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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.
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

DOWNLOAD: The Arup Journal, 1973
Click image to sop slideshow
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The Arup Journal, Vol. 8 No. 3 October 1973
Published by Ove Arup Partnership
13 Fitzroy Street, London, W1P 6BQ

Editor: Peter Hoggett
Art Editor Desmond Wyeth FSIA
Editorial Assistant: David Brown

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright

Thanks to MM


by J. Zunz

Sydney Opera House
by Ove Arup and J. Zunz

The Glass Walls
by D. Croft and J. Hooper

Grouting Prestressing Ducts
by J. Nutt

Adhesives for Structural Jointing
by T. O'Brien and J. Nutt

Influence of Corrosion on the Design
by J. Nutt

Sydney Opera House Awards


Editor's Note


Jack Zunz

For some years we have considered writing the Opera House story. We have never done anything about it-perhaps it was lack of time, will, motivation or even the doubt that the building would ever be completed. Now, nearly 15 years after construction commenced, the Queen will officially open it on 20 October. Instead of the book we didn't write we thought that the best thing to do would be to celebrate the end of the saga with a special issue of The Arup Journal. It contains some of the relatively few technical papers which have been written about the job as well as some selected photographs. It is difficult to believe that the festivities which will mark the opening ceremonies take place 16 years since we started work on the job. After the unending technical, human and political problems, after spending over £50m, we may well ask, was it all worthwhile? It is probably too early to say, but not too early to make some observations. Probably the most significant feature of the whole story is the astonishing reality that in a modern society, with all its checks and balances, its accountants and accountability, its budgets and budgetary controls, a folly on this scale could be contemplated. In other words, it is nothing short of miraculous that it happened at all. In concept it is not a building of this age. It has the romanticism of former eras when autocratic patronage made great follies possible. Yet, when Utzon's scheme was chosen from more than 200 competition entries, when the Premier of New South Wales was hell-bent on starting the job without drawings, and when all those associated with Utzon caught some of the euphoria of creating one of the great buildings of the age, it looked as though the improbable would come about after all. Much has been said and written about Utzon's 2 concept of the Opera House. He is a man of immense imaginative gifts. I n those early years he inspired all who came under his magic spell, and although there were great difficulties, they were gradually solved one by one and by 1963-64 the situation began to look quite hopeful. But then the going got rougher and Litton was pressed to produce drawings for the interiors. He didn't, couldn't, wouldn't, have it which way you will, and he resigned in 1966, leaving behind hard feelings, chaos, controversy, but above all a shattered dream. Whatever judgement posterity makes about Utzon's resignation and the subsequent furore. No-one will deny his poetic, conceptual and visionary gifts and that his inability (for whatever reason) to complete the project is a tragedy. The truth is that he did walk out when information for the interiors and the glass walls was virtually non-existent. Hall, Todd and Littlemore were appointed by the New South Wales Government to the unenviable task of completing the job. They were faced with the now fixed parameters of the distinctive roof shape, with very definite accommodation requirements which could hardly be fitted in, and above all with a half-finished work of art - and Utzon's Opera House has an artistic quality with a capital A. Some of its critics have often said that there was too much art and too little commodity. Unfortunately, Utzon is not at the finishing post to prove whether they were right or wrong and half-finished works of art can never be wholly satisfactorily finished by others. Why did Utzon resign - did he jump or was he pushed? My guess is that he jumped. His behaviour, his letters, his interviews, all point to a path of self-destruction. He ditched his friends and collaborators for footling or no reasons at all and literally overnight left Australia never to return - at least not yet. Although Utzon's Opera House was the stuff that dreams are made of, although his use of shapes, materials, textures and colours was individual and introduced us to unique technical problems. I don't think that he ever really understood the complexity of the problems he was creating. Nor do I believe that he understood the problem-solving processes which ensued when new technology had to be developed or even when existing technology had to be adapted for new and untried forms. It is just possible that, in his seeming blindness to see that his collaboration with us was vital for the technical success of the scheme, lies another factor in his urge to leave the job. However, these are personal opinions. Despite the know-alls who have written and lectured on the subject, no-one will ever really find the truth. What is truth anyway? Whatever it is it will remain tucked away in men's minds. Post-Utzon, the affair became more orderly, though cost estimates still kept on rocketing, but control was a little tighter and problems became more easily soluble. However, the whole thing was none-the-less just a shade duller. What about Arups? What has the job done to us or for us, if anything ? Again, it is probably too early to see it in perspective, but there are some facts and some pointers. Firstly the facts -we stretched ourselves to the limits of our skills. In extending ourselves and making that extra effort we developed our know-how just that little bit more. We use this knowledge in other fields. When we have been extended as much as we have, it makes our ordinary jobs easier and we hope to do them better. We have had a good deal of publicity, some critical, but mostly complimentary: we have received the Queen's Award for Industry and, if travelling broadens the mind, many of us have had opportunities for mind -stretching. As for the more speculative consequences - we were and still are in the middle of a great controversy. Our name is inextricably linked with the building. and while its success will be linked with Utzon and his successors, its failure will reflect on us. We became unwilling pawns in the controversy. On the one hand we wanted to help Utzon and do what was best for the job, on the other we wanted to act honourably towards a client who had treated us well and fairly. Whatever we did was bound not to please everybody. So we did all and sometimes more than was asked of us and what we thought was best for the job.

