorous but sheltered circumstances, Many academics nurse presentiments of uselessness and would benefit from direct involvement in architectural practice, an arena which offers its own rigours. Others should be more assiduous in their demands for research time. And it is time for some permanently tenured academics to show cause. These suggestions are basically gratuitous when the problem could well be a matter of the wrong people or a sense of despair, but at the "Pleasures of Architecture" conference, highlighted by the sybaritic insinuations of that title, many Australian architects were shocked and embarrassed by their sudden awareness of their own emptiness. After such a revelation it is to be hoped that there will be some changes.

DOWNLOAD | Transition, Volume 1 No. 3, March 1980

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Editors | Ian McDougall, Richard Munday


Post Modern | The Renewal of Style in Architecture | Philip Drew

3345 : A Project | Michael Trudgeon

An Interview With William Turnbull Jnr

Ars Sine Scientia Nihil | Peter Kollar

Parliament House, Canberra | Two Designs

In Search of a National Symbol | John Rockey

DOWNLOAD | Transition Vol. 1, No. 2

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Editors Ian McDougall & Richard Munday


Looking at the Sydney School | Jennifer Taylor
Four Melbourne Architects | an exhibition
Parliament House Canberra | 9 Designs
Architectural Style in Brisbane | Dr. G. de Gruchy

Book Review
Supermannerism by C. Ray Smith Richard Munday

Letters, etc. replies to Vol 1 No.1

Made in Australia