DOWNLOAD: Architecture & Arts, October 1958 (abridged)

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Architecture and Arts, October, 1958


What is Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright

Design, Leo Lionni

Recent & Current Works of Grounds, Romberg & Boyd

DOWNLOAD Architecture and Arts, September, 1957

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Architecture and Arts, September, 1957


New Products



Science and the Architect

Virginia Park, East Bentleigh, Vic.

House in Kew, Victoria

From Burke Street Warehouse to Modern Offices

Church of the Transfiguration - Anglesea, Victoria

Chermside District Municipal Library

Brummel's Gallery, South Yarra, Victoria

Art and Science

Part I | The Swagman
DOWNLOAD: EMTB, NGA Drawings (pdf)


The architectural community has joined in expressing great sadness at the passing of Col Madigan. There have been several moving personal tributes to the man and his buildings. His buildings are amongst the most complex, distinctive, and intelligent public buildings in Australia. I’m going to attempt to get some thoughts down about the intriguing pair of The High Court of Australia and The National Gallery of Australia. It’s going to be pretty idiosyncratic I’m afraid.

The High Court and NGA are the only two buildings that remained after Robert Johnson revised his 1969 plan for National Place. It should be said that Johnson was clear from the outset that his design departed from Griffin’s intentions, that a new paradigm was coming into focus.

“Although Canberra may represent centralised government, we do live in a democracy and in a loosely knit, rapidly evolving society. The physical representation of this might be a looser and more open composition of buildings…” he goes on to argue that the new approach would have “the drama of asymmetry and calculated irregularity”.

“…enhancing rather than defying the larger Griffin concept. I do not believe that a close re-hash of the Griffin design either makes any sense today or is the best way to pay respect to Griffin.”

Madigan himself said that the his buildings “reacted strongly against the asphyxiating order of conformity and responded to the halcyon optimistic spirit of the early 70s… In short the buildings hold a demanding asymmetrical balance, in some ways matching, in other ways threatening the illusionary safer symmetry.”

The buildings were meant to be two great set-pieces in National Place, as it is they stand by the water like The Swagman and The Squatter waiting to be born into mythology.

They do not pretend to tiptoe across the landscape but rather are a part of it, born of the landscape and yet resolutely modern and monumental.

Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs’ initial competition entry for the NGA shows a very low slung building, almost a landscape and certainly a bunker. It recalls Uluru or a reclining figure. The Buildings is plugged into a network of bridges, ramps, and roads that form a complicated landscape or perhaps a new mote and drawbridge.

The intention from the start was for a fortified repository for the nation’s art – for its identity.
The building as built is closed and not a little tortured, subordinate to the High Court yet creeping toward the lake. There are cracks in the armour. The galleries have fissures at their seems that afford views to the gardens beyond. The grand entry with its tower and portico lifting away from the ground plane breaks down toward the water to become more like a village than a fortress, more settled into the landscape while still resisting domestication it is featureless, abstract, but is not mute. The entry is highly articulated with massive columns split into blades, levels interspersped, carrying a top heavy load that signals entry but also something beyond reach, some ancient complexity now out of hand.

We like to think of art as a distilled idea, as somehow reflecting the complexity of human desire and culture. The NGA, while outwardly a willful bunker is internally complex, labyrinthine, almost Piranesian. There is a kind of artificial nature to this interior. The complexity here is not merely formal, it is cerebral. Madigan said the work sought “a purposeful tendency to become more complex more free and man is at his best when he is…embracing complexity”.

The building’s underlying tetrahedral structure suggests an evolution of natural structures, space is squeezed and then released, long ramps that double back on themselves, tightly knotted triangular chamfered stairs, grottos and cracks afford unexpected encounters with sculpture and painting. It is as though high modernity has encountered the Australian landscape been weathered and formed by the environment – rather than resisting timidly or touching the earth lightly – the NGA internalizes the land in which it sits.

It reminds me a little of Picnic at Hanging Rock. The building has the sense of ineffable age and sunbaked claustrophobia. I recall a sense that Miranda might stumble out delirious; torn between fear and eternity